Israel bombed an apartment tower in downtown Gaza City on Saturday, collapsing the 12-story building in an unprecedented strike, while Hamas kept up heavy rocket fire that sent more Israelis fleeing border areas close to Gaza.
In the Gaza City strike, a huge fireball followed by a black column of smoke rose into the sky after two Israeli missiles toppled the Zafer Tower, one in a group of several high-rises in the upscale Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. Neighboring buildings shook from the blasts.
The Israeli military said the missiles targeted a Hamas operations room in the building, but did not explain why the entire tower with 44 apartments was brought down.
Gaza police said a warning missile had been fired five minutes earlier and that some residents were able to rush out of the building in time. Still, 22 people were wounded, including 11 children and five women, according to Gaza hospital officials.
Maher Abu Sedo, an area resident, said the two strikes came within seconds of each other.
“People started shouting Allahu Akbar, and women and kids were screaming,” he said. “This is crazy. The state of Israel has resorted to madness. In less than a minute, 44 families have become displaced … They lost everything, their house, their money, their memories and their security.”
Over 460,000 Palestinians, 1/4 of the total population, are internally displaced, according to UNRWA. However, Saturday’s strike marked the first time an entire apartment high-rise was destroyed.