CNN  — 

Yet again, hell has been unleashed in the Gaza Strip, a small, crowded piece of land on the Mediterranean.

Overnight Tuesday, Israel launched multiple airstrikes hitting, among other things, the Hanadi Tower, a 13-floor tower on the seafront, which is home to 40 apartments.

The Israeli military claims the tower also contained offices affiliated with the ruling Hamas movement.

The strike, just after sunset Tuesday, brought down the entire building. It was preceded by what Israel calls a “knock on the roof,” whereby drones fired small bombs at the tower as a warning of an impending attack. It was the first of three high-rise buildings in Gaza to be targeted by Israeli airstrikes in the last 24 hours.

Abdel Aziz Abu Shari’a lives in a building across the street, which has been left inhabitable by the nearby rocket attack. When they heard an attack was coming, he says he ran downstairs with his wife, his daughter and their cat.

“We waited in the street for four hours, and then in the evening went back and found everything destroyed,” he told CNN. “There’s nothing left.”

Since Monday evening, Israel’s aerial operation has left more than 60 Gazans dead, militants among them, but more civilians, according to figures from the Gaza-based Palestinian health ministry. More than a dozen of were children. Additionally, more than 365 others have been injured in the fighting, the ministry said.

The Israeli military said at least 15 of the deaths were Hamas militants.

People inspect the site of the collapsed Al-Shorouk Tower building after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, amid the escalating flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

“We heard an explosion, two rockets, one after another,” resident Rifa’at ar-Rifi told CNN. “I didn’t know where to hide.”

When he reached his home in Gaza City, horror awaited him. “I found my 18-year-old grand-daughter dead, my son injured in the head, and his daughter with a broken leg.”

The Palestinian health ministry spokesman in Gaza, Ashraf al-Qidra, said Wednesday that residents in Gaza were in a “state of panic” and accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilian homes and crowded residential neighborhoods. Forty-three percent of the victims in Gaza were women and children, Al-Qidra also said.

The Israeli military has said it does everything it can to minimize civilian casualties when it is carrying out attacks.

Hamas retaliated for the strike on the Hanadi Tower, firing more than a hundred rockets toward Tel Aviv. One struck a bus in the town of Holon, south of the city. The barrage prompted authorities to briefly shut nearby Ben Gurion International Airport.

Rockets fired from Gaza fly towards Israel, as seen from Gaza City, on Wednesday.
Smoke rises from a tower building destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza City.

Militants in Gaza have fired more than 1,000 rockets into Israel since the latest flareup began Monday afternoon, killing at least seven Israelis and injuring more than 200 others, the Israeli military said Wednesday.

Gaza covers around 140 square miles, roughly the size of Detroit – but with almost two million people, it has nearly three times the population of the US city. Eighty percent of the population traces their roots back to what is today Israel. And as a result of the airstrikes, some have been made homeless yet again.

The territory is governed by Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic group, considered a terror organization by the US, Britain, the European Union and others.

Cut off from the rest of the world by an Israeli blockade of Gaza’s land, air and sea dating back to 2007, many of Gaza’s inhabitants are dependent on foreign aid to survive. Israel has placed heavy restrictions on the freedom of civilian movement and controls the importation of basic goods into the narrow coastal strip. The result is that the economy here is in dire shape: Unemployment is high. The water non-potable. Life is hard. Hope in short supply.

People inspect the site of the collapsed Al-Shorouk Tower building after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday evening.

The United Nations has repeatedly criticized the blockade of Gaza over the years. On Wednesday, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland called on leaders of both sides to curb the violence, adding that the “cost of war in Gaza is devastating and is being paid by ordinary people.”

This is by far the most serious outbreak of fighting between Israel and Gaza since 2014, when the fighting killed more than 2,200 Gazans, approximately half of them civilians, according to a 2015 UN report.

Both Israel and the militant factions in Gaza show little inclination to de-escalate. Israel has mobilized reserves and is sending heavy armor to the Gaza area. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have put out videos showing their rocket teams at work.

Each is determined to gouge out an eye for an eye.

Lauren Said-Moorhouse contributed to this story.