Israel warplanes target Gaza as army says rockets fired ‘non-stop’ over southern border
Israeli fighter jets have hit targets in central Gaza, the military said on Saturday, and Palestinian militants fired rockets in retaliation after a day of deadly violence rocked the West Bank and unrest persisted inside Israel.
Israel’s air force struck several sites, including a house in Gaza City where at least 12 Palestinians were killed. Health officials in Gaza said a woman and her three children were among the dead after their house was hit in a refugee camp, Reuters reported.
Hamas, the group in power inside the enclave, reported the number of dead was likely to rise as efforts to recover casualties from under the rubble of the house on the edge of Shati refugee camp were ongoing.
Said Alghoul, who lives nearby, said Israeli warplanes dropped at least three bombs on the three-story house without warning its residents in advance.
“I saw the bodies of four people, including children, being rushed to the hospital,” he said. “I could not endure and ran back to my home.”
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) said barrages of rockets were being fired “non-stop from Gaza into southern Israel”, including a rocket that it said hit the city of Ashdod. Local media said the rocket hit a fuel depot.
“This won’t go unanswered,” the IDF tweeted.
Early on Saturday, the Israeli army said it had hit a Hamas “operation office” near the centre of Gaza City, with additional overnight strikes targeting what the military called “underground launch sites”.
In a significant escalation in the worst bout of fighting between Israel and Hamas for seven years, heavy artillery fire was aimed at what the Israeli military said was a large network of militant tunnels. Dozens of Hamas operatives were killed in the strikes, the IDF said.
Palestinian fatalities from strikes on Gaza stand at more than 132, including 32 children. About 950 people have been injured. The UN said 10,000 residents had been forced from their homes by the bombardment.
Eight people have died in Israel, including two children and a soldier patrolling the Gaza frontier.
Saturday marks a dangerous moment in the recent crisis. Palestinians will mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. Israeli forces have killed protesters at previous rallies.
Palestinians living in areas close to the Gaza-Israel border have fled their homes in pickup trucks, on donkeys and on foot. Some went to UN-run schools in Gaza City, carrying small children, household essentials and food.
Hedaia Maarouf, who left her home with her extended family of 19 people, including 13 children, said: “We were terrified for our children, who were screaming and shaking.”
The escalating tensions came as the US secretary for Israel-Palestinian affairs, Hady Amr, arrived in Israel on Friday as part of mediation efforts. Amr will hold talks both with Israeli officials and Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and encourage a “sustainable calm”, state department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter said.
Egypt was leading regional efforts to secure a ceasefire, and the UN said the security council would meet on Sunday to discuss Gaza.
The UN also said more than 200 homes and 24 schools in Gaza had been destroyed or severely damaged in Israeli air raids in the past five days. It also said residents’ access to fresh water could be limited because of power cuts and damage to pipe networks.
Increased power blackouts were expected as fuel supplies ran low. Most families already only have power for four or five hours a day, and hospitals have been forced to rely on generators.
Hamas and other militant groups have continued to fire rockets into Israel, where warning sirens sounded in towns and communities in the early hours of Saturday. The Israeli military said it had intercepted at least five drones carrying explosives launched from Gaza since Thursday.
More than 2,000 rockets have been fired at the Jewish state since Monday, killing nine people, including a child and a soldier, with more than 560 people injured. Warning sirens sounded in towns and communities in the early hours of Saturday. The Israeli military said it had intercepted at least five drones carrying explosives launched from Gaza since Thursday.
The fighting in blockaded Gaza, the worst since a 2014 war, exploded following hostilities in East Jerusalem, the Israeli-annexed part of the city where Palestinians hope to establish a future capital.
Fresh overnight tensions hit the East Jerusalem area of Shuafat, where young, masked Palestinian protesters set debris on fire as Israeli police responded with teargas.
The West Bank also saw fierce fighting on Friday, with the Palestinian health ministry saying 11 people were killed by Israeli fire.
A Palestinian security source said the fighting was the “most intense” since the second intifada, or uprising, that began in 2000.
The latest violence in the occupied West Bank is closely linked to the events in Jerusalem and Gaza.
From Ramallah to Hebron and across the territory occupied by Israel since 1967, Palestinians hurled stones, molotov cocktails and other projectiles.
Israeli forces hit back with rubber bullets and, in some instances, live rounds.
Within Israel, an unprecedented wave of mob violence has seen Arabs and Jews savagely attack each other, with both synagogues and mosques set alight.
More than 750 people have been arrested this week, police said.
Published at Sat, 15 May 2021 04:34:31 +0000
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