Israeli warplanes unleashed a series of heavy airstrikes on several places in Gaza City early Monday, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that the fourth war with the Hamas rulers of Gaza would rage.
Explosions shook the city ten minutes from north to south in a heavier attack on a wider area and lasted longer than a series of airstrikes 24 hours earlier in which 42 Palestinians were killed – the deadliest single attack in the last round of violence between Israel and the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza.
Palestinian medics say the Israeli airstrikes earlier destroyed three buildings and killed at least 42 people on Sunday.
In a televised speech, Netanyahu said that Israel’s attacks continued with “full force” and that it would “take time.” Israel “wants to impose an expensive price” on the Hamas militant group, he said, flanked by its defense and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity.
Hamas also insisted and launched rockets from civilian areas in Gaza to civilian areas in Israel. One of them stormed a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for Shavuot’s Jewish holiday, Israeli emergency services said. No injuries were reported.
In the Israeli airstrike early Sunday, families were buried under piles of cement debris and twisted armor. A yellow canary lies crushed on the ground. Shards of glass and rubble covered streets blocks away from the main road in the city center where the three buildings were hit in the course of five minutes around 1am.
The hostilities have escalated repeatedly over the past week, making it the worst fighting in the area home to 2 million Palestinians since Israel and Hamas’ devastating war in 2014.
“I have not seen this level of destruction through my fourteen years of work,” said Samir al-Khatib, an emergency rescue official in Gaza. “Not even in the war in 2014.”
Rescuers furiously dug through the rubble using excavators and bulldozers amid clouds of heavy dust. One shouted, “Can you hear me?” in a hole. Minutes later, first responders pulled out a survivor. The Gaza Ministry of Health said 16 women and ten children were killed, with more than 50 wounded.
Haya Abdelal, 21, who lives in a building next to a destroyed building, said she was asleep when the airstrikes caused her to flee to the street. She accused Israel of not giving the usual warning to residents to leave before launching such an attack.
‘We are tired,’ she said, ‘we need a ceasefire. We can no longer tolerate it. ”
The office of the Israeli army spokesman said the strike on Hamas was “underground military infrastructure”.
As a result of the strike, “the underground facility collapsed, causing the foundations of the civilian houses above them to collapse, leading to unintentional casualties,” he said.
Among those killed was dr. Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, head of the internal medicine department at Shifa Hospital and a senior member of the hospital’s coronavirus management committee. Two of Abu Al-Ouf’s teenage children and two other family members were also buried under the rubble.
The death of the 51-year-old doctor ‘was a huge loss at a very sensitive time’, said Mohammed Abu Selmia, the director of Shifa.
Gaza’s health care system, already set up by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade in 2007 after Hamas seized control of rival Palestinian forces, has struggled with a surge in coronavirus infections before the latest conflict.
Israel’s airstrikes leveled some of the tallest buildings in Gaza City, which Israel says contain a Hamas military infrastructure. Among them was the building with the office of the Associated Press Gaza and that of other media.
AP executive editor Sally Buzbee has called for an independent inquiry into the airstrike that destroyed the AP office on Saturday.
Netanyahu claims that Hamas’ military intelligence operates inside the building and said on Sunday that any evidence would be shared through information channels. Neither the White House nor the Department of Foreign Affairs would say whether that has been seen.
“This is a perfectly legal target,” Netanyahu told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Asked if he had provided any evidence of Hamas’ presence in the building in a call Saturday with U.S. President Joe Biden, Netanyahu said, “We give it through our intelligence people.”
Buzbee called for such evidence to be laid. “We’re in a conflict situation,” Buzbee said. “We are not taking sides in the conflict. We have heard Israelites say that they have evidence; we do not know what the evidence is. ”
Meanwhile, the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders on Sunday asked the International Criminal Court on Sunday to investigate Israel’s bombing of the AP building and others that house media organizations as a possible war crime.
The group in Paris said in a letter to the chief prosecutor that the offices of 23 international and local media organizations had been destroyed in the past six days. The attacks are said to be “reducing or not neutralizing the ability of the media to inform the public.”
The AP has operated from the building for 15 years, including through three previous wars between Israel and Hamas. The news agency’s cameras, which operate from the office and rooftop terrace on the top floor, offered 24-hour live shots as militants fired rockets at Israel and Israeli airstrikes hit the city and its environs.
“We think it is appropriate at this stage to look independently at what happened yesterday – an independent inquiry,” Buzbee said.
The latest outbreak of violence began last month in east Jerusalem when Palestinians clashed with police in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened expulsion of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers. The focus of the clashes was the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a regular hotspot on a hilltop that is revered by Muslims and Jews.
Hamas on Monday started firing rockets in the direction of Jerusalem, which caused the Israeli attack on Gaza.
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women, with 1,230 people injured. Eight people in Israel were killed in some of the 3,100 rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have acknowledged that 20 fighters were killed in the fighting. Israel says the actual number is much higher and has released the names and photos of two dozen suspected people who they say have been ‘eliminated’.
The assault displaced some 34,000 Palestinians from their homes, UN authority Tor Wennesland told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, where eight foreign ministers spoke about the conflict.
Efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to issue a UN statement, including a call for an end to hostilities, have been blocked by the United States, which diplomats say could interfere with diplomacy. efforts to stop the violence.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki has called on the Security Council to take action to end Israeli attacks. Israel’s UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, called on the council to condemn Hamas’ “indiscriminate and unprovoked attacks”.
The unrest also sparked protests in the occupied West Bank and fueled violence between Israel and its Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel, with clashes and vigilance on people and property.
On Sunday, a driver stormed an Israeli checkpoint in east Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families were threatened with eviction, injuring six officers before police shot dead the attacker, Israeli police said.
The violence also led to pro-Palestinian protests in cities in Europe and the United States.
Israel appears to have stepped up strikes in recent days to inflict as much damage as possible on Hamas, as international mediators work to end the fighting and deter an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.
The Israeli army said it had destroyed the home of Gaza’s leading Hamas leader, Yahiyeh Sinwar, in the southern city of Khan Younis. It was the third attack in the past two days on the homes of senior Hamas leaders, which went underground.