Gaza City - Israeli aircraft, tanks and navy gunboats targeted symbols of Hamas control in Gaza City early on Tuesday in the heaviest night of bombardment in three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a "prolonged" campaign in Gaza.
The overnight strikes hit the home of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, as well as government offices and the headquarters of the Hamas satellite TV station.
Israeli forces fired hundreds of flares that turned the night sky bright orange. By daybreak on Tuesday, a cloud of thick dust from the explosions hung over Gaza City.
A Palestinian health official put the overall Gaza death toll at 1 110. Israel has lost 53 soldiers, including four killed Monday in a mortar attack in southern Israel, along with two civilians and a Thai national.
Signalling an escalation of Israel's Gaza operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis on Monday to be ready for a "prolonged" war, and the military warned Palestinians in three large neighbourhoods to leave their homes and head immediately for Gaza City.
Plumes of smoke rose above the Al Shorouq media building in central Gaza City which houses the offices of the Hamas-run Al Aqsa television and radio. Hours earlier, at least two major explosions hit the media building, one of the tallest in Gaza, starting a fire on the roof and shaking surrounding buildings.
AP video showed a massive flash as the first strike hit the top of the building, sending debris raining down. The building also houses offices of a number of Arab satellite television news channels.
The Abu Khadra government complex in Gaza City was also badly damaged by the Israeli attacks.
Hamas leaders remained defiant in the aftermath of the Israeli onslaught
"My house is not more valuable than the houses of other people, destroying stones will not break our determination," Haniyeh said.
Netanyahu defended the Gaza air and ground offensive, saying in a televised speech Monday that "there is no war more just than this".
The overnight strikes came after a day of heavy Hamas-Israeli fighting in which nine children were killed by a strike on a Gaza park where they were playing, according to Palestinian health officials - a tragedy that each side blamed on the other.
Israeli tanks also resumed heavy shelling in border areas of Gaza, killing five people, including three children and a 70-year-old woman, and wounding 50 in the town of Jebaliya, which was among the areas warned to evacuate, the Red Crescent said.
Many Jebaliya residents said they did not dare attempt an escape. Sufian Abed Rabbo said his extended family of 17 had taken refuge under the stairway in their home.
"God help us. We have nothing to do but pray," the 27-year-old told The Associated Press by phone. "I don't know who left and who stayed, but in our street, we are all very scared to move."