Israeli aircraft have struck a major university and other targets in the Gaza Strip as troops continued their military campaign on the Palestinian enclave for a 26th day.
A large part of the Islamic University in Gaza City was damaged by Saturday morning’s air strike.
Glass from broken windows and notebooks belonging to some of the thousands of students who attended the university were scattered around the premises. No casualties were reported in the strike.
“The university is now in complete ruins,” Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from the scene just two hours after the bombardment, said.
The Israeli army said it targeted a “weapon development” centre in the university.
|A photo of the Islamic University of Gaza taken just a month before the Israeli assault [university website]|
In a twitter post, the military said it struck 200 “terror targets” in 24 hours.
One of Gaza City’s largest mosques, Shifa mosque, was also badly damaged by an Israeli strike.
“I spoke to the people who were running this mosque. It took them years to raise money to build it, and within seconds it was just reduced to just rubble,” our correspondent said.
“Over the past few days we saw that there were no red lines [for Israel]. At least six hospitals have been targeted, UN schools where people were sheltering, have been targeted.”
The strikes came as Israel pounded the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Saturday and killed 35 people, according to Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Qudra.
Heavy shelling and fierce battles were also reported along the border areas in Rafah, the site of the purported capture of an Israeli soldier a day earlier.
Israeli forces on Saturday sealed off the eastern Rafah area, and warned that cars on the streets would be considered potential targets, Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from southern Gaza, said.
The Israeli army said it believed that Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23, was captured by Hamas in an ambush about an hour after an internationally brokered ceasefire took effect on Friday morning.
Israel blamed Hamas for shattering the agreed upon 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire.
Hamas, meanwhile, said Israeli troops used the truce deal to storm into Rafah and kill scores of people on Friday.
Its military wing on Saturday denied any knowledge about the fate of the missing soldier.
At least 107 Palestinians have been killed since the ceasefire collapsed, according to the health ministry in Gaza.
This brings the death toll in Israeli offensive on Gaza, which began on July 8, to at least 1,655 Palestinians, mostly civilians. More than 8,900 others have been reported injured.
On the Israeli side, three civilians have been killed by rockets launched from Gaza and at least 63 troops have died in the fighting.
Despite the failure of several ceasefire attempts, diplomatic efforts were still ongoing to put an end to the bloodshed.
A Palestinian delegation was expected in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the terms of a durable truce. Israel, meanwhile, said it would not be sending envoys as originally planned and accused Hamas of misleading international mediators.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said the truce plan Egypt proposed last month provided a “real chance” to end the Gaza conflict, stressing the need for its speedy implementation.
“Time is decisive, we have to take advantage of it quickly to douse the fire in the [Gaza] Strip… and to stop the bloodshed of Palestinians,” he said.
The Cairo-proposed plan was backed by Israel, Arab governments, the US and the UN, but brushed off by Hamas.
The Palestinian group said any peace proposal must include a demand for Israel to end the blockade on Gaza, imposed since eight years.