According to published reports, Israel on Tuesday, August 26, has conducted airstrikes on two Gaza City high rise buildings with dozens of homes and shops, causing one building to collapse and severely damaging the other.
The IDF has hit targets in high-rises in pinpoint strikes, but left the buildings standing. Since Saturday, it has toppled or destroyed five towers and shopping complexes in an apparent new tactic aimed at increasing pressure on Hamas which houses the offices of both their political and military wings in such edifices in order to meld in with the civilian population.
Tuesday's airstrikes decimated the 15-story Basha Tower containing apartments and offices. It also severely damaged the Italian Complex, built in the 1990s by an Italian businessman, with dozens of shops and offices.
Evacuations took place in both buildings after warnings of an impending strike were issued by the Israeli Air Force. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said 25 people were wounded in the attack on the Italian Complex.
The Israeli military said it targeted sites linked to Hamas terrorists on Tuesday, but made no specific reference to the two buildings. The Israeli military has not said why it has begun collapsing large buildings.
In an email message to The Associated Press, IDF military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the strikes were "a direct result to Hamas' decision to situate their terrorist infrastructure within the civilian sphere including schools, hospitals and high-rise buildings."
He said Israel will not "enable Hamas to continue to kill Israelis, target our towns and cities and expect to operate without consequence to their facilities, militant operatives and the leadership of their heinous attacks against Israel."
Israel's military said it carried out 15 air strikes in Gaza on Tuesday.
It said eight rockets were launched from Gaza at Israeli territory, including one that caused extensive damage to a home in the southern city of Ashkelon and injured more than 50 people.
On Saturday, August 23, Israel bombed an apartment tower in downtown Gaza City, collapsing the 12-story structure in an unprecedented strike, while Hamas kept up heavy rocket fire that sent more Israelis fleeing border areas close to Gaza.
CBS News reported that in the Gaza City strike, a huge fireball followed by a black column of smoke rose into the sky after two Israeli missiles toppled the Zafer Tower, one in a group of several high-rises in the upscale Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. Neighboring buildings shook from the blasts. Gaza police said a warning missile had been fired five minutes earlier and that some residents were able to rush out of the building in time.
The Israeli military said the missiles targeted a Hamas operations room in the building, but did not explain why the entire tower with 44 apartments was brought down.
As of late, Israel has been conducting targeted assassinations of high ranking Hamas officials in an attempt to curtail incessant rocket attacks from the terrorist enclave in Gaza.
On Sunday, August 24, Israel assassinated Hamas leader, Mohammed al-Ghoul, who was responsible for transferring funds to the terrorist organization and was the "Justice Minister" in the Hamas government. The pinpoint airstrike in northern Gaza took out al-Ghoul, confirmed the IDF. Palestinian Arab reports have confirmed the appraisal, saying al-Ghoul was killed in an airstrike on his car.
INN reported that pictures have circulated in the Arab reports of al-Ghoul's ruined car and the Hamas leader's body can clearly be seen. Likewise, numerous wads of US dollars can be seen inside the burning car; money that presumably was on its way to fund terror attacks.
Last Wednesday night, August 20, three senior Hamas "military wing" Al-Qassam Brigades leaders were eliminated in an airstrike and were identified as Mohammed Abu Shamalah, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhum. That strike followed another last Tuesday night which targeted Al-Qassam Brigades chief Mohammed Deif, whose wife and two children were taken out in the attack. There are conflicting reports as to whether Deif was killed in the strike or survived.
Israeli and Hamas officials say an extended cease-fire has been reached between the sides, halting the seven-week Gaza war, according to a report on FOX News.
Both an Israeli official and a Hamas spokesman confirmed the agreement to media outlets and an Israeli official told The Associated Press that Israel "responded positively" to Egypt's call for an open-ended cease-fire.
Egyptian state media announced that the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas took effect Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time, without elaborating.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed cabinet ministers of the decision via a telephone call, just minutes before it was to go into effect, according to an INN report.
Communications Minister Gilad Erdan of Israel’s Likud party and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party both voiced their opposition to the truce decision, saying the government needed to crush Gazan terrorist groups.
An Israeli official told The Associated Press that Israel would ease its blockade of Gaza to allow humanitarian and construction materials to enter the coastal territory.
The official said indirect talks on more substantial issues would begin in Cairo within a month. Issues are expected to include Hamas' demand for an end to the blockade and Israel's calls for Hamas to disarm.
Speaking to AFP on Tuesday night, Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the PA delegation in the Cairo truce talks said that one of the points agreed upon in the ceasefire is that construction materials needed to repair the water network in Gaza as well as electricity grid and mobile phone networks will be allowed in along with humanitarian aid, food and medical supplies. It should be noted that Israel continued supplying humanitarian goods throughout most of Operation Protective Edge.
INN reported that construction materials have in the past been used to build terror tunnels to attack Israel, and therefore earlier reports signaled they would not be allowed in until the ceasefire had proven itself for a set amount of time.
Meanwhile, Hamas sent text messages to its supporters, urging them to take to the streets in celebration.
Hamas terrorists in Gaza, however, continued to launch rocket and mortar attacks even after the ceasefire took effect. At approximately 7:05 p.m. red alert sirens sounded in the Gaza Belt region, followed by yet more sirens minutes later, according to an INN report.
At 7:15 p.m. more rocket sirens were sounded in the Eshkol Regional Council area, indicating a further breach of the declared ceasefire.
In an attack just prior to the ceasefire announcement, two Israeli civilians were killed and seven others wounded in a rocket and mortar barrage on the Eshkol Region in southern Israel, according to an INN report.
Resuscitation attempts were conducted on the critically wounded victim, but he soon succumbed to his wounds and died. AFP cited an Israeli security source as saying he was killed by mortar fire, which likewise wounded the other victims. A second man was initially listed as critical but died several hours later in the hospital.
Just last Friday four-year-old Daniel Tregerman hy''d was likewise murdered by mortar shrapnel in his Kibbutz Nahal Oz home. He was the first Israeli child to be killed since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge. At an emotional funeral held on Sunday morning, his mother Gila said, “We wanted to protect you but even the code red siren failed to save you. You would always run first and call your little brother (to the shelter) and then in a second it ended. "We don't want to say goodbye. You are the love of my life, the perfect child, every parent's dream: Smart, sensitive, ahead of his age group and beautiful, so beautiful."
The Tuesday barrage also targeted Ashdod, where several rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system. An Ashdod kindergarten also suffered a direct hit later on Tuesday, making it the fourth strike on a school in six weeks, and the third on a playground in seven days.
There has been growing frustration at the collapse of security and lack of decisive action by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. A Channel 2 survey found on Monday that in just four days Netanyahu's approval rating dropped from 55% to 38%; at the time of the ground entry to Gaza earlier in the operation, that rating was as high as 82%.