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Israeli missiles pound Gaza into new Dark Age in 'collective punishment'
As a textbook example of hi-tech precision bombardment it could hardly be improved. Smoke was still rising yesterday from the scorched wreckage of the six transformers at Gaza's only power station, each destroyed by a single missile fired by an Israeli warplane some 10 hours earlier.
Had they hit the huge cylindrical diesel tank 100 metres away they would have set the whole power station alight. But the strike was clinically effective, cutting all the electricity to 700,000 Gaza consumers, threatening water supplies and depriving its public of light, cooking, broadcast news, and a crucial issue in scorching summer temperatures fans.
"I'm so surprised that they did this," said Dr Derar Abu Sisi, the operations manager at the Al Nusirat power station. "We have been right through the worst of the intifada but this didn't happen." It would, Dr Abu Sisi said, take a "minimum of three to six months" to restore supplies at a cost between $5m (£2.8m) and $7m. "The Geneva Convention says it is not allowed to attack infrastructure for the civilian people," he added. "You might expect that economic infrastructure could be a target in the last stages of a war. But this is not like that."
The damage to Gaza's power supply was condemned as "unacceptable and barbaric collective punishment of civilians, including women, children and old people" by the office of Mahmoud Abbas, which complained it was intensifying what it says are the difficulties he already faces in trying to secure the safe release of Gilad Shalit, the 19-year-old Israeli army corporal abducted by militants including members of Hamas's military wing on Sunday.
The crisis escalated yesterday as Hamas called for the prisoner swap Israel has so far refused to entertain; another faction responsible for Cpl Shalit's abduction, the Popular Resistance Committees, threatened to kill Eliahu Asheri, 18, a settler it says it is holding, if Israel does not end its military campaign in Gaza, and a third, the al-Aqsa Martyrs, claimed to have seized a 62-year-old man from the central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion.