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100 more killed in Gaza as truce offer hangs in balance
Gaza, July 30 (IANS/EFE) At least 100 Palestinians were killed Tuesday in the heaviest air and ground bombardment by Israeli forces on the Gaza Strip since the launch of Operation Protective Edge July 8 as an unilateral ceasefire offered by Palestinian factions hangs in balance amid media reports of Hamas rejecting it.
The Israeli attacks by land, sea and air intensified during the day, killing 100 people and wounding at least 500 others, Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesperson of the Gaza ministry of health, said in a statement.
"Since the beginning of the Israeli operation in Gaza, at least 1,230 Palestinians have been killed and 6,700 wounded, one third civilians including women and children," said the Palestinian spokesperson.
Al-Qedra said Israeli forces "attacked houses, buildings, media centres, camps, mosques and farms".
Witnesses and Palestinian security forces reported that the deadliest attack targeted several houses in the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, where 17 people died.
Among the victims was the mayor of the neighbourhood, Abu Anis Shamalah, along with several children and women.
Israeli helicopters early Tuesday bombed the home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in western Gaza, which was empty at the time, eyewitnesses and media close to the Islamist movement said.
Palestinian police confirmed that Haniyeh’s house was destroyed in a bombing against a refugee camp in the west of Gaza.
Media related to Hamas, such as its affiliated TV broadcaster al-Aqsa and the offices of its news agency were also targeted and destroyed, along with several mosques.
In another development, Gaza’s only power plant stopped working completely Tuesday after it was bombed by the Israeli army, starting a fire in a fuel tank, a Gaza Infrastructure ministry spokesperson said.
Damage to the power plant caused a blackout that left 90 percent of the 1.8 million people in Gaza with no electricity.
The director of the power plant, Mohamed al-Sharif, said that two missiles hit the fuel tanks early Tuesday and the fire destroyed the main electricity-generating turbine.
"With the destruction of the power plant and the damage of nine lines of supply coming from Israel, there is a great shortage of energy and about 90 percent of the population is suffering a blackout," the official said.
Meanwhile, a 72-hour truce offered by all Palestinian factions earlier in the day was rejected by Hamas. Palestine Liberation Organisation official Yasser Abd Rabbo Tuesday said that all Palestinian factions were prepared to announce a unilateral 72-hour ceasefire in fighting between Israeli and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The initiative for a three-day halt in fighting was based on a proposal by the UN’s special envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, Jerusalem Post quoted Rabbo as saying at a press conference in Ramallah.
However, Hamas spokespersons have denied these reports and said they do not agree with this announcement and that a ceasefire cannot exist when Israeli forces are inside Gaza.
According to Al Jazeera, a Hamas spokesperson in Beirut said the organisation welcomed the idea of a ceasefire "but we need a guarantee that the Israelis will not violate that".
Israel did not immediately respond to the remarks.
The UN and diplomats have over the past week tried to broker a temporary halt to violence in Gaza, in order to create conditions for talks between all parties for a full ceasefire.