Israel on Monday killed a senior Palestinian militant commander in Gaza in airstrikes that he said also targeted underground tunnels used by Hamas, and Islamic groups renewed rocket attacks on Israeli cities.
The violence entered a second week with no sign of an end to the fiercest hostilities in the region in years, despite growing international concern and growing calls for a ceasefire.
The death of Hussam Abu Harbeed, the armed commander of Islamic Jihad for northern Gaza, would likely provoke a fierce response from the militant group fighting alongside Hamas, the Islamic movement that rules the coastal slaves.
The Israeli military said in a statement that Harbeed was “behind several terrorist attacks on tank missiles against Israeli civilians”, and an Israeli general said separately that his country could fight “forever”.
At least three Palestinians were also killed Monday in an Israeli airstrike on a car in the city of Gaza, medics said after a night of heavy Israeli airstrikes. The Israeli army said militants fired about 60 rockets at Israeli cities overnight, compared to 120 and 200 the previous two nights.
Another Palestinian was killed in an airstrike on the city of Jabalya, medical aid, and health officials in Gaza have put the death toll since hostilities flared up at 201 last week, including 58 children and 34 women. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, Israeli authorities say.
After rockets were fired from Gaza at the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon, Israeli jets bombed what the army said were 15 km (nine miles) of underground tunnels used by Hamas. It also hit nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders, he said.
While the sounds of the Israeli bombing continued during the morning, some residents of Gaza rushed to bakeries and drugstores to store bread and other necessities.
“My children could not sleep all night, even after the wave of intense bombings ceased,” said Umm Naeem, 50, a mother of five, as she searched for bread in the city of Gaza. “What is happening to us is too much, but Jerusalem deserves all the sacrifices.”
A number of people were lightly injured after a rocket hit a building in the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod.
After a rocket hit a synagogue in the coastal city of Ashkelon, one resident, Osher Bugam, said, “We must continue the war until there is a prolonged ceasefire (one) that is not temporary.”
‘WAR OF ATTRACTION’
Hamas launched its rocket attack last Monday after weeks of tension over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the city of A-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place of Islam, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
World concern has deepened following an Israeli air strike in Gaza that destroyed several homes on Sunday, killing 42 people, including ten children, and continuing rocket attacks on Israeli villages, according to Palestinian health officials.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whose country is a strong ally of Israel, called for the tension to be lifted after speaking with Egypt’s foreign minister on Sunday. US President Joe Biden has said that his government is working with all parties to bring about lasting calm.
Brigadier General Yaron Rosen, a former Israeli air division commander, on Monday gave no indication that there would be a disappointment in attacks in what he calls a ‘war of exhaustion’.
“The IDF (Israeli army) can go along with this forever. And they (Hamas) can unfortunately go on with their rockets for a very long time. But the price they pay is rising higher and higher,” he told reporters. .
The Israeli army said at least 130 Palestinian fighters had been killed since the fighting began. Harbeed was a commander in Islamic Jihad for 15 years and sat behind an attack on the first day of hostility last week.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the weekend that the United Nations was “actively involving all parties to an immediate ceasefire”.
The United States said on Sunday it had made it clear to Israel, the Palestinians and others that it was ready to offer support “if the parties want a ceasefire”.
King Abdullah of Jordan said his kingdom was involved in intensive diplomacy to stop the bloodshed, but gave no details.
The Israeli military said Hamas, a group considered a terrorist movement by Israel, the United States and the European Union, and other armed factions fired about 3,150 rockets from Gaza over the past week. Israel’s missile defense system has intercepted most of it, the statement said.
Hamas said its attacks were in retaliation for Israel’s “continued aggression against civilians”.
The Israeli army said civilian casualties were unintentional and that its rays were attacking a tunnel system used by militants, which collapsed and demolished houses. Hamas called it a “premeditated assassination.”