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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 
cease fire.

   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 
in Gaza.

   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 
indiscriminate attack."

   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."

 
 
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