Israel hits Gaza highrises as sides weigh truce deal

GAZA CITY: Israel upped the pressure on Hamas Tuesday, with warplanes hitting two Gaza City highrises on day 50 of their conflict as the warring parties mulled a new Egyptian truce proposal.

There appeared to be little outward sign, however, of interest in the Egyptian proposal which seeks to broker a more permanent end to seven weeks of fighting in Gaza which has so far killed 2,137 Palestinians and 68 on the Israeli side.

Several back-to-back truce agreements which brought relief to millions earlier this month, collapsed in a storm of violence on August 19, with the renewed fighting killing another 116 Palestinians and an Israeli child.

Israel, which pulled its negotiating team out of the Cairo talks a week ago, has repeatedly said it would not negotiate under fire, conditioning a return to the table on a complete halt to cross-border rocket fire.

Although the Palestinians said they would be prepared to accept the new Egyptian offer, they would only do so after hearing Israel’s response to the proposal, a senior official has said on Monday.

On the battlefront, Israeli warplanes kept up their pressure on Hamas with air strikes killing six and raids hitting two high-rise apartment blocks in Gaza City, leaving 40 people wounded.

In the first strike, warplanes fired at least six rockets at a 16-storey complex in the Nasser neighbourhood, in which there were 60 apartments and a commercial complex, completely destroying the building and wounding 25.

But no-one was killed after the army warned residents to leave in a pre-recorded message, a witness said. “The army told them to leave immediately and they all ran out into the street to find shelter,” he said.

Warplanes then fired on the 14-storey Al-Basha building in Rimal neighbourhood, causing massive damage and wounding 15, witnesses and medics said.

The Israeli army acknowledged hitting buildings serving as “Hamas command and control centres” as well as two schools in central and northern Gaza from which “low-trajectory fire” had been directed at Israel.

In an Arabic-language text message sent to residents’ mobile phones after the strikes, the army said the towers were hit because they were “used by Hamas for military purposes” and warned that the battle would continue.

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