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Minggu, 16 Mei 2021

Death toll from early morning Israeli air strikes in Gaza rises, Israel vows to target Hamas with 'full force' - ABC News

Israel vowed to continue attacks against Hamas at "full force", as the death toll from an Israeli air strike on three buildings in Gaza on Sunday rose to 42, according to Palestinian medics. 

Despite the heavy death toll and international efforts to broker a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled the fourth war with Gaza's Hamas rulers would continue.

In a televised address, Mr Netanyahu said on Sunday evening that the attacks would continue at "full force" and would "take time".

Israel wanted to "levy a heavy price" from the Hamas militant group, he said, flanked by his defence minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity.

The Israeli air assault early on Sunday was the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas nearly a week ago.

The air strikes 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 metres away.

Palestinians rescue a survivor from under the rubble of a destroyed residential building
Palestinians rescue a survivor from the rubble of a residential building.(

AP: Khalil Hamra

)

The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, with more than 50 people wounded.

Rescue efforts are still underway.

The pre-dawn strikes brought the death toll in Gaza to 181, including 52 children, health officials said.

Israel has reported a death toll of 10, including two children and a man killed by a rocket that hit Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. 

On Sunday, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian driver in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah, who crashed his car into a police roadblock, injuring six officers in the flashpoint neighbourhood, police said.

Abu Ubaida, a Hamas spokesman, praised the "heroic and daring operation" in Sheikh Jarrah.

Hamas and other militant groups have fired around 2,900 rockets into Israel.

Israel's military said 450 of the rockets had fallen short or misfired, while its air defences intercepted 1,150.

Man rescues a girl from under the rubble of a destroyed house in Gaza
At least 10 children were killed in the Israeli air strike on Sunday morning.(

AP: Khalil Hamra

)

The interception rate appeared to have significantly dropped since the start of the conflict, when Israel said 90 per cent were intercepted.

The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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 also said it had destroyed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas' political branch.

Hamas's top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, divides his time between Turkey and Qatar, both of which provide political support to the group.

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 and stave off an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza.

Israel has levelled a number of Gaza City's tallest office and residential buildings, alleging they contain Hamas military infrastructure.

'Hamas made a serious and grave mistake'

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 on Monday last week, 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 2007.

Man walks past the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaza
Israel says Hamas has made a "grave mistake", as the death toll from Israeli air strikes mount in Gaza.(

AP: Adel Hana

)

Speaking alongside Mr Netanyahu on Sunday, Israel's military chief, Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi, said Hamas did not anticipate Israel's overwhelming response to its rocket fire.

Car crashed into the entrance of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood
Israeli police say they shot and killed a man who drove into an Israeli checkpoint in east Jerusalem.(

Reuters: Ronen Zvulun

)

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have acknowledged 20 fighters killed since the fighting broke out Monday.

Israel alleges the real number is far higher.

The turmoil has also spilled over elsewhere, fuelling 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.

'No indication Hamas was in the building', AP CEO says

The Associated Press' top editor, Sally Buzbee, on Sunday called for an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media, saying the public deserves to know the facts.

On Saturday, Israel bombed the 12-storey al-Jalaa Building, which housed the offices of The Associated Press, Qatar broadcaster Al Jazeera and other media outlets, along with several floors of apartments.

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Israel has targeted a building housing international media in Gaza City.

Mr Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating from inside the building.

Media and other occupants evacuated the building safely. 

Ms Buzbee said the Israeli government has yet to provide clear evidence supporting its attack, which levelled the 12-storey al-Jalaa tower. 

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders also asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel's bombing of a building housing the media organisations as a possible war crime. 

The Israeli military, which gave AP journalists and other tenants about an hour to evacuate, claimed Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office and weapons development.

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said Israel was compiling evidence for the US, but declined to commit to providing it within the next two days. 

"We're in the middle of fighting,” he said on Sunday.

"That's in process and I'm sure in due time that information will be presented."

Mr Netanyahu said Israel would share any evidence of Hamas' presence in the targeted building through intelligence channels.

But neither the White House nor the State Department would say if any American official had seen it.

In remarks on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu repeated Israel's claim that the building housed an intelligence office of Hamas. Asked if he had relayed supporting evidence of that in a call with President Joe Biden on Saturday, Netanyahu said that "we pass it through our intelligence people".

US President Joe Biden's administration has affirmed its support for Israel while working to de-escalate the crisis.

ABC/wires

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2021-05-16 19:07:43Z
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