Israeli officer says bombing Haniyeh's house "does not bother him" • Israeli tank shells hit Gaza power plant, forcing it to shut down • Terrorists fire rocket at central and southern Israel before dawn Tuesday, one rocket is intercepted over Ashdod.
Fighting in the Gaza Strip continued on Tuesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel needed to be prepared for a long conflict in the Palestinian coastal enclave.
Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the house of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh before dawn on Tuesday, causing damage but no casualties, Gaza's interior ministry said.
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland told Ynet that the bombing Haniyeh's house "does not bother him. I do not think this attack is important, I do not think attacking buildings is important."
An Israeli military spokeswoman had no information on the report but was checking for details.
Later Tuesday, Gaza's power plant was forced to shut down after two tank shells hit one of three fuel tanks, said Jamal Dardasawi, a spokesman for Gaza's electricity distribution company. The shelling sparked a large fire and a huge column of smoke was seen rising from the site. Dardasawi said 15 workers were trapped inside by the fire and that the damage would take months to repair. There was no immediate word on casualties.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, did not comment on the explosion at the plant, but told The Associated Press that Israel's latest strikes signal "a gradual increase in the pressure" on Hamas.
"Israel is determined to strike this organization and relieve us of this threat," Lerner said.
Meanwhile, eleven people were killed in a strike on a house in the Bureij refugee camp in Gaza City as Israeli forces hit targets across the territory in the most widespread night of attacks so far during Operation Protective Edge.
For the first time since the start of the operation, terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired rockets at central Israel in the middle of the night, setting off sirens in Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Gedera, Yavne, Rishon Lezion among others. Rockets were also fired into southern Israel. One rocket was intercepted over Ashdod, and another exploded in a non-populated area near Rishon Lezion.
The military said five soldiers had died in a gun battle with terrorists who crossed into Israel via a tunnel near the Israeli kibbutz Nahal Oz, close to the border with the Gaza Strip.
The incident on Monday raised to 10 the number of military fatalities for the day. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed since Israel launched its offensive on Gaza.
Hamas said that its broadcast outlets, Al Aqsa TV and Al Aqsa Radio, were also targeted. The television station continued to broadcast, but the radio station went silent.
Israel launched Operation Protective Edge three weeks ago with the aim of halting rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. It later ordered a ground operation to find and destroy the warren of Hamas tunnels that crisscrosses the border area and allow Hamas gunmen to infiltrate Israel to carry out terrorist attacks.
In a televised address on Monday night, Netanyahu said any solution to the crisis would require the demilitarization of the Palestinian territory, controlled by Hamas.
"We will not finish the mission, we will not finish the operation without neutralizing the tunnels, which have the sole purpose of destroying our citizens, killing our children," Netanyahu said, adding that it had been a "painful day."
An opinion poll broadcast by Israel's Channel 10 television showed overwhelming public support for continuing the Gaza offensive until Hamas is "disarmed."
As night fell, army flares illuminated the sky and the sound of intense shelling was heard. The military warned thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes around Gaza City -- usually the prelude to major army strikes.
"We need to be prepared for a protracted campaign. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished," Netanyahu said.
A number of rockets fired from Gaza were launched toward southern and central Israel, including the Tel Aviv area. At least one rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system. No casualties or damage were reported.
Some 1,087 Palestinians have died in Operation Protective Edge. Some 53 IDF soldiers have fallen in battle, and three civilians have been killed in Israel by Palestinian rocket and mortar fire.
The explosion of violence, after a day of relative calm on Sunday, appeared to wreck international hopes of turning a brief lull into a longer-term cease-fire.
Hamas said they had accepted a U.N. call for a pause in hostilities on Monday to coincide with Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Israel initially balked, having abandoned its own offer to extend a 12-hour truce from Saturday when Palestinian rockets kept flying. Calm gradually descended through the night with the occasional exchange of fire until continued rocket fire led to an Israeli response and a series of blasts shook Gaza in the afternoon.
Foreign pressure has been building on Netanyahu to stop the military operation. Both U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.N. Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire to allow relief to reach Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, followed by negotiations on a more durable cessation of hostilities.
Israel wants guarantees Hamas will be stripped of its attack tunnels and rocket stockpiles. It worries the Palestinian Islamists will parlay the truce talks mediated by their friends in Qatar and Turkey into an easing of an Israeli-Egypt blockade on Gaza.
In his television address, Netanyahu said any solution to the crisis would need to see Hamas stripped of its weapons.
"The process of preventing the armament of the terror organization and demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip must be part of any solution. And the international community must demand this forcefully," he said.
Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid Attiyah said Israel had not respected a cease-fire agreement brokered by Cairo that ended the last Gaza war in 2012 and it was time the blockade of the coastal enclave -- also enforced by next-door Egypt -- was lifted.
Israel has signalled it wants a de facto halt to fighting rather than an agreement that would preserve Hamas's arsenals and shore up its status by improving Gaza's crippled economy.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the main U.N. agency in Gaza, said more than 167,000 displaced Palestinians had taken shelter in its schools and buildings, following calls by Israel for civilians to evacuate whole neighborhoods ahead of military operations.
"His threats do not frighten either Hamas or the Palestinian people, and the occupation will pay the price for its massacres against children and civilians," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored what he said was a lack of resolve among all parties.
"It's a matter of their political will. They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian," he told reporters.
"Hamas was a dealt a harsh blow and is eager to end the fighting as soon as possible. The group is desperate for a cease-fire. The problem is that as of this moment, it is struggling to find the right apparatus to bring an end to the fighting," a senior IDF officer said on Monday.
According to the officer, in light of the success of the Iron Dome rocket interceptor, and the Israeli home front's resilience, "Hamas realizes that its rocket operations have lost their effectiveness. Concurrently, every attempt of there's to carry out a 'quality attack' [e.g., an abduction] has been thwarted," he said.
The officer said since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, hundreds of terrorists have been killed and thousands of Hamas' military assets have been destroyed. The IDF has also destroyed the majority of Hamas commanders' homes in the Gaza Strip.
With regards to the Hamas' terror tunnel network, the officer rejected the claims that the IDF was surprised by them, and said that the military has spoken about the issue for nearly two years in all major forums. "The soldiers are not just happening to discover the tunnel openings, they are getting there thanks to viable intelligence. We knew about the tunnels, we have covered the topic and improved our capabilities."
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