Even as Israel continues to bombard Gaza, the death toll remains to keep surging. In a recent episode of the Israel-Hamas clash, violent airstrikes lashing heavily on Gaza City have flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 people on Sunday.
Palestinian medics have termed it to be the deadliest single attack in the fresh round of violence.
Despite the loss of lives and international efforts to broker a ceasefire, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, in a televised address, signalled the fourth war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers would rage on.
Reiterating Israel’s stand on wanting to “levy a heavy price” on the Hamas militant group, he said the attacks were continuing at “full-force” and would “take time.
Being flanked by his defence minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements came forth even as the hostilities repeatedly escalated over the past week, marking the worst fighting in the territory inhabiting 2 million Palestinians since Israel and Hamas’ devastating 2014 war.
Speaking alongside Netanyahu on Sunday, Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, said Hamas misjudged Israel’s overwhelming response to its rocket fire. “Hamas made a serious and grave mistake and didn’t read us properly.”
The airstrikes hit a major downtown street of residential buildings and storefronts over the course of five minutes after midnight, destroying two adjacent buildings and one about 50 yards (meters) down the road.
Earlier, the Israeli military asserted that 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.
Even as Israel keeps up the war face in acting and stepping up the strikes in recent days to inflict most possible damage on Hamas, International mediators on the other hand are relentlessly working to end the fighting and stave off an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza.
While Hamas also pressed on, launching rockets from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel. One slammed into a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israeli emergency services reported no injuries.
From families being buried under piles of cement rubble and twisted rebar to buildings lying flat on grounds covered with shards of glass and debris the assault has caused mass destruction of lives and property.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has affirmed its support for Israel while working to de-escalate the crisis. American diplomat Hady Amr met with Gantz, the Israeli defense minister, who thanked the US 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.
Taken aback by the intensity of the violence, Samir al-Khatib, an emergency rescue official in Gaza passed a statement citing, “I have not seen this level of destruction through my 14 years of work, not even in the 2014 war.”
While many accused Israel of not giving its usual warning to residents to leave before launching such an attack, news organisations demanded Israel for an explanation in blowing up the Gaza City building housing the offices of The Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media outlets.
Benjamin Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building. Such reasoning is routinely given 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.
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt passing statements to the media revealed that 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.
Gary Pruitt asserted of having had no indication of Hamas being in the building or active in the building and reiterated that an act as such is something actively checked upon to the best of their abilities to avert would put the lives of 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.”