Israel carried out a wave of airstrikes on what it said were militant targets in Gaza, leveling a six-story building in downtown Gaza City, and Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel early Tuesday, the latest in the fourth war between the two sides, now in its second week.
Explosions from the airstrikes echoed through the pre-dawn darkness in Gaza City, sending flashes of orange across the night sky. The strikes toppled the Kahil building, which contains libraries and educational centers belonging to the Islamic University. Clouds of dust hung over the site, which had been reduced to piles of concrete rubble and tangled power lines.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the overnight strikes.
Heavy fighting broke out May 10 when Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests there against Israel’s heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a flashpoint holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
The Israeli military said Tuesday it fired more than 100 munitions at 65 militant targets, including rocket launchers, a group of fighters and the homes of Hamas commanders that the army said were being used for military purposes. It said more than 60 fighter jets took part in the operation.
The military said Palestinian militants fired 90 rockets, 20 of which fell short into Gaza. Israel says its missile defenses have a 90% interception rate.
The military said it also shot down a drone “approaching the Israeli border” in the northeast, far from the Gaza fighting. It did not say where the drone originated, and the army could not immediately be reached for comment. It’s possible the drone came from Syria.
At least 212 Palestinians have been killed in heavy airstrikes so far, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Ten people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.
Israel says it has inflicted heavy damage on Hamas’ military infrastructure, including a vast network of militant tunnels it refers to as the “Metro.”
The strikes have brought down several buildings and caused widespread damage in the narrow coastal territory, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians and has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.