GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at a 12-story apartment tower in downtown Gaza City on Saturday, collapsing the building, sending a huge fireball into the sky and wounding at least 22 people, including 11 children, witnesses and Palestinian officials in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave said.
Israel has launched some 5,000 airstrikes in Gaza in nearly seven weeks of fighting with Hamas, but Saturday’s strike marked the first time an entire high-rise was toppled.
The explosion shook nearby buildings.
Gaza police say Israeli aircraft fired a warning missile at the roof of the tower at dusk, followed five minutes later by two missiles with explosives.
The Israeli army warned Gazans on Friday and Saturday to evacuate buildings where elements of Hamas’s war machine are located.
Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, said at least 22 people were wounded, including 11 children and five women.
The leveling of the tower was a further sign of escalation following a breakdown of Egyptian-brokered ceasefire talks and the collapse of a temporary truce on Tuesday after Hamas resumed rocket fire on Israel.
Hamas and other terror groups have fired over 3,800 rockets indiscriminately into Israel since July 8. On Friday, a four-year-old Israeli boy was killed by a mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip. His death brought the Israeli death toll since Operation Protective Edge began to 68.
Earlier Saturday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry urged Israel and Hamas to resume indirect talks and agree to an open-ended ceasefire.
The appeal came after Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo. Egyptian officials did not say how they expected renewed talks to produce a different outcome after repeated failures.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev had no immediate comment regarding the renewed call for a ceasefire.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Gaza’s ruling Hamas, said the group would consider the Egyptian appeal, but there was no sign it would budge from longstanding demands, including an airport and a seaport.
Over 2,000 people have been killed in Gaza over the past 46 days as Israel sought to thwart the rocket attacks and destroy a network of attack tunnels dug by Hamas under the border as part of its military operation. Israel says 750-1,000 of the dead are Hamas members and other gunmen. It also blames Hamas for all civilian fatalities, since Hamas set up its rocket-launchers, tunnel openings and other elements of its war machine in Gaza neighborhoods and uses Gazans as “human shields.”