Israel launched dozens of air strikes in Gaza and the Hamas militant group kept up its rocket attacks on Israeli cities in fighting that spilled into a second week on Monday.
International calls mounted for a ceasefire, but there was no sign of any imminent end to the most serious hostilities between Israel and Gaza’s ruling Hamas Islamists in years.
Roads, security buildings, militants’ training camps and houses were bombed in Israeli attacks that seemed to be focused on Gaza City, witnesses said. The sound of explosions echoed in many part of the Palestinian enclave overnight.
The Israeli military said fighter jets struck “terror targets”, after rocket barrages from Gaza were fired at the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon just after midnight.
Explosions rocked the city from north to south for 10 minutes in an attack that was heavier, on a wider area and lasted longer than a series of air raids 24 hours earlier.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, and in the predawn darkness there was little information on the extent of damage inflicted early on Monday.
Local media reports said the main coastal road west of the city, security compounds and open spaces were hit in the latest raids. The power distribution company said airstrikes damaged a line feeding electricity from the only power plant to large parts of southern Gaza City.
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.
World concern had already deepened after an Israeli air strike in Gaza that destroyed several homes on Sunday and which Palestinian health officials said killed 42 people, including 10 children, and persistent rocket attacks on Israeli towns.
Injecting more urgency into Washington’s calls for calm, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter: “All parties need to deescalate tensions – the violence must end immediately”, after he spoke with Egypt’s foreign minister about ongoing violence in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
At a meeting on Sunday of the UN Security Council, the United States said it has made clear to Israel, the Palestinians and others that it is ready to offer support “should the parties seek a ceasefire”.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s campaign in Gaza was continuing at “full force”, and that deterrence had to be achieved to prevent future conflict with Hamas, which rules Gaza.
“We are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm and quiet to you, Israel’s citizens. It will take time,” Mr Netanyahu said in a televised address after his security Cabinet met on Sunday.
The Gaza Health Ministry put the death toll in the densely populated enclave of 2 million Palestinians at 197, including 58 children and 34 women. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, Israeli authorities say.
Hamas began its rocket assault last Monday after weeks of tensions over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.