Israel bombed Hamas’s chief’s home in Gaza early Sunday, and the Islamist group launched rockets at Tel Aviv as clashes entered their seventh day with no sign of abating.
According to health authorities, at least four Palestinians were killed in Israeli air attacks around the coastal enclave, and dozens others were wounded as the sounds of heavy bombing roared through the night.
As sirens warning of incoming missile fire blared in Tel Aviv and the southern city of Beersheba, Israelis rushed to bomb shelters. Approximately ten people were hospitalised while running for shelters, according to medics.
At least 149 have been killed in Gaza since the violence began on Monday, including 41 children, health officials said. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.
Envoys from the United States, United Nations and Egypt were working to restore calm but have yet to show any signs of progress. The U.N. Security Council was due to meet later on Sunday to discuss the worst outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in years.
Both Israel and Hamas have insisted they would continue their cross-border fire, a day after Israel destroyed a 12-storey building in Gaza City that had housed the U.S. Associated Press and Qatar-based Al Jazeera media operations.
The Israel military said the al-Jala building was a legitimate military target, containing Hamas military offices, and that it had given warnings to civilians to get out of the building before the attack.
The AP condemned the attack, and asked Israel to put forward evidence. “We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” the news organisation said in a statement.
In what it called a reprisal for Israel’s destruction of the al-Jala building, Hamas fired rockets at Tel Aviv and towns in southern Israel early on Sunday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late on Saturday that Israel was “still in the midst of this operation, it is still not over and this operation will continue as long as necessary.”
In a burst of air strikes early on Sunday, Israel targeted the home of Yehya Al-Sinwar, who since 2017 has headed the political and military wings of Hamas in Gaza, the group’s TV station said.
Another air strike killed a Gaza neurologist and wounded his wife and daughter, Palestinian medics and relatives said.
Hamas began its rocket assault on Monday after weeks of tensions over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Smoke rises amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Gaza May 15, 2021. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Speaking to crowds of protesters in the Qatari capital of Doha, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said late on Saturday that the underlying cause of the hostilities was Jerusalem.
“The Zionists thought … they could demolish Al-Aqsa mosque. They thought they could displace our people in Sheikh Jarrah,” said Haniyeh.
“I say to Netanyahu: do not play with fire,” he continued, amid cheers from the crowd. “The title of this battle today, the title of the war, and the title of the intifada, is Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” using the Arabic word for ‘uprising’.
According to the Israeli military, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other militant groups have launched about 2,300 rockets from Gaza since Monday. According to the study, approximately 1,000 missiles were intercepted by missile defences and 380 dropped into the Gaza Strip.
Israel has conducted over 1,000 air and artillery attacks into the heavily populated coastal strip, claiming to be targeting Hamas and other insurgent sites.
Earlier this week, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, told Reuters the court was “monitoring very closely” the latest escalation of hostilities, amid an investigation now under way into alleged war crimes in earlier bouts of the conflict.
Netanyahu accused Hamas of “committing a double war crime” by targeting civilians, and using Palestinian civilians as “human shields.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reminded “all sides that any indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures violates international law and must be avoided at all costs,” according to a statement issued by U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Saturday.
In recent days, the United States has engaged in a frenzy of negotiation in an attempt to quell the unrest.
Hady Amr, President Joe Biden’s representative, arrived in Israel on Friday for negotiations. According to the White House, Biden talked with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas late Saturday and briefed them on US diplomatic efforts.
However, any mediation is hampered by the fact that the US and other Western powers refuse to speak to Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organisation. Furthermore, Abbas, whose power base is in the occupied West Bank, has no control over Hamas in Gaza.
In Israel, the war has been followed by hostility between the country’s mixed populations of Jews and Arabs, with synagogues being targeted and Arab-owned businesses being vandalised.
In the disputed West Bank, there has also been an increase in violent clashes. Since Friday, at least 12 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, the majority of whom were killed during clashes.