Israel bombarded downtown Gaza City on Tuesday and expanded a massive mobilization of reservists, vowing punishing retaliation against the Hamas militant group that increasingly left residents of the tiny Palestinian territory with nowhere to go.
Four days after militants stormed into Israel, bringing gunbattles to its streets for the first time in decades, Israel’s military said Tuesday morning that it had regained effective control over its south and the border.
The war has already claimed at least 1,600 hundred lives on both sides — and perhaps many hundreds more. Israel has also said that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza are also holding more than 150 soldiers and civilians hostage.
The conflict is only expected to escalate from here. Israel expanded the mobilization of reservists to 360,000 on Tuesday, according to the country’s media. And one major question is whether it will launch a ground offensive into Gaza — a tiny strip of land wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean that is home to 2.3 million people and has been governed by Hamas since 2007.
While U.N. agencies appealed for a humanitarian corridor to bring in medical supplies, the Israeli military said it struck hundreds of targets overnight in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood, an upscale district that is home to ministries of the Hamas-run government, as well as universities, media organizations and the offices of aid organizations.
After hours of nonstop attacks, residents left their homes at daybreak to find some buildings torn in half by airstrikes and others reduced to mounds of concrete and rebar. Cars were flattened and trees burned out on residential streets that had been transformed into moonscapes.
The devastation in Rimal signaled what could be a new Israeli tactic: warning civilians to leave certain areas and then hitting those areas with unprecedented intensity. If these airstrikes continue, Gaza’s civilians will have fewer and fewer places to shelter as more neighborhoods become uninhabitable.
Israel’s chief military spokesman emphasized the unprecedented nature of the current campaign, saying “all options are on the table.”
“Hamas terrorists won’t have a place to run to in Gaza,″ Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said. “We will reach them wherever they are.”