At least 11 civilians were killed when an Israeli missile struck a residential neighbourhood of Gaza City Sunday. The airstrike, the single deadliest of the latest conflict, followed Israel's announcement of a new strategy of targeting the homes of wanted Hamas militants.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra told The Associated Press that five women, including an 81-year-old, and four small children were among those killed when a missile struck a home in the Nasser neighbourhood of Gaza City.

Early Monday, another airstrike destroyed two houses that belonged to one family, killing two children and two adults, while injuring more than three-dozen others, al-Kidra said. Rescuers searched the rubble for as many as 15 family members.

The Israeli military said its intended target in Sunday’s strike in Nasser was a top rocket mastermind of the Islamic Jihad militant group Hamas, but al-Kidra said the two men killed in the strike were both civilians.

Israeli Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told a local television station that it is unclear what happened to the militant who was targeted.

“I still don’t know what became of him,” Mordechai told Channel 10 TV on Sunday.

Sunday’s attack in Gaza City was the single-deadliest since the conflict escalated with the Israeli assassination of Hamas' military chief on Wednesday.  Israel began its operation against targets in Gaza that same day in response to what it says has been an increase in rocket attacks on southern Israel in recent months.

By early Monday, the Palestinian death toll was at 81, including 37 civilians. Some 720 Palestinians have been wounded.

In Israel, three civilians have been killed in exchanges of mortar and rocket fire.

According to al-Kidra, the strikes on targets in Gaza on Sunday also included:

  • a three-story home in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, struck by three missiles, killing a 3-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy
  • a Gaza City home of known Hamas supporters, killing three women and a fourth civilian
  • a home near a police station in the Gaza City's Tufah neighbourhood, killing one woman
  • a car outside a Hamas militant's home in the Shati refugee camp, killing him and a passing 11-year-old girl

In total, the Israeli military conducted dozens of airstrikes on Gaza Sunday, including more than a dozen that were focused on residences linked to Hamas. Naval forces also hit targets along the Mediterranean coast.

Missiles also struck two media centres in Gaza, damaging the top floor offices of the Hamas TV station, Al Aqsa, and a Lebanese-based broadcaster, Al Quds TV.

Six Palestinian journalists were reported wounded in those attacks.

"I imagine in the next few hours, we will see ongoing targeted attacks on gunmen and Hamas commanders," Mordechai told Army Radio earlier Sunday.

"More targeted, more surgical and more deadly."

Also Sunday, more than 100 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza, including two at Tel Aviv. Police spokesperson Mickey Rosenfeld said more than 10 Israelis were injured by shrapnel.

Israel’s “Iron Dome” rocket-interception system shot down at least 40 rockets, including those headed for Tel Aviv.

In his interview with Channel 10, Mordechai accused Hamas of “using the Gaza population as human shields.” A Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, warned that “the Israeli people will pay the price” for the deaths of civilians.

Even as the exchange of fire continued, an unidentified Israeli envoy touched down in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials, and would return to Israel with proposed details for a ceasefire. Hamas officials also met with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Sunday.

Egypt has been leading efforts to broker a truce between the two side, but they remain far apart on terms.

With files from The Associated Press