THE early-morning call to prayer had just sounded, a melodic voice drifting across the darkness after another night of bombardment from Israeli air strikes.
Suddenly, in short succession, a series of missiles fell from an F16 jet, flattening the headquarters of Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Air strikes bring more devastation in Gaza
Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard describes how Israeli air strikes have laid waste to many parts of Gaza City, while militants continue to fire long-range rockets toward Israel.
Mohamed Abdullah, 38, who lives just metres from the bombed offices of Mr Haniyeh, said the blasts that flattened the Prime Minister’s headquarters were so powerful that buildings two blocks away felt the shockwaves and cupboards were blown off the walls of neighbouring homes. Mr Haniyeh was apparently not in the building.
‘‘They say we are targeting Israel [with rockets], but they do not experience anything like this,’’ Mr Abdullah said, gesturing to the twisted grey metal and concrete strewn over the blast site.
As the Israeli air strikes continued into Sunday, two children were killed in raids on homes in northern Gaza and a raid in central Gaza killed an 18-month-old boy, wounding his two young brothers.
Two media buildings in Gaza City were struck, injuring at least eight journalists, including one who lost his leg, according to officials.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was on his way to Israel from Paris ‘‘to call on all the parties to stop the escalation and offer France’s help to reach an immediate ceasefire’’, his ministry said. He was to meet Israeli leaders and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
But the signs were not good. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to ‘‘significantly expand’’ its operation in the Gaza Strip.
At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Mr Netanyahu said Israel was extracting a heavy price from Hamas and the terror organisations and that the army is prepared to significantly expand the operation.
He was holding ongoing talks with world leaders and he said he appreciated their understanding of Israel’s right to self defence. Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip would lose Israel much international sympathy and support.
Mr Hague told Sky News it was much more difficult to limit civilian casualties in a ground assault and it would threaten to prolong the conflict.
Despite the danger, Mr Abdullah, whose seven-year-old daughter was injured falling off a staircase while trying to flee the Israeli strike, said his family would stay in their home.
Deadly airstrike hits Gaza as conflict escalates
At least 11 Palestinians, including six children are killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza.
‘‘I have no place to go, and anyway, all of Gaza is a target.’’
Another neighbour, 60-year-old Ahmed Hartoum, said he, too, would stay, describing the air strike as ‘‘barbaric’’.
‘‘I support the resistance; it is only logical and reasonable to fight back — if an enemy attacks your country would you fire back or would you just watch?’’
It is a sentiment echoed by many people Fairfax Media has spoken to over the past three days.
Since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defence, more than 650 rockets have been fired from Gaza towards Israel, of which more than 240 were intercepted, the Israel Defence Forces said, while Israel had struck almost 1000 targets in the Gaza Strip, with 300 air strikes on Saturday alone.
Some 48 Palestinians, including at least 17 civilians, have been killed and more than 400 civilians wounded, including more than 100 children, according to medical officials. Three Israeli civilians have been killed and more than 50 wounded. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said he was working with representatives from Turkey, the Arab world, the US, Russia and west European countries in an effort to halt the fighting.