As the IDF stepped up its offensive against Hamas on Tuesday, Israeli tank fire hit the fuel depot of the Gaza Strip’s only power plant, cutting electricity to Gaza City and many other parts of the Palestinian enclave of 1.8 million people.
A thick column of black smoke rose from the facility, which supplies the territory with two-thirds of its energy needs.
The fuel containers were left in flames.
The IDF also struck 135 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets across Gaza on Tuesday as ground units continued to map out and destroy tunnels and clash with terrorist cells. It struck over 70 targets overnight between Monday and Tuesday, including the home and offices of Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’s political wing.
Both buildings were used as a command center to manage terrorism, the IDF said.
Four mosques used to store weapons, a terrorism tunnel and an underground rocket launcher located near another mosque were also attacked, the IDF said.
It added that one of the four mosques also housed a tunnel shaft, while a second had been turned into a Hamas command and control center.
Earlier on Tuesday, the IDF announced that five soldiers had been killed in an attempted infiltration into Israel on Monday via a cross-border tunnel. The five died when attackers fired an antitank missile at the base of an IDF watch tower. Soldiers at the top of the tower shot and killed at least one terrorist who attempted to retrieve a dead soldier’s body.
The five fallen soldiers were identified Tuesday morning as Sgt. Daniel Kedmi, 18, of Tzufin; Sgt. Barkai Yishai Shor, 21, of Jerusalem; Sgt. Erez Sagi, 19, of Kiryat Ata; Sgt. Dor Dery, 18, of Jerusalem; and Sgt. Nadav Raimond, 19, from Shadmot Dvora. All five had been part of a squad commanders’ training course.
The other five soldiers killed on Monday were named as St.-Sgt. Eliav Kahlon, 22, from Safed; Cpl. Meidan Maimon Biton, 20, from Netivot; Cpl. Niran Cohen, 20, from Tiberias; and Sgt.-Maj. Adi Briga, 23, from Beit Shikma. The name Sgt. Moshe Davino, 20, from Jerusalem, was released on Monday.
Hamas claimed in a statement that its “fighters” had killed 10 Israeli soldiers in the incident before returning safely.
Residents of Kibbutz Nahal Oz and nearby communities were asked to remain in their homes earlier on Monday evening due to the incident.
The killing of the five soldiers brings the total number of IDF fatalities to 53.
Earlier on Monday, four soldiers were killed in a mortar attack on the Eshkol Regional Council.
More than 360 soldiers have been wounded – 43 seriously, 103 moderately and 216 lightly.
An additional soldier, St.-Sgt. Moshe Davino, 20, from Jerusalem, was killed in battle when a terrorist cell fired an antitank missile at a D-9 armored bulldozer he was in on Monday afternoon.
Health officials in the Gaza Strip said on Tuesday that at least 84 Palestinians had died in some of heaviest bombardments yet from air, sea and land. Local hospital officials said this brought the total number of Palestinian dead in the conflict to 1,164, most of them civilians.
Dozens of rockets from Gaza were fired at various parts of Israel on Tuesday evening, including in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. A rocket was fired at Beit Shemesh and rocket alert sirens wailed in the Jerusalem hills around 8:30 p.m. They were the first Color Red warnings for the area in recent days.
Four rockets were intercepted over Beersheba and five more landed in open areas around the city after sirens blared there and in surrounding areas around 9:30 p.m. At approximately 10:15 p.m. sirens wailed in the Tel Aviv area, the Shfela area and in Ashdod.
The Iron Dome defense system intercepted one rocket over greater Tel Aviv. Two more landed in open areas between Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Five soldiers were wounded inside Gaza on Tuesday by a Palestinian mortar attack. Two were airlifted to the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, and three were taken by ambulance to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.
Early on Tuesday morning, the air force hit a complex used by Hamas’s finance ministry to manage and finance terrorism. It also struck 30 targets belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including an attack tunnel, underground rocket launchers and a weapons storage facility.
The IDF hit Hamas’s Al-Aksa television and radio stations.
They had been used to incite against Israel, pass along messages to Hamas members and instruct civilians to ignore IDF warnings about the need to vacate areas, the army said.
Ten terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad were killed in targeted strikes in Khan Yunis, the army added.
Also in the morning, an antitank missile was fired at an IDF tank, which stopped the attack with its Trophy anti-missile defense system. Later, an armored personnel carrier sustained light damage from an anti-tank missile.
The electrical generation station is a 140-megawatt power plant run by the Gaza Power Generating Company. According to the website of the Palestinian Authority’s Palestine Electric Company, the mother company for the Gaza firm, the facility contains a combined-cycle power plant with four gas turbine generators and two steam turbine generators.
Because the facility has been incapable of actually receiving natural gas, the dual-fire facility was running on diesel oil trucked to the power plant. It has two diesel storage tanks with a 10,000-cubic-meter capacity each. Average daily fuel usage is about 700 cu.m. at full operation, the Palestine Electric Company said.
While the electricity supply from the power plant ceased entirely on Tuesday following the IDF attack, the flow into Gaza was minimal. Only one out of the 10 high-voltage lines conveying electricity from Israel was functioning as of 9 p.m. on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) told The Jerusalem Post. Due to the current situation, however, the number of lines functioning is subject to change, according to the IEC.
All damage to the lines on the Israeli side of the border has been due to Gaza rocket fire.
Since the beginning of the conflict, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom have instructed the IEC to prioritize the safety of its workers when making repairs.
Earlier, the IDF warned Gaza residents of eastern Khan Yunis to vacate their homes immediately and head to the center of town.
The messages were delivered by phone and leaflets.
Paratroopers came under fire from a Hamas cell inside Gaza and returned fire, striking the gunmen. Later in the morning, soldiers from the 7th Armored Brigade working with the Engineering Corps destroyed an additional terrorism tunnel, the army announced.
Col. Nadav Lotan, commander of the 7th Brigade, said his forces had found a whole network of attack tunnels.
“Unfortunately, the issue of tunnels and subterranean warfare is complex and we will have to deal with it after this operation as well. There are no quick and simple solutions,” he said. “One of the aims of this operation is to strike Hamas’s underground tunnel city that it dug for terrorism purposes.”
On Monday night, Hamas gunmen shot some 20 Palestinians who expressed their anger against the Islamist group for the destruction in their neighborhood of Shejaia, Channel 10 reported on Tuesday.
Over the past few days, Hamas executed more than 30 people suspected of collaborating with Israel, unidentified Palestinian security sources told the Palestine Press News Agency in a report published on Monday. According to the report, Hamas detected “spies” in the area of Shejaia.
They were executed after an investigation into some of them, which revealed weapons and communication devices.
Ariel Solomon and Reuters contributed to this report.