Netanyahu Promises to Continue Missile Strikes on Gaza

Published May 16th, 2021 - 11:02 GMT
Israeli military will continue missiles strike on Gaza
A Palestinian girl, who was wounded in overnight Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, receives treatment at Al-Shifa Hospital in the Palestinian enclave on May 16, 2021. Mahmud hams / AFP
Israeli military chiefs ordered a missile strike on the home of Yehiyeh Sinwar - the top Hamas leader in Gaza .

Shocking pictures have shown dead children being pulled from the wreckage of homes in Gaza after another night of air strikes in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

The Israeli military last night continued strikes on the Gaza Strip - while Hamas fired rockets back - as the latest conflict moved into its seventh day.

Israel said last night targeted the home of a top Hamas leader, as its president vowed to continue launching airstrikes on Gaza.

Military forces said they targeted the home of Yehiyeh Sinwar, in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza Strip last night.

Sinwar is the most senior Hamas leader inside the territory. The Israeli military also launched a strike on the home of his brother.

It comes as the UN Security Council - the UN body charged with ensuring international peace and security - is set to meet today to discuss the conflict.

The meeting will be public and is thought will include both Israeli and Palestinian participants, according to the Associated Free Press (AFP).

This morning, photographs, which are too graphic to publish, show dead children being pulled from the wreckage of homes in Gaza after Israeli air strikes last night. Other pictures show rescuers helping injured children from bombed out homes.

According to the Gaza health ministry, 174 Palestinians have died since the start of the military conflict on Monday.

Among the people killed are 47 children, it said. In Israel, 10 people have been killed in total, with barrages of rockets fired from Gaza.

It also comes as the White House warned Israel that journalists' lives are 'paramount' after the owner of a Gaza tower block housing international news media was given one-hour to evacuate it, before it was destroyed by an IDF air strike.

Israel pounded Gaza with air strikes into the early hours of Sunday, with the destruction of the 12-storey building that housed the U.S. Associated Press and Qatar-based Al Jazeera media operations drawing international rebuke. 

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 on Saturday.

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.

However Mr Netanyahu and Hamas leaders have both insisted they would pursue their campaigns, leaving no end to the hostilities in sight.

'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.'

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) - the country's military - meanwhile defended the strike of the Al Jazeera building, saying 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.

But 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 IDF defended its actions, writing on Twitter: 'We'll say it again: When Hamas places military assets inside such a building, it becomes a lawful military target. This is clear international law. 

'All the multi-story buildings targeted by the IDF were used for military purposes within each building.' 

The hostilities showed no sign of letting up as they entered a seventh day on Sunday, 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. Missiles fired from Gaza at Israel's second most populated city of Tel Aviv causing beach-goers to run for shelter on Saturday.

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. 

But world leaders expressed grave concern on Sunday after Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip killed eight children, and as Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli fighter jets struck several sites in the densely populated Gaza Strip, with one strike on a three-storey building in the Shati refugee camp killed 10 members of an extended family - two mothers and their four children each. Israel's army claimed the building was used by senior Hamas officials.  

Meanwhile, as Palestinian rocket salvoes hit coastal Tel Aviv, beach-goers in Israel's second most populous city were seen running for shelter, some taking cover by lying down on the floor against walls.

Joe Biden expressed 'strong support' for Israel's strikes in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas missile attacks on its territory, but raised concerns about civilian casualties and the protection of journalists on a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House said Biden on Saturday also shared his 'grave concern' about intercommunal violence within Israel and escalating tensions in the West Bank.

Biden and Netanyahu also discussed Jerusalem, with Biden saying it should 'be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.'

Biden also held his first call since taking office with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the violence, in which he called for Hamas, the PA's rival, to stop firing rockets into Israel.

The White House says Biden 'expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve' and highlighted the resumption of U.S. aid to the Palestinians under his administration. 

In response to the destruction of the 12-storey tower on Saturday, an international network of journalists and media executives 'vehemently' condemned the Israeli airstrike on a Gaza City building housing the offices of The Associated Press and broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

Barbara Trionfi, the executive director of the International Press Institute, said after Saturday's airstrike that 'the targeting of news organizations is completely unacceptable, even during an armed conflict.'

She added that 'it represents a gross violation of human rights and internationally agreed norms.'

Tel Aviv residents fled amid wailing sirens as Hamas militants fired barrages of rockets. One hit a residential block in the Ramat Gan suburb, killing a 50-year old man, medics said. 

The group said the salvoes responded to overnight strikes on Gaza's Beach refugee camp, where a woman and four of her children were killed when her house was hit.

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. 

The moment the 13-floor building housing news organisations was destroyed by the Israeli air strike, sending a huge mushroom cloud into the sky, was captured on video. 

Broadcast footage from Al Jazeera, the news network funded by Qatar's government, showed the Jala Tower collapsing to the ground after the Israeli air strike, sending up a huge mushroom cloud of dust and debris.

Israel 'destroyed Jala Tower in the Gaza Strip, which contains the Al Jazeera and other international press offices,' Al Jazeera said in a tweet. 

'This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,' an on-air anchorwoman said, her voice thick with emotion. 'We can guarantee you that right now.' 

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. AP's staff and others in the building evacuated immediately.  

The strike came hours after another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp in Gaza City killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children, in the deadliest single strike of the current conflict. 

In a phone call with the officer, he was heard begging for an extra 10 minutes to allow journalists to retrieve their equipment before leaving.

'Give us ten extra minutes,' he urged, but the officer on the other end of the line refused.

Wael al-Dahdouh, Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Gaza, said: 'It's terrible, very sad, to target the Al Jazeera and other press bureaux'. 

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

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

Both sides have pressed for an advantage as ceasefire efforts gather strength. 

The latest outburst of violence began in Jerusalem and has spread across the region, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel.

There were also widespread Palestinian protests on Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza has been condemned as 'completely unacceptable' by Labour. Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: 'The targeting of media offices in Gaza by Israeli air strikes is completely unacceptable. Press freedom is a fundamental right.

'The devastating escalation of violence - including Hamas rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and air strikes on the Gaza City refugee camp - has cost more civilian lives and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

'The UK must join our international partners in calling for an immediate ceasefire, an end to all rocket attacks and air strikes, and work with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to prevent this dangerous situation deteriorating further.'

The spiralling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian 'intifada', or uprising, at a time when there have been no peace talks in years. 

Palestinians on Saturday were marking Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when they commemorate the estimated 700,000 people who were expelled from or fled their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. That raised the possibility of even more unrest.

US diplomat Hady Amr arrived on Friday as part of Washington's efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the UN Security Council is set to meet on Sunday.

Israel has turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas rulers had accepted, an Egyptian official revealed.

Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has responded by pounding the Gaza Strip with strikes.

In Gaza, at least 139 people have been killed, including 39 children and 22 women; in Israel, eight people have been killed, including the death on Saturday of a man killed by a rocket that hit in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. 

Earlier on Saturday, an airstrike hit a three-story house in Gaza City's Shati refugee camp, killing eight children and two women from an extended family.

Mohammed Hadidi told reporters his wife and five children had gone to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday with relatives.

She and three of the children, aged six to 14, were killed, while an 11-year-old is missing. Only his five-month-old son Omar is known to have survived.

Children's toys and a Monopoly board game could be seen among the rubble, as well as plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.

'There was no warning,' said Jamal Al-Naji, a neighbour living in the same building. 'You filmed people eating and then you bombed them?' he said, addressing Israel.

'Why are you confronting us? Go and confront the strong people!' 

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the air strike.

A furious Israeli barrage early on Friday killed a family of six in their house and sent thousands fleeing to UN-run shelters.

The military said the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tonnes of explosives over the course of 40 minutes and succeeded in destroying a vast tunnel network used by Hamas.

Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said the military aims to minimise collateral damage in striking military targets. But measures it takes in other strikes, such as warning shots to get civilians to leave, were not 'feasible this time'.

Israeli media said the military believed dozens of militants were killed inside the tunnels.

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the military said the real number is far higher.

Gaza's infrastructure, already in widespread disrepair because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, showed signs of breaking down further, compounding residents' misery.

The territory's sole power plant is at risk of running out of fuel in the coming days.

The UN said Gazans are experiencing daily power cuts of eight to 12 hours and at least 230,000 have limited access to tap water.

The impoverished and densely populated territory is home to two million Palestinians, most of them the descendants of refugees from what is now Israel.

The conflict has reverberated widely. Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations have seen daily violence, with mobs from each community fighting in the streets and destroying each other's property.

The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.

Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, in an apparent attempt to present itself as the champion of the protesters.

During the conflict that spiralled from there, Israel said it wants to inflict as much damage as it can on Hamas' military infrastructure in Gaza.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Hamas will 'pay a very heavy price' for its rocket attacks, as Israel masses troops at the frontier.

US president Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel while saying he hopes to bring the violence under control.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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