Israeli airstrikes hammered the Gaza Strip on Monday after a week of violence that has killed more than 200 people, the large majority Palestinian, despite international calls for de-escalation.
Before dawn, in the space of just a few minutes, dozens of Israeli strikes bombarded the crowded coastal Palestinian enclave controlled by Islamist group Hamas, according to reports.
Flames lit up the sky as intense explosions shook Gaza city, sparking widespread power cuts and damaging hundreds of buildings, local authorities said. No casualties were immediately reported.
Some 3,100 rockets have also been fired by Palestinian militants toward Israel since conflict escalated on May 10 in the heaviest exchange of fire between the rivals in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem.
On Monday morning, huge plumes of grey smoke billow from a mattress foam factory was seen, as civil defence members aimed high-pressure water hoses at the blaze.
West Gaza resident Mad Abed Rabbo, 39, expressed “horror and fear” at the intensity of the onslaught.
“There have never been strikes of this magnitude,” he said.
Gaza resident Mani Qazaat said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should realise we’re civilians, not fighters”.
“I felt like I was dying,” he said.
The overnight bombardment also included the third round of strikes on what the army calls the “Metro,” its term for a Hamas underground tunnel network.
Fifty-four fighter jets pounded 15 kilometres (nine miles) of tunnels, which the army has previously acknowledged runs in part through civilian areas.
The renewed strikes come a day after 42 Palestinians in Gaza — including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry — were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began.
In total, 197 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 58 children, and more than 1,200 wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas on May 10 after the group fired rockets, according to the authorities there.
Israel says 10 people, including one child, have been killed and 294 wounded by rocket fire launched by armed groups in Gaza.
Israel’s army said about 3,100 rockets had been fired in the past week from Gaza — the highest rate ever recorded — but added its Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted over 1,000.
Netanyahu said in a televised address Sunday that Israel’s “campaign against the terrorist organisations is continuing with full force” and would “take time” to finish.
Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s political wing in Gaza, the army said, releasing footage of plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.