Israeli aircraft have fired two missiles at a 12-storey apartment block in Gaza City, collapsing the building, sending a huge fireball into the sky and wounding at least 22 people, including 11 children, witnesses and Palestinian officials said.
Israel has launched 5,000 air strikes against Gaza in nearly seven weeks of fighting with Hamas, but today’s strike marked the first time an entire high-rise was toppled. The explosion shook nearby buildings.
Gaza police say Israeli aircraft fired a warning missile at the roof of the tower at dusk, followed five minutes later by two missiles with explosives.
Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, said at least 22 people were wounded, including 11 children and five women.
The levelling of the tower was a further sign of escalation following a breakdown of Egyptian-brokered ceasefire talks and the collapse of a temporary truce earlier this week.
Earlier, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry urged Israel and Hamas to resume indirect talks and agree to an open-ended ceasefire.
The appeal came after Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas met Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo. Egyptian officials did not say how they expected renewed talks to produce a different outcome after repeated failures.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev had no immediate comment regarding the renewed call for a ceasefire.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Gaza’s ruling Hamas, said the group would consider the Egyptian appeal, but there was no sign it would budge from long-standing demands.
The Israeli military said the air strike targeted a Hamas operations room in the building, but did not explain why the entire tower with 48 apartments was levelled.
The military said Gaza militants fired at least 93 rockets and mortar shells at Israel today. The barrage came a day after a mortar shell from Gaza hit a farming village in southern Israel, killing a four-year-old boy.
Israeli media said large numbers of residents of southern Israeli communities near the Gaza border were leaving their homes and heading for safer areas following the death of the boy in Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
“I say whoever can leave, whose presence is not crucial should leave,” said Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Ahronovich during a visit to the south.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon called on southern residents to be ready for a prolonged campaign against Hamas militants.
“In the end we will win,” he said. “This is a test of staying power and strength.”