GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israeli warplanes unleashed a series of airstrikes at several locations in Gaza City early today, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that the fourth war with Gaza's Hamas rulers would rage on.
Explosions rocked the city for 10 minutes in an attack that was heavier, encompassed a wider area and lasted longer than a series of air raids 24 hours earlier in which 42 Palestinians were killed -- marking the deadliest incident in this round of violence between Israel and the Hamas militant group. The earlier Israeli airstrikes flattened three buildings.
Local media reports said a key coastal road, security compounds and open spaces were among the targets hit early today. The area's power distribution company said the airstrikes damaged a line feeding from the only power plant to large parts of southern Gaza City.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
In a televised address Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel's attacks were continuing at "full force" and would "take time." Israel "wants to levy a heavy price" on the Hamas militant group, he said. Netanyahu's defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, joined him during the speech in a show of unity.
Hamas also pressed on, launching rockets from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel. One slammed into a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israeli emergency services said. No injuries were reported.
In the Israeli air assault early Sunday, families were buried under piles of concrete rubble and twisted rebar. A yellow canary lay crushed on the ground. Shards of glass and other debris covered streets that were blocks away from the major downtown thoroughfare where the three buildings were hit over the course of five minutes around 1 a.m.
The hostilities have repeatedly escalated over the past week, marking the worst fighting in the territory -- home to 2 million Palestinians -- since Israel and Hamas' 2014 war. At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in the past week amid hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza, with 1,230 people wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed in some of the 3,100 rocket attacks launched from Gaza.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have acknowledged 20 fighters killed in the conflict. Israel says the real number is far higher, and it has released the names and photos of two dozen alleged operatives who it says were "eliminated."
Haya Abdelal, 21, who lives in a building next to one that was destroyed Sunday, said she was sleeping when the airstrikes sent her fleeing into the street. She accused Israel of not giving its usual warning to residents to leave before launching such an attack.
"We are tired," she said. "We need a truce. We can't bear it anymore."
Mohammed Abu Mughaiseeb, deputy medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Gaza, lives half a mile away from where the Sunday bombardments occurred but thought the strikes were right outside.
"My house was completely shaking," he said. "It was about 15 minutes -- intense bombing, continuous duh-duh-duh-duh-duh."
The Israeli army spokesperson's office said the strikes targeted Hamas' "underground military infrastructure."
As a result of the strikes, "the underground facility collapsed, causing the civilian houses' foundations above them to collapse as well, leading to unintended casualties," it said.
Among those reported killed was Dr. Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, the head of the internal medicine department at Shifa Hospital and a senior member of the hospital's coronavirus management committee. Two of Abu Al-Ouf's teenage children and two other family members were also buried under the rubble.
One blast over the weekend destroyed a fifth-floor apartment in Sderot, killing a 5-year-old boy. It ripped a hole in another apartment, where Eli Botera; his wife, Gitit; and their infant daughter, Adele, were huddling in the baby's bedroom.
"My wife was panicking and started to scream," Botera said. "Eventually, it's all up to God. Every individual must do what they can to protect themselves, but if it's your destiny to die, you die."
Aya Aloul's building partially collapsed over the weekend, too. The 25-year-old had pulled her mattress into her parents' room to sleep at the beginning of the conflict last week. She was lying in bed and chatting on WhatsApp early Sunday when the bombing started. "Within a second, it was black. I couldn't see anything, and I found myself on the ground in the street," she said.
She was covered in rubble. "I didn't know how I could bring the strength to remove all the rubble on me," she said.
Aloul said she could not free her mother, who was later pulled out by rescuers. Her father, a doctor, did not survive.
On Sunday morning, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing, which had been closed for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, a day earlier than scheduled to allow for the passage of students, people in need of medical care and other humanitarian cases from Gaza into Egypt, according to Gaza's Interior Ministry.
Egypt has sent 16 ambulances into Gaza to pick up injured people seeking treatment in Egyptian hospitals, a medical source told Reuters. He added that a bus carrying 95 people had arrived from Gaza on Sunday morning.
"I have not seen this level of destruction through my 14 years of work," said Samir al-Khatib, an emergency rescue official in Gaza. "Not even in the 2014 war."Gallery: Middle East conflict, 5-16-2021
The Israeli military said that from Saturday night into early Sunday, it dropped 100 bombs on Hamas' underground tunnel system, known as the "Metro." The Israeli military also said it destroyed the home of one of Hamas' top officials, Yahiyeh Sinwar, in the southern town of Khan Younis on Sunday. It was the third such attack in two days on the homes of senior Hamas leaders, who have gone underground.
The Israeli army says its goal is to destroy the military infrastructure of Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave that is under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. Israel blames Hamas for the civilian casualties in Gaza, saying the group hides militants in residential areas.
But that explanation came under scrutiny over the weekend when Israeli jets destroyed a tower in Gaza City that housed two major international news outlets, The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera, after calling the building's owner and telling him to evacuate tenants. An Israeli strike also killed at least 10 members of a family at a house in a refugee camp and caused collateral damage to a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders, a medical aid group.
Sally Buzbee, the AP's executive editor, called for an independent investigation into the airstrike that destroyed the AP office Saturday.
"We think it's appropriate at this point for there to be an independent look at what happened yesterday -- an independent investigation," Buzbee said.
Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence officials were operating inside the building and said Sunday that any evidence would be shared through intelligence channels. Neither the White House nor the State Department would say if any had been seen.
"It's a perfectly legitimate target," Netanyahu said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Asked if he had provided any evidence of Hamas' presence in the building in a call Saturday with U.S. President Joe Biden, Netanyahu said: "We pass it through our intelligence people."
Buzbee called for any such evidence to be laid out.
"We are in a conflict situation," Buzbee said. "We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don't know what that evidence is."
Meanwhile, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders asked the International Criminal Court on Sunday to investigate Israel's bombing of the AP building and others housing media organizations as a possible war crime.
The Paris-based group said in a letter to the court's chief prosecutor that the offices of 23 media organizations had been destroyed over the past six days. It said the attacks serve "to reduce, if not neutralize, the media's capacity to inform the public."
The AP had operated from the Gaza City building for 15 years, including through three previous wars between Israel and Hamas. The news agency's cameras, operating from its top floor office and roof terrace, offered 24-hour live shots as militant rockets arching toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammering the city and its surroundings.
The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem last month, when Palestinians clashed with officers in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan as well as the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers. A focus of the clashes was Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flash point located on a hilltop compound revered by both Muslims and Jews.
Hamas began firing rockets toward Jerusalem last Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on Gaza.
The assault has displaced some 34,000 Palestinians from their homes, U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland said at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, where eight foreign ministers spoke about the conflict.
Israel's airstrikes have also stopped all covid-19 vaccinations and virus testing in the Palestinian enclave and raised the risk of contagion as civilians cram into shelters for safety, U.N. officials said. Gaza's health care system, already gutted by blockades imposed in 2007 after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces, had been struggling with a surge in coronavirus infections even before the conflict.
Gaza now faces power failures at least 16 hours a day, while damage to a desalination plant has threatened the access of about 250,000 people to drinking water, the U.N. said.
The turmoil has also fueled protests in the occupied West Bank and stoked violence within Israel between its Jewish and Arab citizens, with clashes and vigilante attacks on people and property.
On Sunday, a driver rammed into an Israeli checkpoint in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families have been threatened with eviction. Six officers were injured before police shot and killed the attacker, Israeli police said.
The conflict has also sparked pro-Palestinian demonstrations in cities across Europe and the United States.
Information for this article was contributed by Fares Akram, Ravi Nessman, Samy Magdy, Joseph Krauss, Isaac Scharf, Edie Lederer and Bassem Mroue of The Associated Press; by Hazem Balousha, Loveday Morris and Shira Rubin of The Washington Post; and by Iyad Abuheweila and Patrick Kingsley of The New York Times.