An Israeli bomb pummelled a home deep into the ground in Gaza City Sunday afternoon, killing 11 people, including nine in three generations of a single family, in the deadliest single strike since the cross-border conflict between Israel and the militant faction Hamas escalated on Wednesday.
The airstrike, along with several others that killed civilians across this coastal territory and hit two media offices here – one of them used by Western TV networks – further indicated that Israel was striking a wider range of targets.
In the Israeli strike on Sunday morning, it took emergency workers and a Caterpillar digger more than an hour to reveal the extent of the devastation under the two-storey home of Jamal Dalu, a shop owner.
Mr. Dalu was at a neighbour's when the blast wiped out nearly his entire family: His sister, wife, two daughters, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren ages 2 to 6 all perished under the rubble, along with two neighbours, an 18-year-old and his grandmother.
"We were asleep and then there was a terrific blast," said Abdul-Latif Dahman, who lives nearby and was among more than 100 who stood vigil as the bodies were dug out. "There are no words to describe what happened later, only smoke and dust and heavy silence because the sound shut our ears."
The smell of bomb residue and the roars of bulldozers filled the air as people clambered over shattered glass and bent iron bars to get a closer look. When two tiny bodies were finally found, rescuers and residents erupted in cries of "God is great!" One worker rushed the girl to an ambulance, while a neighbour grabbed the boy and just ran.
Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the militant Hamas faction that rules Gaza, condemned the attack as a "massacre" that "exceeded all expectations."
Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, chief spokesman for the Israeli military, said it was "examining the event."
"The wanted target in this case was responsible for firing dozens of rockets into Israel," he added. "I do not know what happened to him, but I do know that we are committed to the safety of the citizens of Israel."
There are no warning sirens here in the Gaza Strip, where the wee hours of Sunday were punctuated by airstrikes as well as a series of missiles fired from Israeli Navy vessels off the coast.
Later in the morning, Mutassim Essifan, 5, and his 1-year-old sister, Jumana, were killed in the Jabiliya Refugee Camp near the northern border, followed by another baby in the Al Buraj Refugee Camp mid-strip and, by lunchtime, a 52-year-old woman in the eastern part of Gaza City. Ahmed Al-Nahal, 24, a member of Hamas's military wing, and his relative Tasnim, 8, were killed before lunchtime in the Beach Refugee Camp, where Prime Minister Haniyeh lives.
Among the buildings Israel hit overnight were two containing the offices of local media outlets, in what the military described as an attempt to derail Hamas communications. The Israeli Air Force also briefly took control of Hamas's radio network Sunday, broadcasting a message to Gaza residents. "Hamas is playing with fire and risking you," it warned. "We recommend that you stay away from the places of terrorists and the infrastructure of Hamas."
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