Israel Strikes Kill 42, Level Buildings05/16 09:56
Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at
least 42 people Sunday, medics said, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu signaled the fighting between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza would
continue despite international efforts to broker a cease fire.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened
three buildings and killed at least 42 people Sunday, medics said, as Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled the fighting between Israel and
Palestinians in Gaza would continue despite international efforts to broker a
In a televised address, Netanyahu said Sunday evening the attacks were
continuing at "full-force" and will "take time." Israel "wants to levy a heavy
price" from Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, he said.
The violence marked the worst fighting here since the devastating 2014 war
The airstrikes Sunday hit a busy downtown street of residential buildings
and storefronts over the course of five minutes just after midnight, destroying
two adjacent buildings and one about 50 yards (meters) down the road.
At one point, a rescuer shouted, "Can you hear me?" into a hole in the
rubble. "Are you OK?" Minutes later, first responders pulled a survivor out and
carried him off on an orange stretcher. The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women
and 10 children were among those killed, with more than 50 people wounded, and
rescue efforts are still underway.
Earlier, the Israeli military said it destroyed the home of Gaza's top Hamas
leader, Yahiyeh Sinwar, in a separate strike in the southern town of Khan
Younis. It was the third such attack in the last two days on the homes of
senior Hamas leaders, who have gone underground.
Israel appears to have stepped up strikes in recent days to inflict as much
damage as possible on Hamas as international mediators work to end the
fighting. But targeting the group's leaders could hinder those efforts. A U.S.
diplomat is in the region to try to de-escalate tensions, and the U.N. Security
Council is set to meet Sunday.
In its airstrikes, Israel has leveled a number of Gaza City's tallest office
and residential buildings, alleging they contain Hamas military infrastructure.
Among them was the building housing The Associated Press office and those of
other media outlets.
The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem last month, when
Palestinian protests and clashes with police broke out in response to Israeli
police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of
Palestinian families by Jewish settlers. A focal point of clashes was the
Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint that is located on a hilltop compound
that is revered by both Muslims and Jews.
Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, triggering the Israeli
assault on impoverished Gaza, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians
and has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power
from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
The turmoil has also spilled over elsewhere, fueling protests in the
occupied West Bank and stoking violence within Israel between its Jewish and
Arab citizens, with clashes and vigilante attacks on people and property. The
violence also sparked pro-Palestinian protests in cities across Europe and the
United States, with French police firing tear gas and water cannons at
demonstrators in Paris.
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 55 children
and 33 women, with 1,230 people wounded. Eight people in Israel have been
killed, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.
The military said Sunday it struck Sinwar's home and that of his brother
Muhammad, another senior Hamas member. On Saturday it destroyed the home of
Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas' political branch.
Hamas' upper echelon has gone into hiding in Gaza, and it is unlikely any
were at home at the time of the strikes. Hamas' top leader, Ismail Haniyeh,
divides his time between Turkey and Qatar, both of which provide political
support to the group.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have acknowledged 20 fighters
killed since the fighting broke out Monday. Israel says the real number is far
higher and has released the names and photos of two dozen alleged operatives it
says were "eliminated."
An Egyptian diplomat said Israel's targeting of Hamas political leaders
would complicate cease-fire efforts. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of
anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations, said Cairo is working to
broker an end to the fighting, as are other international actors.
The Egyptian diplomat said the destruction of Hamas' rocket capabilities
would require a ground invasion that would "inflame the whole region." Egypt,
which made peace with Israel decades ago, has threatened to "suspend"
cooperation in various fields, the official said, without elaborating.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has affirmed its support for Israel
while working to de-escalate the crisis. American diplomat Hady Amr met with
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who thanked the U.S. for its support.
Gantz said Israel "takes every precaution to strike at military targets only
and avoid harming civilians, while its civilians are the targets of
Hamas and other militant groups have fired some 2,900 rockets into Israel.
The military said 450 of the rockets had fallen short or misfired, while
Israeli air defenses intercepted 1,150.
The interception rate appeared to have significantly dropped since the start
of the conflict, when Israel said 90% were intercepted. The military did not
immediately respond to a request for comment.
Israel has meanwhile carried out hundreds of airstrikes across Gaza.
On Saturday, Israel bombed the 12-story al-Jalaa Building, where the office
of The Associated Press was located. The building also housed the TV network
Al-Jazeera and other media outlets, along with several floors of apartments.
"The campaign will continue as long as it is required," Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. He alleged that Hamas military intelligence
was operating inside the building.
Israel routinely cites a Hamas presence as a reason for targeting certain
locations in airstrikes, including residential buildings. The military also has
accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields, but provided
no evidence to back up the claims.
The AP has operated from the building for 15 years, including through three
previous wars between Israel and Hamas. During those conflicts as well as the
current one, the news agency's cameras, operating from its top floor office and
roof terrace, offered 24-hour live shots as militants' rockets arched toward
Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the city and its surroundings.
"We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the
building," AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. "This is
something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never
knowingly put our journalists at risk."
In the afternoon, the military called the building's owner and warned a
strike would come within an hour. AP staffers and other occupants evacuated
safely. Soon after, three missiles hit the building and destroyed it, bringing
it crashing down in a giant cloud of dust.
"The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what
happened today," Pruitt said. "We are shocked and horrified."