Israel has bombarded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with more than 180 airstrikes, widening a blistering assault on militant operations to include the prime minister's headquarters, a police compound and a vast network of smuggling tunnels.
The new attacks followed an unprecedented rocket strike aimed at the contested holy city of Jerusalem that raised the stakes in Israel's violent confrontation with Palestinian militants.
Israeli aircraft also kept pounding their original targets, the militants' weapons storage facilities and underground rocket launching sites. The Israeli military called up thousands of reservists and massed troops, tanks and armoured vehicles along the border with Hamas-ruled Gaza, signalling a ground invasion could be imminent.
Militants, undaunted by the heavy damage the Israeli attacks inflicted, have unleashed some 500 rockets against the Jewish state, including new, longer-range weapons turned for the first time this week against Jerusalem and Israel's Tel Aviv heartland.
Six people, including five militants, were killed and dozens were wounded in the various attacks, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. In all, 35 Palestinians, including 13 civilians, and three Israeli civilians have been killed since the Israeli operation began.
Israel had been slowly expanding its operation beyond military targets but before dawn it ramped that up dramatically, hitting Hamas symbols of power. A three-storey apartment building belonging to a Hamas military commander was hit, and ambulances ferried more than 30 inhabitants wounded by the powerful explosion.
Missiles smashed into two small security facilities as well as the massive Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, setting off a huge blaze that engulfed nearby houses and civilian cars parked outside, the Interior Ministry reported. No one was inside the buildings.
The Interior Ministry said a government compound was also hit while devout Muslims streamed to the area for early morning prayers, although it did not report any casualties from that attack. Also hit was a Cabinet building where the Hamas prime minister has his offices. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was not inside.
Missiles knocked out five electricity transformers, plunging more than 400,000 people in southern Gaza into darkness, according to the Gaza electricity distribution company.
In southern Gaza, Israeli aircraft went after the hundreds of underground tunnels militants used to smuggle in weapons and other contraband from Egypt, residents reported. A huge explosion in the area sent buildings shuddering in the Egyptian city of El-Arish, 30 miles away.
www.idf.il/english/ (Israel Defence Forces)