As expected, Israel rained down bombs on downtown Gaza on Tuesday morning. A BBC reporter in the besieged city said it was the worst bombing he had seen in 20 years, with entire residential neighbourhoods flattened
Israel has also deployed a massive mobilization of reservists, vowing punishing retaliation against the Hamas militant group that increasingly left residents of the tiny Palestinian territory with nowhere to go.
Four days after Hamas militants rampaged into Israel, bringing gunbattles to its streets for the first time in decades, Israel’s military said Tuesday morning that it had effectively regained control over the south of Israel and the border with the Gaza strip.
The war has already claimed at least 1,600 hundred lives on both sides — and perhaps many hundreds more. Israel has also said that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza are also holding more than 150 soldiers and civilians hostage.
The conflict is only expected to escalate from here. Israel expanded the mobilization of reservists to 360,000 on Tuesday, according to the country’s media.
And one major question is whether it will launch a ground offensive into Gaza — a tiny strip of land wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean that is home to 2.3 million people and has been governed by Hamas since 2007.
While U.N. agencies appealed for a humanitarian corridor to bring in food and medical supplies, the Israeli military said it struck hundreds of targets overnight in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood, an upscale district that is home to ministries of the Hamas-run government, as well as universities, media organizations and the offices of aid organizations.
“I sell toys, not missiles,’’ the 46-year-old told AP News, weeping. “I want to leave Gaza. Why do I have to stay here? I lost my home and my job.”
After hours of nonstop attacks, residents left their homes at daybreak to find some buildings torn in half by airstrikes and others reduced to mounds of concrete and rebar. Cars were flattened and trees burned out on residential streets that had been transformed into moonscapes.
The devastation in Rimal signaled what could be a new Israeli tactic: warning civilians to leave certain areas and then hitting those areas with unprecedented intensity. On Tuesday afternoon, the military began issuing a new warning for residents of another neighborhood in Gaza City to evacuate.
If these airstrikes continue, Gaza’s civilians will have fewer and fewer places to shelter as more neighborhoods become uninhabitable — and they may not be able to flee either.
Since Hamas took control, Israel and Egypt have severely restricted the flow of goods into the territory and the movement of people in and out.
Now Israel is saying it will lay total siege to Gaza, cutting off all fuel, food and electricity. Meanwhile, Hamas said Tuesday that Israeli strikes had made the Rafah crossing into Egypt — the only other way out with the Israeli side sealed — impassable.
Sources; BBC, AP News, news agencies.