Israel Attacks Gaza After Incendiary Balloon Fire

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: Flames are seen following an Israeli air strike in the town of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, early on November 22, 2020. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

 

Israel attacked Gaza military targets late Saturday, the army and Palestinian sources said, after incendiary balloons from the Palestinian territory caused fires in Israel in recent days.

The Israeli army said fighter jets had “struck a weapon manufacturing site and a rocket launcher belonging to the Hamas terror organisation”.

According to security sources and witnesses in Gaza, the facilities hit were west of Gaza City and in the northern Strip, with no immediate reports of casualties.

“The strikes were made in response to the arson balloons fired towards Israeli territory,” said a statement from the Israeli army.

Incendiary balloons from Gaza caused fires in southern Israel’s Eshkol region on Saturday and Friday, according to the fire service.

On Thursday, four small fires caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza were extinguished in the Eshkol region.

Israel retaliated early Friday with air strikes, which the army said struck “a weapons manufacturing site” belonging to Gaza’s Hamas Islamist rulers.

Eleven days of deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas, as well as other Palestinian armed groups based in the enclave, ended on May 21 with a ceasefire declaration.

There was no immediate indication as to which Gaza-based group was responsible for the latest balloon launch.

There have been multiple flare-ups since the ceasefire, including a series of balloon launches last month, to which Israel has responded with air strikes.

The May conflict killed 260 Palestinians including some fighters, according to Gaza authorities.

In Israel, 13 people were killed, including a soldier, by projectiles fired from Gaza, the police and army said.

 

AFP

Egypt Sends Convoy To Bombed-Out Gaza

A convoy of trucks loaded with construction equipment provided by Egypt arrives at the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian Gaza Strip enclave on June 4, 2021/ AFP

 

Egypt on Friday sent an aid convoy to neighbouring Gaza with diggers, trucks and cranes to “prepare the ground for reconstruction” of the bomb-battered Palestinian enclave, the government said.

“Following the directives of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, engineers and technical teams crossed the Rafah border point,” read a statement from the government.

Egypt’s heavily secured Rafah crossing is the Gaza Strip’s only passage to the outside world not controlled by Israel.

Sisi has pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in densely populated Gaza, home to some two million people, and which was pummelled by Israeli airstrikes last month.

Egypt played a pivotal role in negotiating the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, which brought an end to 11 days of deadly fighting.

Photographs released by Egypt showed dozens of construction vehicles emblazoned with the Egyptian flag.

They will be used to “clear the rubble” of debris left after the strikes to “prepare the ground for reconstruction”, the statement added.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, health officials said.

Rockets and other fires from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, medics said.

In Gaza, Traumatised Palestinians Tend To Shell-Shocked Pets

Palestinian veterinarian Mutasem Qaddoura examines a cat at a clinic in Gaza City on May 24, 2021. Israel’s latest war on Gaza has killed more 254 Palestinians including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 others, authorities there say.
MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

 

A smashed goldfish bowl, panicked birds in a cage, scores of animals needing treatment. The loss or injury of treasured pets has added to the grief and trauma of Gaza residents after last month’s deadly conflict.

Neriman, a nine-year-old Palestinian girl, clutched a glass jar holding her goldfish Hoor, delighted it had survived after her other one, Hooriya, died in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.

In the latest war, Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, as well as some fighters, authorities there say.

Fire by Palestinian militants claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child, a teenager, and an Israeli soldier.

Pets also suffered, as well as the children who owned them.

“I was so sad that Hooriya died and I cried when I buried her in the field,” said Neriman, of her first fish, whose name meant “Mermaid” in Arabic.

“But I was so happy that Hoor had survived,” she added of her second fish.

At an animal clinic in Gaza City, Amani Abu Shaaban held a fluffy cat to her chest as they waited to see a vet.

“My cat has been very scared since the war. She refuses to eat, and her hair is falling out,” she said.

“Even the sound of a mobile phone ringing freaks her out.”

Nearby, vet Mutasem Qaddoura examined two cats, one after the other.

One needed an operation for a broken leg, the other was dehydrated and malnourished.

Dozens of pets owners have flocked to his clinic since Gaza’s May 21 ceasefire though supplies to treat them are scarce.

“The state of veterinary medicine is disastrous in Gaza,” Qaddoura said.

“We use X-ray machines intended for humans and platinum screws meant to fix children’s bones to treat the animals.”

 

A worker tends to a dog at the Sulala dog shelter in Gaza City on May 24, 2021, which has received several wounded animals due to the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Islamist Hamas controlling the Palestinian Gaza Strip enclave.
MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

 Pets left behind

Neriman and her family had been forced to flee their home on May 13, after an Israeli officer warned neighbours of an imminent strike on a nearby bank.

In the panic, she left behind her fish, as well as two parakeets, Alloosh and Malloosh, given to her by her father for her sixth birthday.

But soon after, she started worrying.

“I just had to go home with my father to get them,” she said.

When they returned, she found a special outfit she had laid out on her bed for the Eid holidays covered in rubble, the bed collapsed and the windows blown in.

“I heard Alloosh and Malloosh chirping under the rubble, and I found the fishbowl broken,” she said.

Hooriya had died, but they saved Hoor, a scene shown in a video that has since gone viral on social media.

This picture taken on May 24, 2021 shows a general view of the Sulala dog shelter in Gaza City, which has received several wounded animals due to the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement currently in control of the Palestinian Gaza Strip enclave.
MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

 

 Desperate dogs

South of Gaza city, 30-year-old Adel al-Wadia said he had tried to feed some of the dogs at the coastal strip’s main dog shelter during the bombing.

“They were howling with fear and hunger and it made me sad, so I risked trying to get as close as possible to give them food,” he said.

The shelter’s founder, Saeed el-Aer, said he returned after the ceasefire to find many of his canine wards scared and famished.

Dozens had panicked and escaped during the 11-day war, and several were wounded, he said.

“At least three dogs need an operation, including one who needs a paw amputated,” he said.

Other animals were even less lucky.

Aer pointed to an area beyond the shelter’s fence.

“Over there, we buried the donkey and the horse after we found they had died from shrapnel wounds,” he said.

-AFP

Thousands Homeless As Palestinians Pick Up Pieces In Ravaged Gaza, After Israel Ceasefire

Palestinians gather at the beach in Gaza city on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire that ended 11 days of relentless Israeli air strikes on the besieged coastal enclave run by the Hamas group. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP
Palestinians gather at the beach in Gaza city on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire that ended 11 days of relentless Israeli air strikes on the besieged coastal enclave run by the Hamas group. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

 

Gazans tried to piece back their lives Saturday after a devastating 11-day conflict with Israel that killed more than 200 people and made thousands homeless in the impoverished Palestinian enclave.

Authorities started distributing tents and mattresses in the Gaza Strip, an AFP reporter said, a day after an Egypt-brokered ceasefire ended deadly Israeli air strikes on the besieged enclave and rocket fire out of it towards Israel.

Attention turned to rebuilding the coastal territory controlled by the Islamist group Hamas as rescue workers searched for bodies or survivors in mounds of rubble, while residents tried to assess what was left of their lives.

The latest round of bombardment killed 248 people in Gaza, including 66 children, and wounded over 1,900 since May 10, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

The United Nations says more than half of those killed, the overwhelming majority in Israeli air strikes, were civilians.

Israel claims it has killed “more than 200 terrorists”, including 25 commanders.

Rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups killed 12 people in Israel including a child, an Israeli soldier, an Indian citizen and two Thai nationals, the police say, and wounded around 357 people.

Thousands homeless

In front of a flattened tower block where she used to rent out apartments, Aisha Mousallem was wearing black.

“Even if I lost no one in my family, I’m in mourning,” she said.

Sarah Muscroft, the head of the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories, said the intensity of the bombardment had led to “extensive damage” across Gaza.

“Over 6,000 people have been rendered homeless as a result of the hostilities,” she said.

More than 1,042 housing or commercial units were estimated to have been completely destroyed, and 800,000 people have no regular access to water.

A child wearing a military outfit and brandishing a toy gun takes part along with Lebanese and Palestinians in a rally to celebrate the recent cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, in the capital Beirut's central Martyr's square, on May 22, 2021, after which the two rival sides claimed victory. ANWAR AMRO / AFP
A child wearing a military outfit and brandishing a toy gun takes part along with Lebanese and Palestinians in a rally to celebrate the recent cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, in the capital Beirut’s central Martyr’s square, on May 22, 2021, after which the two rival sides claimed victory.
ANWAR AMRO / AFP

 

“The building effort is going to be really quite profound,” she told AFP.

Earlier on Saturday, shopkeepers assessed the damage, finding many supplies coated in thick layers of dust.

Wael Amin al-Sharafa said he had stocked up his shop with new clothes to sell during the usually busy period of Eid al-Fitr, at the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“But now it’s all lost,” he said. “Who will pay for all this? I have no idea.”

‘Two-state solution’

Convoys of lorries bringing much-needed medicine, food and fuel entered Gaza Friday through the Kerem Shalom crossing after Israel reopened it.

The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund said it had released $18.5 million for humanitarian efforts.

The latest round of Israeli bombardment forced 91,000 people to flee their homes in Gaza, according to OCHA.

An Egyptian security delegation monitoring the ceasefire deal met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Saturday, Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

Both Israel and Hamas were fast to claim victory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s bombing campaign had been an “exceptional success”.

Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group had “dealt a painful and severe blow that will leave its deep marks” on Israel, and thanked Iran for “providing funds and weapons”.

An AFP photographer on Saturday saw fighters of Hamas’ armed wing parading in the streets of Gaza city.

The Hamas authorities said government offices would re-open on Sunday.

The international community welcomed the ceasefire and the UN Security Council on Saturday called for “full adherence” to it.

US President Joe Biden on Friday pledged to help organise efforts to rebuild Gaza and said creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the “only answer” to the conflict.

“We still need a two-state solution,” he said.

Peace talks have stalled since 2014, including over the key issues of the status of occupied east Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Al-Aqsa clashes

Israeli police on Friday fired stun grenades at worshippers in Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, and Israeli forces beat an AFP photographer who was covering the unrest.

The incident was reminiscent of the tensions in Jerusalem that sparked the latest round of conflict.

Israeli security forces had cracked down on protests against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers in the annexed east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

They had also moved in on worshippers at Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest site, which is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

Hamas on May 10 launched rockets from Gaza towards Israel, in “solidarity” with Palestinians in Jerusalem.

The conflict sparked mob violence in Israel, and clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in the West Bank.

Israeli forces have killed 25 Palestinians, including four under the age of 18, in the West Bank since May 10, authorities in the territory say. Israel claims five tried to attack Israeli forces.

 

AFP

Biden Vows To Help ‘Rebuild’ Gaza, Insists On Two-State Solution

A Palestinian woman walks past a dsetroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Israeli-blockaded enclave.  (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

 

President Joe Biden on Friday pledged to help organize efforts to rebuild Gaza and said creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the “only answer” to the conflict.

Biden also said he had told the Israelis to stop “intercommunal fighting” in the flashpoint city of Jerusalem.

However he stressed “there is no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel” and added that until the region “unequivocally” acknowledges Israel’s existence “there will be no peace.”

The idea of a two-state solution — with a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel and Jerusalem as their shared capital — has been the cornerstone of decades of international diplomacy aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US policy under Donald Trump was criticized as being blatantly pro-Israel and ignoring the Palestinians.

A Mideast peace plan devised by Trump’s adviser and son in law Jared Kushner was billed as providing for a two-state solution. But that blueprint envisioned a Palestinian state with only limited sovereignty and Israel maintaining security over that state.

 

A Palestinian inspects the rubble of buildings, destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 21, 2021. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

 

The plan was rejected out of hand by Palestinian leaders.

Biden on Friday insisted on a full-blown two-state remedy.

“There is no shift in my commitment to the security of Israel, period, no shift, not at all,” he said.

“But I tell you what there is a shift in. The shift is that we still need a two-state solution. It is the only answer, the only answer,” Biden stated.

 

A Palestinian policeman walks on the rubble of Arafat City, Gaza’s police headquarters in Gaza City on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Israeli-blockaded enclave. – As the ceasefire holds, humanitarian aid began to enter the enclave ravaged by 11 days of bloodshed. While thousands of displaced Palestinians returned to their homes, and Israelis began to resume normal life a day earlier, international focus turned to the reconstruction of the bomb-shattered Gaza Strip. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Eight New Dead In Gaza, Israel Strikes Toll Rises To 227

Neighbours and relatives assess the damage inside a house in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on May 19, 2021, where they say a disabled 33-year-old man on a wheelchair, his pregnant wife and their 3-year-old daughter were killed in an Israeli air strike.(Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

 

 

Israeli strikes killed seven people including a disabled man, his pregnant wife and their three-year-old child in the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza on Wednesday, the health ministry said.

Another person died of wounds sustained the day before, the ministry in Gaza told AFP, bringing to 227 the number of people killed in Israeli bombardment in the coastal strip since May 10.

 

A partial view shows a damaged house following a rocket attack fired from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on May 19, 2021. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Egypt Pledges $500 Mn To Rebuild Gaza, Sends Medical Aid

Palestinians look for salvageable items amid the rubbe of the six-storey Kuhail building which was destroyed in an early morning Israeli airstrike on Gaza City on May 18, 2021. – The UN Security Council was due to hold an emergency meeting today amid a flurry of urgent diplomacy aimed at stemming Israel air strikes that have killed more than 200 Palestinians. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged Tuesday $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in Gaza, his office said, after a week of Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave.

“Egypt will provide $500 million… for the reconstruction process in the Gaza Strip as a result of recent events, with expert Egyptian construction companies implementing the rebuilding,” the presidency said in a statement.

Cairo has sought to mediate a ceasefire between Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and Israel since the deadly violence erupted on May 10.

Since then, Israeli air strikes have killed more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Twelve people have been killed on the Israeli side, according to authorities in the Jewish state.

Sisi is holding talks in Paris with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and Jordan’s King Abdullah II aimed at seeking a rapid truce to the lethal conflict.

Egypt also sent 65 tonnes of medical aid to neighbouring Gaza, its healthy ministry said.

With hospitals in Gaza overwhelmed by patients, the critical surgical supplies include specialist burns treatment as well as “ventilators, oxygen tanks (and) syringes,” Health Minister Hala Zayed said late Monday.

Sisi on Sunday ordered the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt — the enclave’s only border point not controlled by Israel — to open to allow wounded Gazans to be treated in Egyptian hospitals and to deliver aid.

Sources at Rafah on Tuesday said that 26 trucks of food had been sent to Gaza, with 50 ambulances ready to transport the wounded.

Egypt said it would make space in 11 hospitals nationwide at a capacity of over 1,800 beds.

Israel launched its aerial bombing campaign on Gaza after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets in response to unrest in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The Israeli strikes have killed 213 people, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 in Gaza, according to the health ministry.

The UN says nearly 40,000 Gazans have been displaced and 2,500 have lost their homes.

Strikes have knocked out the only Covid-19 testing laboratory in the blockaded enclave, the health ministry has said.

No Respite From Israel-Gaza Fighting As Diplomatic Efforts Intensify

Palestinian men stand amidst debris near the al-Sharouk tower, which housed the bureau of the Al-Aqsa television channel in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, after it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City, on May 13, 2021. MOHAMMED ABED / AFP
Palestinian men stand amidst debris near the al-Sharouk tower, which housed the bureau of the Al-Aqsa television channel in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, after it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City, on May 13, 2021. MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

 

The UN Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting Tuesday amid a diplomatic push to end the devastating conflict between Israel and Gaza’s armed groups that has killed more than 220 people, most of them Palestinians.

Israel maintained its heaviest-ever daily rate of bombardment of the blockaded enclave overnight, sending a fireball and a black plume of smoke into the sky following one heavy strike, an AFP journalist reported.

Despite growing calls for an end to the violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Monday that Israel would “continue striking at the terrorist targets”.

Israel launched its air campaign on the Gaza Strip on May 10 after the enclave’s rulers, the Islamist group Hamas, fired a barrage of rockets in response to unrest in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Israeli air strikes have killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Palestinian militants have fired around 3,350 rockets toward Israel that have killed 10 people, including a child, Israeli authorities said.

Air raid sirens again wailed in southern Israel through the morning, sending families fleeing into bomb shelters.

The Security Council session, the fourth since the conflict escalated, was called after the United States, a key Israel ally, blocked adoption of a joint statement calling for a halt to the violence on Monday for the third time in a week.

US President Joe Biden, having resisted joining other world leaders and much of his own Democratic party in calling for an immediate end to hostilities, told Netanyahu Monday night he backs a ceasefire, but stopped short of demanding a truce.

– Covid test lab hit –

Israel’s overnight barrage again set the night sky over the densely populated coastal enclave ablaze as multiple strikes crashed into buildings in Gaza City shortly after midnight.

“They destroyed our house but I don’t know why they targeted us,” said Nazmi al-Dahdouh, 70, of western Gaza City, adding he was now homeless after “a terrifying, violent night”.

The Israeli army said on Tuesday it had struck dozens of “targets” inside Gaza since midnight, while Palestinian militants had fired 70 rockets, dozens of which were intercepted by air defences.

A strike late Monday knocked out Gaza’s only Covid-19 testing laboratory, the health ministry said. The Qatari Red Crescent said a strike damaged one of its offices in the enclave.

The rate of positive coronavirus tests in Gaza has been among the highest in the world, at 28 percent.

Hospitals in the poverty-stricken territory, which has been under Israeli blockade for almost 15 years, have been overwhelmed by patients.

Israeli fire has cratered roads and battered crucial infrastructure, causing blackouts and prompting the electricity authority to warn Monday it only had enough fuel left to provide power for another two to three days.

The UN on Tuesday praised Israel’s decision to open the Kerem Shalom crossing so humanitarian goods could enter Gaza.

Israeli authorities told AFP there was no immediate timeframe for the re-opening.

The conflict risks precipitating a humanitarian disaster, with the UN saying nearly 40,000 Palestinians have been displaced and 2,500 have lost their homes.

Fighter jets hit what the Israeli military dubs the “metro”, its term for Hamas’s underground tunnels, which Israel has previously acknowledged run in part through civilian areas.

Rockets have meanwhile also been fired at Israel from Lebanon, where protests against Israel’s Gaza campaign have been held in the border area. The Israeli army said the six rockets did not reach its territory.

– ‘Day of anger’ strike –

Palestinians across the West Bank and in east Jerusalem were Tuesday largely adhering to a general strike called in support of those under bombardment in Gaza.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement has called for a “day of anger” and strike, a call echoed in Arab and ethnically mixed towns inside Israel.

All non-essential Palestinian businesses were closed in West Bank cities and east Jerusalem, with large demonstrators planned for the afternoon, including at the flashpoint Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City.

“We are here to raise our voice and stand with the people in Gaza who are being bombed,” Ramallah protester Aya Dabour told AFP.

Israel’s army said it had “neutralised” an assailant attempting to attack soldiers in Hebron on Tuesday. The Palestinian health ministry confirmed the man’s death.

Even as Security Council ceasefire efforts have faltered, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said he had spoken to his Israeli counterpart and the Egyptian government — a key intermediary — on Monday, saying that Washington was engaged in “quiet, intensive diplomacy”.

The French and Egyptian presidents, Emmanuel Macron and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, are pushing for a ceasefire deal. Another channel has been opened, via the UN, with the help of Qatar and Egypt.

The military conflict was sparked after clashes broke out at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound — one of Islam’s holiest sites — after Israeli forces clashed with worshippers on May 7.

This followed a crackdown against protests over planned evictions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem.

Israel has been trying to contain violence between Jews and Israeli Arabs, as well as unrest in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinian authorities say Israeli forces have killed 21 Palestinians since May 10.

AFP

Egypt Sends Medical Aid To Gaza After Israeli Airstrikes

.
JACK GUEZ / AFP

 

Egypt has sent 65 tonnes of medical aid to neighbouring Gaza after a week of Israeli strikes left more than 200 Palestinians dead and hundreds more wounded, health officials said.

With hospitals in Gaza overwhelmed by patients, the critical surgical supplies include specialist burns treatment as well as “ventilators, oxygen tanks (and) syringes,” Health Minister Hala Zayed said late Monday.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday ordered the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt — the enclave’s only border point not controlled by Israel — to open to allow wounded Gazans to be treated in Egyptian hospitals and to deliver aid.

Sources at Rafah on Tuesday said that 26 trucks of food had been sent to Gaza, with 50 ambulances ready to transport the wounded.

Egypt said it would make in space in 11 hospitals with over 900 beds.

Israel launched its air campaign on the Gaza Strip on May 10 after the enclave’s rulers, the Islamist group Hamas, fired a barrage of rockets in response to unrest in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Israeli air strikes have killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The UN says nearly 40,000 Palestinians have been displaced and 2,500 have lost their homes.

Strikes have knocked out the only Covid-19 testing laboratory in Gaza, the territory’s health ministry has said.

-AFP

Israel Launches New Strikes On Gaza, More Than 200 Dead In A Week

Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes target the Palestinian enclave, early on May 17, 2021. Israeli warplanes bombarded the Gaza Strip overnight, said witnesses in the Palestinian enclave, from where armed groups have launched rockets into the Jewish state. PHOTO; Anas BABA / AFP

 

Israeli airstrikes hammered the Gaza Strip on Monday after a week of violence that has killed more than 200 people, the large majority Palestinian, despite international calls for de-escalation.

Before dawn, in the space of just a few minutes, dozens of Israeli strikes bombarded the crowded coastal Palestinian enclave controlled by Islamist group Hamas, according to AFP journalists and the army.

Flames lit up the sky as intense explosions shook Gaza city, sparking widespread power cuts and damaging hundreds of buildings, local authorities said. No casualties were immediately reported.

Some 3,100 rockets have also been fired by Palestinian militants toward Israel since conflict escalated on May 10 in the heaviest exchange of fire between the rivals in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem.

On Monday morning, an AFP reporter in Gaza saw huge plumes of grey smoke billow from a mattress foam factory, as civil defence members aimed high-pressure water hoses at the blaze.

West Gaza resident Mad Abed Rabbo, 39, expressed “horror and fear” at the intensity of the onslaught.

“There have never been strikes of this magnitude,” he said.

Gaza resident Mani Qazaat said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should realise we’re civilians, not fighters”.

“I felt like I was dying,” he said.

 

Smoke billows from the port of Gaza following an Israeli naval bombardment on May 17, 2021. Israeli air strikes hammered the Gaza Strip after a week of violence that has killed more than 200 people, the large majority Palestinian, despite international calls for de-escalation.
MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

 

Intense bombardment

Israel’s army said in a statement that it hit the homes of nine “high-ranking” Hamas commanders, without providing details on casualties.

The overnight bombardment also included the third round of strikes on what the army calls the “Metro,” its term for a Hamas underground tunnel network.

Fifty-four fighter jets pounded 15 kilometres (nine miles) of tunnels, which the army has previously acknowledged runs in part through civilian areas.

The renewed strikes come a day after 42 Palestinians in Gaza — including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry — were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began.

In total, 197 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 58 children, and more than 1,200 wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas on May 10 after the group fired rockets, according to the authorities there.

Israel says 10 people, including one child, have been killed and 294 wounded by rocket fire launched by armed groups in Gaza.

Israel’s army said about 3,100 rockets had been fired in the past week from Gaza — the highest rate ever recorded — but added its Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted over 1,000.

Netanyahu said in a televised address Sunday that Israel’s “campaign against the terrorist organisations is continuing with full force” and would “take time” to finish.

Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s political wing in Gaza, the army said, releasing footage of plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.

On Saturday, Israel gave journalists from Al Jazeera and AP news agency an hour to evacuate their offices before launching airstrikes, turning their tower block into piles of smoking rubble.

Netanyahu on Sunday said the building also hosted a Palestinian “terrorist” intelligence office and claimed it was a “perfectly legitimate target”.

 

Israeli soldiers fire a 155mm self-propelled howitzer towards the Gaza Strip from their position along the border with the Palestinian enclave, on May 17, 2021.
EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

 

 Inter-communal clashes

The violence between Hamas and Israel is the worst since 2014, when Israel launched a military operation on the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of ending rocket fire and destroying tunnels used for smuggling.

The war left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

Opening the first session of the UN Security Council on the renewed violence on Sunday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the fighting “utterly appalling”.

“It must stop immediately,” he said.

But the UN talks, already delayed by Israel’s ally the United States, resulted in little action, with Washington opposing a resolution.

President Joe Biden’s administration says it is working behind the scenes, and that a Security Council statement could backfire.

Israel is also trying to contain inter-communal violence between Jews and Arab-Israelis, as well unrest in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinian authorities say Israeli forces have killed 19 Palestinians since May 10.

Clashes broke out at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound — one of Islam’s holiest sites — on May 7 after Israeli forces moved in on worshippers, following a crackdown against protests over planned expulsions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Sheikh Jarrah has been at the heart of the flareup, seeing weeks of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians.

The Israeli police said a car-ramming attack in Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday wounded seven police officers, and that Israeli forces had killed the attacker.

Police also arrested several people amid clashes in another east Jerusalem neighbourhood overnight Sunday.

Guterres warned the fighting could have far-reaching consequences if not stopped immediately.

“It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole.”

AFP

Gaza Wounded Taken To Egypt For Medical Treatment

Palestinians carry one of survivers from under the rubble of a building, after it was struck by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City, May 16, 2021. – Israeli forces pummeled the densely populated Gaza Strip, the sixth day of bombardments on the Palestinian enclave controlled by Islamist group Hamas, which fired back rocket barrages. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

 

Wounded Palestinians from Gaza were taken Sunday across the Rafah border crossing into Egypt for medical treatment as Israeli strikes continued to pummel the enclave, medical and border sources said.

Three convoys of 263 Palestinians — including those wounded in the latest strikes as well as students and travellers with serious ailments — crossed into Rafah in the restive North Sinai region, the sources said.

Israel imposed a land and sea blockade on Gaza after Islamist group Hamas seized control of the coastal strip in 2007.

Rafah is the only passage not controlled by Israel to the outside world for Gaza — a densely populated area of around two million Palestinians, half of whom live below the poverty line.

Egyptian authorities opened the crossing in February but it remains heavily secured and closed during public holidays.

READ ALSO: Israel Envoy Tells UN Conflict Was ‘Premeditated’ By Hamas

Egypt’s Red Crescent in North Sinai said Sunday on its Facebook page that medical emergency teams had been dispatched at the Egyptian side to help transport victims.

Tarek Tayel, Egypt’s ambassador in Ramallah, discussed with Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh Cairo’s “tireless efforts… to provide humanitarian support to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said.

Israeli strikes killed more than 40 Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday, the worst reported daily death toll yet in the almost week-long fighting.

The strikes have come in retaliation to Palestinian group Hamas launching rockets on Israel, amid high tensions after Israeli police clashed with Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.

AFP

Al Jazeera Says Will Not Be Silenced, After Gaza Office Destroyed

A ball of fire erupts from the Jala Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 15, 2021.  (Photo by Mahmud Hams / AFP)

 

Al Jazeera said Saturday it would not be silenced, after an Israeli air strike on Gaza demolished the building housing the Qatar-based broadcaster as well as US news agency The Associated Press.

”It is clear that those who are waging this war do not only want to spread destruction and death in Gaza, but also to silence media that are witnessing, documenting and reporting the truth of what is happening in Gaza,” said Walid al-Omari, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief.

”But this is impossible,” he said on air shortly after the 13-storey Jala Tower in Gaza was obliterated.

”This is a crime among a series of crimes perpetrated by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip.”

Al Jazeera broadcast footage showing the building collapsing to the ground after the Israeli air strike, sending up a huge mushroom cloud of dust and debris.

Jawad Mehdi, the owner of the Jala Tower, said an Israeli intelligence officer warned him he had just one hour to ensure the evacuation of the building.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, Safwat al-Kahlout, tweeted his despair over the destruction.

 

Palestinian journalists stand in shock following the destruction of Jala Tower, which was housing international press offices, by an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on May 15, 2021. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

 

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on May 15, 2021 shows, the Jala Tower (highest building) housing international media outlets in Gaza city controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 15, 2021, and a ball of fire erupting from the same building after being hit by an Israeli air strike on the same day.  (Photos by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

 

”I have been working here for 11 years. I have covered many events from this building… now everything, in two seconds, just vanished,” he said.

Israel alleged its “fighter jets attacked a high-rise building which hosted military assets belonging to the military intelligence of the Hamas terror organisation”.

“The building also hosted offices of civilian media outlets, which the Hamas terror group hides behind and uses as human shields,” it said.

Israeli air and artillery strikes on Gaza since Monday have killed 139 people including 39 children, and wounded 1,000 more, health officials in the coastal enclave say.