Gaza City - Israeli tank shells hit a fuel tank of the Gaza Strip's only power plant on Tuesday, forcing the plant to shut down, a spokesperson for Gaza's electricity distribution company said. A huge cloud of black smoke rose over the coastal city.
There was no immediate word of casualties and the Israeli military had no comment. According to Jamal Dardasawi, the spokesperson of the electricity distribution company, the shells hit one of three tanks in the plant compound that currently store fuel.
Even before the strike, Gaza residents had electricity for only about three hours a day. The strike is bound to reduce supplies even further.
The hit on the power plant came as Israeli aircraft and tanks struck symbols of Hamas control in Gaza overnight and into Tuesday, their heaviest bombardment of the densely populated coastal territory since the war between Israel and the militants began more than three weeks ago.
The pounding came just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in a televised speech of a "prolonged" campaign in Gaza.
Hamas also signalled defiance. Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader whose house was struck in an airstrike early Tuesday, said in a statement that "destroying stones will not break our determination".
The tough words by both sides came amid mounting international appeals for an unconditional cease-fire.
However, Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until it wins international guarantees that a seven-year-old border blockade of Gaza will be lifted. Israel said its troops will not leave Gaza until they have demolished several dozen Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border. Late on Monday, Netanyahu signalled that Israel is intensifying its air and ground campaign.
Early on Tuesday, Israel warplanes struck a series of targets in Gaza City, including Haniyeh's house and government offices, while Gaza's border area with Israel was hit by heavy tank shelling. Flares turned Gaza's night sky orange, and by daybreak, a cloud of thick dust from explosions hung over Gaza City.
The overall Gaza death toll rose to at least 1 110, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. Israel says it has lost 53 soldiers, along with two civilians and a Thai worker.