Israeli warplanes launched what appeared to be the heaviest airstrikes to date on Gaza City, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled the bombing would rage.
The series of attacks early Monday rocked the city from north to south for 10 minutes and was more intense, covered a larger area and lasted longer than the 24-hour raids earlier in which 42 Palestinians were killed – the deadliest single attack of the latest violence. between Israel and the militant Hamas group that rules Gaza.
Local media said the main coastal road west of the city, security complexes and open spaces were among the targets hit early Monday. The electricity distribution company said the airstrikes damaged a power line from the only power plant to large parts of southern Gaza City. No injuries were immediately reported.
It comes after air raid sirens sounded for the seventh consecutive day in southern Israel as Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza launched more rocket attacks in the country – and going more far – than in the whole of the 2014 war.
As the UN Security Council met in a specially convened session, foreign ministers and ambassadors called for a ceasefire and for both sides to respect international humanitarian law, but there was no sign of a truce, even a temporary one, to allow doctors in Gaza to recover people – alive and dead – from the collapsed buildings.
UN Secretary General António Guterres has said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is heading towards an “uncontrollable security and humanitarian crisis”.
“The fighting risks dragging Israelis and Palestinians into a spiral of violence with devastating consequences for both communities and for the entire region,” Guterres told the UN Security Council on Sunday. “It has the potential to trigger an unmanageable security and humanitarian crisis and further foster extremism, not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, but throughout the region.”
In a televised speech, Netanyahu said Israel’s attacks were continuing “at full force” and “would take time.” Israel “wants to take a heavy toll” from the militant group Hamas, he said, flanked by his defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a display of unity.
Hamas also insisted, launching rockets from civilian areas in Gaza into civilian areas in Israel. One of them hit a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israeli emergency services said. No injuries were reported.
In the Israeli airstrike early on Sunday, families were buried under piles of cement rubble and twisted metal. Shards of glass and debris covered the streets a few blocks from the main downtown thoroughfare where the three buildings were hit over the course of five minutes around 1 a.m.
Hostilities have escalated several times over the past week, marking the worst fighting in the territory that is home to 2 million Palestinians since Israel’s devastating war with Hamas in 2014.
“I haven’t seen this level of destruction in my 14 years of work,” said Samir al-Khatib, an emergency relief official in Gaza. “Not even during the 2014 war.”
Rescuers searched the rubble with shovels and bulldozers amid clouds of thick dust. One shouted, “Can you hear me?” in a hole. A few minutes later, first responders took out a survivor. Gaza’s health ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, with more than 50 injured.
Haya Abdelal, 21, who lives in a building next to the one that was destroyed, said she was sleeping when airstrikes on Sunday sent her fleeing into the street. She accused Israel of not giving its usual warning to residents to leave before launching such an attack. “We are tired,” she said, “We need a truce. We can’t take it anymore.
The IDF spokesperson’s office said the attack targeted Hamas’ “underground military infrastructure”. As a result of the strike, “the underground facility collapsed, causing the foundations of civilian houses above them to collapse, resulting in unintentional losses,” he said.
Among those reportedly killed was Dr Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, head of the internal medicine department at Shifa hospital and 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, director of Shifa.
Gaza’s healthcare system, already ravaged by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed in 2007 after Hamas took power from rival Palestinian forces, had been grappling with a spike in coronavirus infections even before the latest conflict.
Israeli airstrikes razed a number of the tallest buildings in Gaza City, which Israel said contained Hamas’s military infrastructure. Among them was the building housing the Associated Press office in Gaza and those of other media.
PA editor Sally Buzbee called for an independent investigation into the airstrike that destroyed the PA office on Saturday.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders on Sunday asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the Israeli bombing of the building as a possible war crime. The Paris-based group said in a letter to the court’s chief prosecutor that the offices of 23 international and local media organizations had been destroyed in the past six days. He said the attacks serve to “reduce, if not neutralize, the media’s ability to inform the public.”
The latest outbreak of violence began in East Jerusalem last month, when Palestinians clashed with police in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by settlers Jews. A focal point of the clashes was the al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a hilltop hilltop revered by Muslims and Jews.
Hamas began firing rockets at Jerusalem on Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on Gaza.
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women, and 1,230 people have been 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 militant Islamic Jihad group have recognized 20 fighters killed in the fighting. Israel says the real number is much higher and has released the names and photos of two dozen suspected agents who it says have been “eliminated”.
The aggression displaced around 34,000 Palestinians from their homes, said UN envoy to the Middle East Tor Wennesland at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, where eight ministers Foreign Affairs spoke about the conflict.
Efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the UN body to issue a statement, including a call for a cessation of hostilities, have been blocked by the United States, which the United States said. diplomats fear interfering in diplomatic efforts to stop the violence.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki urged the Security Council to take steps to end Israeli attacks. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, urged the council to condemn Hamas’ “blind and unprovoked attacks”.
With Associated Press