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Gaza conflict intensifies with rocket barrages and air strikes

Stock MarketsMay 14, 2021 04:51AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response and vaccination program at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 2/2

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Palestinian militants fired more rockets into Israel's commercial heartland on Thursday as Israel kept up a punishing bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip and massed tanks and troops on the enclave's border.

Four days of cross-border fighting showed no sign of abating, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the campaign "will take more time". Israeli officials said Gaza's ruling Hamas group must be dealt a strong deterring blow before any ceasefire.

Violence has also spread to mixed communities of Jews and Arabs in Israel, a new front in the long conflict. Synagogues were attacked and fighting broke out on the streets of some towns, prompting Israel's president to warn of civil war.

At least 103 people have been killed in Gaza, including 27 children, over the past four days, Palestinian medical officials said. On Thursday alone, 49 Palestinians were killed in the enclave, the highest single-day figure since Monday.

Seven people have been killed in Israel: a soldier patrolling the Gaza border, five Israeli civilians, including two children, and an Indian worker, Israeli authorities said.

Worried that the region's worst hostilities in years could spiral out of control, the United States was sending in an envoy, Hady Amr. Truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations had yet to deliver a sign of progress.

U.S. President Joe Biden called on Thursday for a de-escalation of the violence, saying he wanted to see a significant reduction in rocket attacks.

Militants fired rocket salvoes at Tel Aviv and surrounding towns with the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepting many of them. Communities near the Gaza border and the southern desert city of Beersheba were also targeted.

Five Israelis were wounded by a rocket that hit a building near Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Three rockets were also fired from Lebanon towards Israel but landed in the Mediterranean Sea, the military said. It appeared to be a show of solidarity with Gaza by Palestinian groups in Lebanon rather than the start of any offensive.

In Gaza, Israeli warplanes struck a six-storey residential building that it said belonged to Hamas. Netanyahu said Israel has struck a total of close to 1,000 militant targets in the territory.

Israeli aircraft also attacked a Hamas intelligence headquarters and four apartments belonging to senior commanders from the group, the military said, adding that the homes were used for planning and directing strikes on Israel.

Diplomats said the United States, a close ally of Israel, objected to a request by China, Norway and Tunisia for a public, virtual meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday to discuss the violence.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters such a meeting would be better next week to allow time for diplomacy in hopes of achieving a de-escalation.

Standing beside a Gaza road damaged in Israeli air strikes, Assad Karam, 20, a construction worker, said: "We are facing Israel and COVID-19. We are in between two enemies."

In Tel Aviv, Yishai Levy, an Israeli singer, pointed at shrapnel that came down on a sidewalk outside his home.

"I want to tell Israeli soldiers and the government, don't stop until you finish the job," he said on YNet television.

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

A number of foreign airlines have cancelled flights to Israel because of the unrest.

'DISRUPTING' HAMAS

Brigadier-General Hidai Zilberman, the Israeli military's chief spokesman, said attacks on militants' rocket production and launching sites were "disrupting Hamas' activities", but still not to the point of stopping the barrages.

"It is more difficult for them, but we have to say in fairness that Hamas is an organised group, one that has the capability to continue to fire for several more days at the places it has been targeting in Israel," he said on Israeli Channel 12 TV.

He said between 80 and 90 militants had been killed in Israeli attacks.

Zilberman said Israel was "building up forces on the Gaza border", a deployment that has raised speculation about a possible ground invasion, a move that would recall similar incursions during Israel-Gaza wars in 2014 and in 2009.

Israeli military affairs correspondents, who are briefed regularly by the armed forces, have said however that a major ground operation is unlikely, citing high casualties among the risks.

Hamas armed wing spokesman Abu Ubaida responded to the troop buildup with defiance, urging Palestinians to rise up.

"Mass up as you wish, from the sea, land and sky. We have prepared for your kinds of deaths that would make you curse yourselves," he said.

FOREIGN APPEALS

So far some 1,750 rockets have been fired at Israel, of which 300 fell short in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said two of its schools were hit on Tuesday and Wednesday "within the context of air strikes by Israel", and that at least 29 classrooms were damaged.

School is in recess in Gaza, and classes have also been suspended in many parts of Israel, including in one town where an empty school was hit by a rocket on Tuesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for an "urgent de-escalation" of violence and French President Emmanuel Macron urged a "definite reset" of long-frozen Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also appealed for an end to the fighting.

The hostilities have fuelled tension between Israeli Jews and the country's 21% Arab minority who live alongside them in some communities.

Jewish and Arab groups attacked people and damaged shops, hotels and cars overnight. In Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, dozens of Jews beat and kicked a man thought to be an Arab as he lay on the ground.

One person was shot and badly wounded by Arabs in the town of Lod, where authorities imposed a curfew, and over 150 arrests were made in Lod and Arab towns in northern Israel, police said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called for an end to "this madness".

Although the latest unrest in Jerusalem was the immediate trigger for hostilities, Palestinians are frustrated by setbacks to their aspirations for an independent state in recent years, including Washington's recognition of disputed Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

On the Israeli political front, Netanyahu's chances to remain in power after an inconclusive March 23 election appeared to improve significantly after his main rival, centrist Yair Lapid, suffered a major setback in efforts to form a government.

Gaza conflict intensifies with rocket barrages and air strikes
 

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Comments (18)
Ominous Owl
Ominous Owl May 13, 2021 2:39PM ET
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Go Israel!
Investing Man
Investing Man May 13, 2021 5:03AM ET
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Defending your friends is the core of community.
David David
David9 May 13, 2021 2:16AM ET
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We should not meddle in others internal affairs. Let them settle by themselves...
Investing Man
Investing Man May 13, 2021 2:16AM ET
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You mettle every day
Catholic Man
CatholicMan May 13, 2021 1:40AM ET
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Long live Israel. biden hasn't a clue.
Edward Chong
Edward Chong May 13, 2021 1:40AM ET
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why long live? i hope not.
Daniel Hodel
Daniel Hodel May 13, 2021 1:25AM ET
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I don’t care, do you?
Johnathan McDrisdale
Johnathan McDrisdale May 13, 2021 12:17AM ET
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Biden is a puppet president
sanchopanties chinaman
sanchopanties May 12, 2021 11:54PM ET
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I love Biden
Roger Miller
Roger Miller May 12, 2021 11:49PM ET
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What war? Just like what fuel shortage? And we can never forget the best one, what border crisis?
Roger Miller
Roger Miller May 12, 2021 11:46PM ET
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I think Rep. Omar is happy with you right now Joe! What a great act by the both of them, but I wonder what there end game is.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller May 12, 2021 11:46PM ET
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Isn’t happy...
Daniel Hodel
Daniel Hodel May 12, 2021 10:45PM ET
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I don’t really care. As long as the US military doesn’t lose any of our soldiers, they can ****each other all day, every day.
milena villa escobar
milena villa escobar May 12, 2021 10:11PM ET
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how would Biden know anyway? he can't remember what he read right after he read it
Mark Manley
Mark Manley May 12, 2021 9:32PM ET
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Biden predicts what? He couldn't predict the flavor of the jello his white house nurse is gonna spoon feed him tonight. Sheesh.
Xavier Bogers
Xavier Bogers May 12, 2021 9:32PM ET
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It is beter to leave the childish remarks of a financial platform, you have facebook and twitter to do so
Gene Kret
Gene Kret May 12, 2021 9:32PM ET
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Xavier Bogers hey X the best part of you ran down someones leg
Roger Miller
Roger Miller May 12, 2021 9:32PM ET
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Xavier Bogers Childish but still true. You should be more concerned with a media that continually ignores Biden’s obvious failings.
Vlad Lozovskiy
Vlad Lozovskiy May 12, 2021 8:50PM ET
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Remember when Democrats and Leftists were screaming that Trump would start a war in Middle east? Yes, I remember that too.
Rick Baier
Rick Baier May 12, 2021 8:19PM ET
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I must say Biden has exceded my expectations. I thought it would take at least a year for a total world meltdown as him as president he's managed to achieve that goal in 4 months.
Tyrone Jackson
Tyrone Jackson May 12, 2021 8:19PM ET
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3 months lol
Ibrahim Hanifah
Ibrahim Hanifah May 12, 2021 8:09PM ET
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Some people say Palestine started a war. But they have forgotten that Israel terrorists seized Palestinian land causing war
Alberto Vazquez
Alberto Vazquez May 12, 2021 8:09PM ET
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There isn't a Palestinian land. Get off that drug.
Shemor Greenwald
Shemor Greenwald May 12, 2021 8:09PM ET
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Learn history dummy
Connecticut Yankee
A_Jaundiced_Eye May 12, 2021 8:07PM ET
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So Biden predicts it'll be over quickly?  Based on his track record, there's only one response: Head for Cover !!
Mike Tottenham
Mike Tottenham May 12, 2021 7:28PM ET
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why is the story always framed around israel being the victim when they are the aggressors
Matt Goodwin
Matt Goodwin May 12, 2021 7:28PM ET
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Israel are the agressors? Who fired the rockets first?
Millennial Dip Buyer
Millennial Dip Buyer May 12, 2021 7:28PM ET
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Matt Goodwin   Look at the map of Israeli borders vs. Palestinian borders since 1960 and you'll see who the real aggressors are.  Even better, who gives them the weapons?
Björn Swensen
Björn Swensen May 12, 2021 7:28PM ET
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Because that is how framing propoganda works lol
Michael Becker
Michael Becker May 12, 2021 6:37PM ET
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Gaza is populated by terrorists from top to bottom. Israel should do the world a favor and flatten it.
cy young
cy young May 12, 2021 6:37PM ET
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I'm tired of these Islamist terrorists. The Israelis are the smartest people in the middle east. Go Israel!
 
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