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Gaza reels under Israeli strikes as aggression enters 2nd week

Israeli bombardment of Gaza displaces 38,000 people, makes 2,500 homeless — UN

By AFP - May 18,2021 - Last updated at May 18,2021

Israeli forces fire a 155mm self-propelled howitzer towards the Gaza Strip from their position along the border with the Palestinian enclave on Monday (AFP photo)

Gaza — Gaza residents cowered indoors Monday as Israeli jets pounded the enclave, killing more than 200 people.

Before dawn, within just a few minutes, dozens of Israeli strikes bombarded the crowded Palestinian coastal strip controlled by Islamist group Hamas.

Flames lit up the sky as intense explosions shook Gaza City, sparking widespread power cuts and damaging hundreds of buildings, local authorities said.

Some 3,200 rockets have been fired by Palestinian resistance towards Israel since the conflict escalated on May 10 in the heaviest exchange of fire in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem.

On Monday morning, an AFP reporter in Gaza saw huge plumes of grey smoke billow from a mattress factory, as civil defence members aimed high-pressure water hoses at the blaze.

Later in the day, dust clouds rose near Gaza's Mediterranean port from further explosions, with Israeli forces confirming they had targeted "a Hamas submergible naval weapon".

West Gaza resident Mahdi Abed Rabbo, 39, expressed “horror and fear” at the intensity of the onslaught, saying: “There have never been strikes of this magnitude.”

Another Gaza resident, Mani Qazaat, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should realise we’re civilians, not fighters”.

“I felt like I was dying,” he said about enduring a heavy aerial bombardment.

 

Thousands made homeless 

 

Israeli forces claimed on Monday they had hit the homes of nine “high-ranking” Hamas commanders, a day after bombing the house of Yahya Sinwar, head of the group’s political wing.

They gave no details of any casualties.

An Islamic Jihad commander was also killed on Monday, a source within the group and the Israeli forces said.

Fighter jets also hit what the Israeli forces call the “Metro”, the term for Hamas’ underground tunnels, which Israel has previously acknowledged runs in part through civilian areas.

The renewed strikes come a day after 42 Palestinians in Gaza — including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry — were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began.

In total, 200 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 59 children, and more than 1,300 wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Gaza.

Islamic Jihad said it fired more rockets towards Tel Aviv, and air raids sirens wailed across Israel again on Monday, especially near the Gaza border

Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel’s campaign would “take time” to finish.

Israeli bombardment of Gaza has displaced 38,000 people and made 2,500 homeless, the United Nations says.

It has also battered crucial infrastructure, with the electricity authority on Monday warning it only had enough fuel left to provide power for another two to three days.

On Saturday, Israel gave journalists from Al Jazeera and AP news agency an hour to evacuate their offices before launching air strikes, turning their tower block into a pile of smoking rubble.

Netanyahu on Sunday said the building also hosted a Palestinian “terrorist” intelligence office and claimed it was a “perfectly legitimate target”.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Monday he had requested “details” and a “justification” for the strike.

The violence between Hamas and Israel is the worst since 2014, when Israel launched a military operation on the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of ending rocket fire and destroying tunnels used for smuggling.

The attack left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians.

Opening a session of the UN Security Council on the renewed violence on Sunday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the fighting “utterly appalling”.

But the UN talks, already delayed by Israel’s ally the United States, resulted in little action, with Washington opposing a resolution.

President Joe Biden’s administration says it is working behind the scenes, and that a Security Council statement could backfire.

US envoy for Israeli and Palestinian affairs Hady Amr was in Ramallah on Monday and met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who urged Washington to act against “Israel’s aggression”, the official Wafa news agency reported.

Israel is also trying to contain inter-communal violence between Jews and Arab-Israelis, as well unrest in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinian authorities say Israeli forces have killed 19 Palestinians since May 10.

A 56-year-old Israeli man who was beaten by Arab suspects in the city of Lod last week died in hospital on Monday, police said.

Clashes broke out at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, one of Islam’s holiest sites, on May 7 after Israeli forces moved in on worshippers.

This followed a crackdown against protests over planned expulsions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Guterres warned that the fighting could “unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and... further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole”.

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