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Hamas vows to continue Gaza battle

A reclusive Hamas commander has rejected suggestions the Palestinian militants are ready for a ceasefire with Israel to end violence in Gaza.

Israel's bombardment of Gaza has seen entire areas of Gaza destroyed
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has seen entire areas of Gaza destroyed

In an audio recording, Mohammad Deif, commander of Hamas’ military wing, said his soldiers were “eager for death”.

His message emerged at the end of a destructive day in Gaza that left the territory’s power plant in flames.

Israeli strikes killed more than 100 Palestinians, raising the total killed to more than 1,200, Gaza officials say.

Most of those deaths have been civilians, and 6,700 Palestinians have been injured, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Israel has seen 53 of its soldiers die since conflict with Hamas began on 8 July. Two civilians and a Thai worker have also died.

‘End the siege’

As international pressure for a ceasefire grows, Israel and Hamas have each reiterated their positions and aims.

“We don’t accept any condition of ceasefire,” the Associated Press quoted Hamas commander Mohammad Deif as saying. “There is no ceasefire without the stop of the aggression and the end of the siege.”

Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza restricted the entry of goods since 2007.

The recording of Mohammad Deif’s statement emerged at the same time as a Hamas video of militants using a tunnel to attack an Israeli soldier.

Israel insists the existence of such tunnels – which it says are designed to be used to attack Israelis inside Israel – are the key reason for pressing ahead with Operation Protective Edge.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) want to continue operations to destroy the tunnels once any ceasefire is agreed.

Earlier in the day a senior figure in the West Bank, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said a ceasefire was imminent and claimed to speak for Hamas.

But a spokesman for the group quickly denied that.

Infrastructure hit

There were reports of ongoing shelling in Gaza after dark, hours after a series of targets linked to Hamas were hit by presumed Israeli bombardments.

Earlier, a huge plume of smoke rose over the Strip’s only power plant after one of its fuel tanks was reportedly set alight by Israeli tank shells, and the facility was forced to shut down.

The main power station could be out of action for up to a year, the facility’s manager told the BBC, after it burst into flames.

Hamas-run TV and radio stations, three mosques, four factories and government buildings were also hit, according to reports.

Palestinian security sources told the BBC that Gaza’s port had been destroyed, with two schools and a kindergarten also hit.

Some 110 targets were hit on Tuesday, Israel said. Palestinians said seven families were among the more than 100 killed.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said it was now caring for more than 200,000 people in shelters, and revealed that a number of its staff had been reported killed.

Fifty-five houses were destroyed in bombing on Monday night, with people buried under rubble in at least three of them, Palestinian security sources told the BBC.

The unoccupied house of former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was destroyed.

A neighbour, Um Hani Abu Ryalah, told AP news agency the experience had terrified her family: “Our children… can’t hear because of the loud explosions and they are shaking.”

Targeting tunnels

Rockets fired from Gaza continued to hit Israel on Tuesday.

The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted four over the southern city of Beersheva, Israeli media reported. Sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and several other towns.

Lt-Col Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, told AP pressure was being increased on Hamas.

“Israel is determined to strike this organisation and relieve us of this threat,” he said.

Israel’s Operation Protective Edge began on 8 July after a surge in militant rocket attacks.

A rally in support of the operation is planned for Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv. BBC