Minggu, 16 Mei 2021

Death toll from Israel-Palestine conflict reaches grim new record -

The toll from the Israel-Palestine conflict has reached grim new heights, after a barrage of new air strikes killed dozens of Palestinians along the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday, an Israel air strike levelled three buildings in Gaza, killing at least 42 Palestinians and wounding dozens more, making it the deadliest day since the fighting began almost a week ago.

Rescuers raced to free people from the rubble following the early morning raid, with the death toll increasing as more bodies were discovered.

At least 192 people, including 58 children, have been killed in Gaza in the past week, with more than 1200 wounded in the escalating conflict. At least 13 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank.

Israel’s death toll stands at 10, including two children.

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Early morning air strikes on Sunday hit a busy residential area of Gaza, flattening at least two residential buildings, with the home of Hamas chief Yehya al-Sinwar also targeted.

It comes as Israel’s army claimed around 3000 rockets had been fired by Hamas towards Israel over the past week – the highest rate ever recorded as the region deals with its worst conflict since the 2014 war.

In a televised address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the attacks on Gaza with “full force”, saying the ongoing attacks would “take time”.

He said Israel wanted to “levy a heavy price” against the militant Hamas group.

“We are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm and quiet to you, Israel’s citizens,” Mr Netanyahu said.

On Sunday, the country said its “continuing wave of strikes” has struck over 90 targets in just 24 hours, including a building housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera news organisations, sparking global outrage.

Israel’s military chief, Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi said Hamas had made a major mistake by underestimating Israel’s response.

“Hamas made a serious and grave mistake and didn’t read us properly,” he said.

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Tensions between Israel and Palestine boiled over on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when Israeli riot police clashes with crowds of Palestinians at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.

Protests also broke out after dozens of Palestinian families were threatened with forced evictions from their homes in east Jerusalem.

Sheikh Jarrah has been at the heart of the flare-up in violence, seeing weeks of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces who have cracked down hard on the protests against the planned evictions.

As a result of increasing tensions in Jerusalem, Hamas began firing rockets towards Israel as a “reprisal for the restarting of strikes against civilian homes”.

This triggered a deadly assault from Israel on Gaza, which is home to more than two million Palestinians.

UN calls for end to ‘utterly appalling’ violence

The United Nations Security Council met on Sunday amid global alarm at the escalating violence.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded for an immediate end to the “utterly appalling” violence and warned of an “uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis”.

But the council meeting, already delayed by Israel’s ally the United States, resulted in little action.

“The fighting risks dragging Israelis and Palestinians into a spiral of violence with devastating consequences for both communities and for the entire region,” Mr Guterres said.

“It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole.”

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Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki urged the UN Security Council to act, accusing Israel of “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

But Israel’s UN ambassador blamed Gaza militants for the bloodshed.

“It was completely premeditated by Hamas in order to gain political power,” he said.

On Sunday, China accused US of blocking a UN Security Council statement on the violence.

“Simply because of the obstruction of one country, the Security Council hasn’t been able to speak with one voice,” said Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The US, Israel’s main ally, had delayed the Council session and has shown little enthusiasm for a resolution.

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

In a call with President Netanyahu, Mr Biden reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself, but also expressed “grave concern” over the violence.

“The President shared his grave concern about the intercommunal violence across Israel,” a White House statement read.

“He welcomed the statements by the Prime Minister and other leaders opposing such hateful acts and encouraged continued steps to hold violent extremists accountable and to establish calm.”

Almost 3000 rockets launched towards Israel

Israel’s army said Sunday that about 3,000 rockets had been fired from the coastal strip towards Israel — the highest rate ever recorded.

Around 450 fell within the Gaza Strip, while the Iron Dome antimissile system intercepted over 1,000, the army said.

Rockets have wounded over 280 people, hitting districts that had previously been well beyond the range of Hamas rockets.

Army chief Aviv Kochavi said Israel had reacted with unprecedented force.

“Hamas misjudged the strength of our response,” he said.

There have been at least 950 Israeli air strikes on the Gaza since the fighting began.

Along with at least 192 deaths and 1200 wounded, Gaza health authorities said more than 40,000 people had been displaced from their homes since Monday.

Charity organisation Save the Children warned that lifesaving services were “at breaking point” after Israeli strikes damaged power lines.

“Now basic supplies and power are running low, compounding and further fuelling this humanitarian catastrophe,” said the charity’s country director Jason Lee.

The Israeli army has previously said it takes all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians and blames Hamas for deliberately placing military targets in densely populated areas.

– With AFP

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2021-05-16 22:54:18Z

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