Gaza strikes: Israel continues pounding Gaza | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 18, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:13 AM, May 18, 2021

Gaza strikes: Israel continues pounding Gaza

Int’l community’s calls for de-escalation go unheeded; media campaigners RSF turn to ICC over strikes

Israeli jets kept pounding Gaza yesterday afternoon, as the enclave's residents cowered indoors and the violence that has killed more than 200 people, most of them Palestinians, entered a second week.

Before dawn, within just a few minutes, dozens of Israeli strikes bombarded the crowded Palestinian coastal strip controlled by Islamist group Hamas.

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Flames lit up the sky as intense explosions shook Gaza City, sparking widespread power cuts and damaging hundreds of buildings, local authorities said.

Some 3,200 rockets have been fired by Palestinian militants toward Israel since the conflict escalated on May 10 in the heaviest exchange of fire in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem.

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

Later in the day, dust clouds rose near Gaza's Mediterranean port from further explosions, with Israel's army confirming it had targeted "a Hamas submergible naval weapon".

West Gaza resident Mahdi Abed Rabbo, 39, expressed "horror and fear" at the intensity of the onslaught, saying: "There have never been strikes of this magnitude."

Another 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 about enduring a heavy aerial bombardment.

International calls mounted for a ceasefire, but there was no sign of any imminent end to the most serious hostilities between Israel and Hamas Islamists in years.

Israel's army said yesterday it had hit the homes of nine "high-ranking" Hamas commanders, a day after bombing the house of Yahya Sinwar, head of the group's political wing.

It gave no details of any casualties.

A senior Palestinian militant commander was also killed yesterday, a source within the group and the Israeli army said. The killing of Hussam Abu Harbeed, armed commander for north Gaza, was likely to draw a fierce response from the militant group that is fighting alongside Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs the coastal enclave, reports Reuters.

Fighter jets also hit what the Israeli army calls the "Metro," its term for Hamas' underground tunnels, which Israel 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, 200 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 59 children, and more than 1,300 wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas after the group fired rockets, according to the authorities there.

Israel says 10 people, including one child, have been killed and more than 309 wounded by rocket fire that has been the most intense to ever rain down on the Jewish state.

Islamic Jihad said it fired more rockets towards Tel Aviv, and air raids sirens wailed across Israel again yesterday, especially near the Gaza border

Israeli bombardment of Gaza has displaced 38,000 people and made 2,500 homeless, the United Nations said.

It has also battered crucial infrastructure, with the electricity authority yesterday warning it only had enough fuel left to provide power for another two to three days.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said yesterday he had requested "details" and a "justification" for the strike.

Press freedom watchdog Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) on Sunday asked the International Criminal Court to determine whether Israeli air strikes on a Gaza building housing media outlets constituted war a crime.

India has condemned indiscriminate rocket firings from Gaza targeting the civilian population in Israel and the retaliatory strikes into Gaza and called for immediate de-escalation of tensions in the region, reports our New Delhi correspondent.

India also reiterated its strong support "to the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-State solution."

'UNCONTAINABLE CRISIS'

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.

US envoy for Israeli and Palestinian affairs Hady Amr was in Ramallah yesterday and met with Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas, who urged Washington to act against "Israel's aggression," the official Wafa news agency reported.

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.

A 56-year-old Israeli man who was beaten by Arab suspects in the city of Lod last week died in hospital yesterday, police said.

UN chief Guterres warned that the fighting could "unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and .... further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole".

The World Health Organization chief said yesterday the protection of health workers and infrastructure is "imperative in all circumstances", condemning the escalating violence between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

 

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