Israel steps up offensive on Gaza, kills senior Hamas officials – fr

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Israel steps up offensive on Gaza, kills senior Hamas officials – fr


GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP – On Wednesday, Israel continued its fierce military offensive in the Gaza Strip, killing up to 10 senior Hamas officials and toppling a pair of towers housing Hamas facilities in airstrikes. The Islamic militant group showed no signs of retreating and fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns.

In just three days, this latest round of bitter enemy fighting has already started to resemble – and even overtake – a devastating 50-day war in 2014. As in that previous war, neither side seems to have a strategy. Release.

But there are key differences. The fighting sparked the worst Judeo-Arab violence in Israel in decades. And in the background looms an international investigation into war crimes.

Israel carried out an intense barrage of airstrikes just after sunrise, hitting dozens of targets within minutes that set off lightning explosions across Gaza. Airstrikes continued throughout the day, filling the sky with pillars of smoke.

As night fell, the streets of Gaza City looked like a ghost town as people huddled inside on the last night of Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan. The evening, followed by the Eid al-Fitr holiday, is usually a time of bustling nightlife, shopping, and crowded restaurants.

“There is nowhere to run away. There is nowhere to hide, ”said Zeyad Khattab, a 44-year-old pharmacist who fled with a dozen other family members to a family home in central Gaza after bombs shelled his house. apartment building in Gaza City. “This terror is impossible to describe. “

Gaza militants continued to bombard Israel with uninterrupted rocket fire throughout the day and until Thursday morning. The attacks crippled life in communities in the south near Gaza, but they also reached north to the Tel Aviv area, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) north, for a second day in a row.

The military said sirens were also blaring in the Emek region of northern Israel or the Jezreel Valley, the furthest from the effects of rockets in Gaza since 2014. The IDF also shared footage showing a rocket impact between apartment towers in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva on Thursday, apparently causing a large fire. He said the strike had injured people and caused “significant damage”.

“We are facing it, sitting at home, hoping that everything will be fine,” said Motti Haim, a resident of the central town of Beer Yaakov and a father of two. “It’s not easy to run to the refuge. It is not easy with children. “

Gaza’s health ministry said the death toll rose to 69 Palestinians, including 16 children and six women. Islamic Jihad confirmed the deaths of seven militants, while Hamas admitted that a senior commander and several other operatives were killed.

Rescuers removed the bodies of a man and his wife from the debris of their home which had been hit by rockets in the latest Israeli airstrikes early Thursday, relatives said.

A total of seven people were killed in Israel, including four who died on Wednesday. Among them were a soldier killed by an anti-tank missile and a 6-year-old child hit in a rocket attack.

The IDF says the number of militants killed so far is much higher than Hamas has acknowledged.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said at least 14 militants were killed on Wednesday – including 10 members of “senior Hamas leadership” and four weapons experts. In total, he said around 30 militants had been killed since the fighting began.

Further raids carried out early Thursday targeted several facilities “strategically important” to Hamas, including a bank and a complex for a naval squad, the military said.

Although the United Nations and Egyptian officials said ceasefire efforts were underway, there was no sign of progress. Israel’s Channel 12 TV reported Wednesday evening that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet had authorized an expansion of the offensive.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the “indiscriminate launching of rockets” from civilian areas of Gaza into Israeli population centers, but he also urged Israel to show “maximum restraint”. US President Joe Biden called on Netanyahu to support Israel’s right to self-defense and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said he was sending a high-level diplomat to the region to try to calm tensions.

The current eruption of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem, where the harsh tactics of the Israeli police during Ramadan and the threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers sparked protests and clashes with the police. One focal point was the Al-Aqsa Mosque, built on a hill that is worshiped by Jews and Muslims, where police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters who threw chairs and stones at them.

Hamas, claiming to defend Jerusalem, launched a barrage of rockets on the city on Monday evening, triggering days of fighting.

The IDF says the militants fired around 1,500 rockets in just three days. This is roughly a third of the number of dismissed during the whole of the 2014 war.

Israel, meanwhile, has struck more than 350 targets in Gaza, a tiny territory where 2 million Palestinians live under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007. Two infantry brigades have been dispatched. in the area, indicating preparations for possible land. invasion.

In tactics echoing past wars, Israel has started targeting high-ranking members of Hamas’s military wing. He also razed three high-rise buildings in a tactic that has attracted international attention in the past.

Israel says the buildings all housed Hamas operations centers, but also included residential apartments and businesses. Either way, Israel fired warning shots, allowing people to flee, and no casualties were reported.

The fighting sparked violent clashes between Arabs and Jews in Israel, in scenes not seen since 2000. Netanyahu warned he was prepared to use “an iron fist if necessary” to quell the violence.

But horrific clashes erupted across the country on Wednesday evening. Crowds of Jews and Arabs fought in the central city of Lod, the epicenter of the unrest, despite the state of emergency and the nighttime curfew. In Bat Yam, a mob of Jewish nationalists attacked an Arab motorist, dragged him out of his car, and beat him until he was still.

In the occupied West Bank, the IDF said it thwarted a Palestinian shootout that injured two people. The Palestinian health ministry said the suspected gunman was killed. No details were immediately available.

It is still unclear how the fighting in Gaza will affect Netanyahu’s political future. He failed to form a governing coalition after an inconclusive parliamentary elections in March, and his political rivals now have three weeks to try to form one.

His rivals courted a small Islamist Arab party. But the longer the fighting lasts, the more it could hamper their attempts to form a coalition. It could also give Netanyahu a boost if another election takes place, as security is his strong suit with the public.

Israel and Hamas have waged three wars since the Islamic militant group seized power in Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas. In a brief statement, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she had noted “with great concern” the escalation of violence and “the possible commission of crimes”.

The ICC examines Israeli actions during the past wars in Gaza. Israel is not a member of the court, does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC, and dismisses the charges. But in theory, the ICC could issue arrest warrants and attempt to arrest Israeli suspects while traveling abroad.

Conricus, the military spokesman, said Israeli forces respect international laws on armed conflict and do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties. Israel blames Hamas for the civilian casualties because the group fires rockets from residential areas.

Emanuel Gross, professor emeritus at the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa, said Israel should “take into consideration the concerns of the ICC.” But he said he believed the military was on solid legal ground as rockets hit Israeli towns.

“This is the real meaning of self-defense,” he said. “If you are attacked by a terrorist group, you are defending yourself. “

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Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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