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News Wrap: Israel bombs Gaza power plant

July 29, 2014 at 6:02 PM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Israel widened the scope of its military barrage against Hamas in Gaza, as it promised it would. Hamas has said it won’t stop firing rockets into Israel until it gets an international guarantee the border blockade will end.

Today, heavy strikes came on the ground and from the air, as the Palestinian death toll reached 1,120. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

Flames and smoke billowed out of Gaza’s only power plant this morning. The plant’s director said the damage would have a severe impact on the 1.7 million Palestinians living in the narrow coastal territory.

MOHAMMED AL-SHARIF, Power Plant Director (through interpreter): I would like to say to the world that this was a humanitarian plant that served the people. Therefore, its existence helped people, life, hospitals and the normal, simple life of the people of Gaza.

GWEN IFILL: The power plant was just one in a string of targets Israel hit in the 22nd day of fighting with Hamas. The bombardment started overnight, as huge explosions filled the night sky over Gaza. Among the other sites hit: the unoccupied home of Gaza’s Hamas leader and the Hamas-run Al Aqsa satellite TV station.

Israeli media said the army had also destroyed 20 of the more than 30 tunnels used by Hamas to sneak weapons into the country.

Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner:

PETER LERNER, Spokesman, Israeli Defense Forces: This is a gradual increase in the pressure on this organization. It has been over the last three weeks taking a new step every day. And indeed we are striking and we are determined to strike this organization and relieve us from this threat.

GWEN IFILL: There were also multiple reports of cease-fire agreements today, all eventually squashed. At one point, the Palestinian Liberation Organization announced it had offered a temporary truce, and said it was speaking for Hamas.

YASSER ABED RABBO, Secretary General, Palestine Liberation Organization (through interpreter): Following consultations with our brothers in Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Authority declares its readiness to an immediate cease-fire and a humanitarian cease-fire for 24 hours.

GWEN IFILL: But Hamas later denied that. Then, Israel’s Channel 2 television reported the two sides agreed in principle to an Egypt-brokered cease-fire, only to retract it moments later.

Iran got involved too. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, put out a call to Muslims around the world to help Palestinian fighters.

AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, Supreme Leader, Iran (through interpreter): We call on the world, and especially the Islamic world, to support and arm the Palestinian nation.

GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, both Palestinians and Israelis buried their dead, as the casualty count continued to grow.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news, there was word today police in China shot dead dozens of gang members who used knives to stage attacks on two areas. The attacks happened yesterday in the Western region of Xinjiang and hit two neighboring towns. The gangs went after civilians and set fire to cars. The dead and injured included ethnic Uighurs and also members of China’s majority Han population.

GWEN IFILL: Also in China, the ruling Communist Party began investigating the country’s former security chief over allegations of corruption. Zhou Yongkang, who retired in 2012, was a powerful leader in the party’s inner circle. Its members have long been considered off-limits for prosecution to maintain party unity. It’s the latest move in President Xi Jinping’s widespread crackdown on corruption within the Communist Party.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mississippi’s only abortion clinic will not be closing, a federal appeals court ruled today. A state law passed in 2012 required doctors at the clinic to have the privilege to admit patients to local hospitals, but the hospitals wouldn’t give them those privileges. The court ruled that forcing women to go out of state placed an undue burden on a woman’s right to seek an abortion.

GWEN IFILL: The acting U.S. surgeon general had a warning for sun worshipers today: Stop sunbathing and stop using indoor tanning beds. A report released today cites a 200 percent jump in deadly melanoma cases since 1973. More than five million people in the U.S. are treated for skin cancer each year, and $8 billion is spent treating the mostly preventable disease.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A series of public hearings got under way today on President Obama’s proposed rules to cut pollution from power plants. He’s seeking to slash carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by the year 2030. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency is hearing from supporters and opponents in four cities, Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, before it unveils its final proposal next year.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, D, Ore.: Let’s get the facts straight. Carbon pollution is waging a direct assault on rural America. It is a direct assault on jobs in America. And if we sit back and do nothing, there will be severe economic disruption.

MATT SCHLAPP, Chairman, The American Conservative Union: EPA’s proposal is an unacceptable example of executive overreach. Decisions how and whether to create laws of this breadth should be made by our representative branches of government, not by unelected federal agency officials.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers issued a new report that warns delaying climate action could cost the economy billions of dollars.

GWEN IFILL: The former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura was awarded nearly $2 million in damages today in a defamation lawsuit. A federal jury agreed author and ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle didn’t tell the truth in his book, claiming he and Ventura got into a bar fight in 2006. Ventura was also a former Navy SEAL and said the fight never happened.

JUDY WOODRUFF: More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to debt collection agencies. The Urban Institute, a Washington-based policy research center, studied the credit files of seven million Americans to come up with that figure. It found the average amount reported to collection agencies was more than $5,000. The highest concentration of people delinquent in their payments live in Southern and Western states.

GWEN IFILL: Stocks on Wall Street fell modestly today, with a new batch of economic growth reports expected tomorrow. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 70 points to close at 16,912. The Nasdaq fell two points to close above 4,442. The S&P 500 dropped nearly nine points to close just under 1,970.