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Gaza conflict rages as Israeli PM says air strikes will continue

WorldMay 15, 2021 06:38PM ET
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4/4 © Reuters. Smoke and flame rise during Israeli air strikes, as cross-border violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants continues, in Gaza City, May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa 2/4

By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Rami Ayyub and Stephen Farrell

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel pounded Gaza with air strikes into the early hours of Sunday, destroying a tower block that housed news media organisations, while Palestinian militants fired rocket salvoes at Tel Aviv.

The hostilities showed no sign of letting up as they entered a seventh day, with Palestinians saying at least 145 people have been killed since the conflict began on Monday, including 41 children. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.

The 12-storey block in Gaza City brought down by Israeli air strikes housed the U.S. Associated Press and Qatar-based Al Jazeera media operations.

The Israel military said it 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 strike was condemned by Al Jazeera and the AP, which asked the Israelis to put forward evidence.

"AP's bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building," the news organisation said. "We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk."

The United States told Israel "that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

U.S. President Joe Biden later spoke to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to restore calm.

But both Israel and Hamas insisted they would pursue their campaigns, leaving no end to the hostilities in sight despite a U.N. Security Council meeting scheduled for Sunday to discuss the worse outbreak of Israel-Palestinian violence in years.

"The party that bears the guilt for this confrontation is not us, it's those attacking us," Netanyahu said in a televised speech.

"We are still in the midst of this operation, it is still not over and this operation will continue as long as necessary."

Netanyahu said Israel's air and artillery barrage had eliminated dozens of Hamas militants and taken out "hundreds" of the Islamist militant group's sites including missile launchers and a vast tunnel network.

AL-AQSA

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.

Speaking to crowds of protesters in the Qatari capital of Doha, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Saturday the fighting was primarily about 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'.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups have fired around 2,300 rockets from Gaza since Monday, the Israeli military said on Saturday. It said about 1,000 were intercepted by missile defences and 380 fell into the Gaza Strip.

Israel has launched more than 1,000 air and artillery strikes into the densely populated coastal strip, saying they were aimed at Hamas and other militant targets.

The bombardments have sent columns of smoke above Gaza City and lit up the enclave's night sky.

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."

The New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch said on Saturday it had "serious concerns that the attacks caused disproportionate destruction of civilian property" in Gaza.

FAILED DIPLOMACY

Biden's envoy, Hady Amr, arrived in Israel on Friday, before a meeting on Sunday of the U.N. Security Council.

But diplomacy has so far failed to quell the worst escalation in fighting between Israel and Palestinians since 2014.

The White House said Biden updated Netanyahu on "high-level" contacts with regional partners to restore calm, and raised concerns about the safety of journalists.

Biden also spoke with Abbas, for the first time since the U.S. leader took office in January.

But diplomatic efforts are complicated by the fact the United States and most western powers do not talk to Hamas, which they regard as a terrorist organisation. And Abbas, whose power base is in the occupied West Bank, exerts little influence over Hamas in Gaza.

In Israel, the conflict has been accompanied by violence among the country's mixed communities of Jews and Arabs. Synagogues have been attacked, Arab-owned shops vandalised and street fights have broken out. Israel's president has warned of civil war.

There has also been an upsurge in deadly clashes in the occupied West Bank.

An Israeli soldier shot at a Palestinian motorist who tried to run over soldiers at a military checkpoint late on Saturday, the military said. Palestinian health officials said the motorist had been killed. On Friday, 11 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops, Palestinian medics said.

Gaza conflict rages as Israeli PM says air strikes will continue
 

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Comments (12)
Eloy Rodrigo
Eloy Rodrigo May 15, 2021 11:12PM ET
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read Evil Religions Unmasked
May 15, 2021 8:33PM ET
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The dispute in Sheikh Jarrah originates in the 19th century, when historic Palestine was under Ottoman rule. Two Jewish trusts bought a section of the neighborhood from Arab landowners in 1876. Jordan captured the area, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, and built dozens of homes there to house some of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who had fled from what became Israel. Israel captured the territory in 1967 and annexed East Jerusalem, later returning ownership of the Sheikh Jarrah homes to the Jewish trusts. They sold it to a right-wing settler group, which has tried to evict the residents ever since.
talented trader
talent5566 May 15, 2021 6:49PM ET
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thew are settlement virus also bibi now will get more people to form goverment
Anthony Anthony
Anthony Anthony May 15, 2021 5:26PM ET
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Fewer people will need covid vaccines
Pilot TwoFive
Pilot TwoFive May 15, 2021 4:56PM ET
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Spin spin spin. “Housing terrorists”. There fixed it for you.
Millennial Dip Buyer
Millennial Dip Buyer May 15, 2021 4:56PM ET
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Typical brainwashed American.
talented trader
talent5566 May 15, 2021 4:56PM ET
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settlement virus
Ominous Owl
Ominous Owl May 15, 2021 4:13PM ET
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Smash em pathetic terrorists.
ja ny
ja ny May 15, 2021 3:21PM ET
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This is systematic ethnic cleansing which has been going on for years since 1948. While the Americans turns blind eye to the massacre. Your tax dollars supports it all. This is democracy or hipocracy.
Picaso Fish
Picaso_Fish May 15, 2021 3:21PM ET
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Is it good for American corporate profits and the economy?
Catholic Man
CatholicMan May 15, 2021 3:21PM ET
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Long live Israel.
Bob Dimitratos
Bob Dimitratos May 15, 2021 3:21PM ET
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You're correct. Terrorists have been trying to ******jews for ages.
Brandon Olds
Brandon Olds May 15, 2021 3:21PM ET
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go Israel!! bye towel head terrorists
Tyrone Jackson
Tyrone Jackson May 15, 2021 3:21PM ET
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Believe me, Biden is not turning a blind eye. This is what the Democratic Party in Washington wants. Deep state only wants war. This isn’t happening on Trumps watch, it’s happening today, under Biden and Harris. Just like Obama’s watch and Clinton’s watch. Liberals in Washington love the war machine. Remember Libyia?? Remember the Egyptian conflict? Hillary is proud of all the murder she was responsible for. Sick people
James Pattison
James Pattison May 15, 2021 11:34AM ET
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Real headline: Biden backed terrorists continue to attsck Isreal in genocidal rage...
danny Levine
danny Levine May 15, 2021 11:02AM ET
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fight your fight but please leave civilians alone.
Catholic Man
CatholicMan May 15, 2021 11:02AM ET
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Israel gave adequate warning.
Millennial Dip Buyer
Millennial Dip Buyer May 15, 2021 11:02AM ET
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Catholic Man The irony of a supposed catholic supporting ethnic cleansing is palpable.
Michael Becker
Michael Becker May 15, 2021 11:02AM ET
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There are no civilians in Gaza, only terrorists
kobi ben or
kobi ben or May 15, 2021 8:02AM ET
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There is no such thing like Palestinian people, they cant say "p" only "b". maybe blastinian...
 
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