GAZA CITY: Israeli strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily toll yet in almost a week of deadly clashes.
The heaviest fire in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, has killed 192 people in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza since Monday last along with 10 in Israel, according to authorities on either side.
Israel said on Sunday morning its “continuing wave of strikes” had in the past 24 hours struck over 90 targets across Gaza, where the destruction of a building housing news media organisations sparked an international outcry.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address: “We will continue to act as long as it is necessary to restore calm and security for you citizens of Israel. It will take time.”
In Gaza, the death toll kept rising as emergency teams worked to extract bodies from vast piles of smoking rubble, as the bereaved wailed in grief.
“We were sleeping and then all of a sudden there were rockets raining down on us,” said Lamia Al Koulak, 43, who lost siblings and their children in the dawn bombardment.
“The children were screaming. For half an hour we were bombarded without previous warning. We came out to find the building next door flattened. All the people under the rubble were simple people.”
‘Hatred and revenge’
Israel’s army said on 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 anti-missile system intercepted over 1,000, the army said.
Rockets have hit a number of Israeli residential districts and wounded over 280 people.
Isareli army chief Aviv Kochavi said Israel had responded with an unprecedented force.
“Hamas misjudged the strength of our response,” he said on Sunday.
At least 58 children have died in Gaza, local health authorities said, more than 1,200 people have been wounded, and entire buildings and city blocks reduced to rubble.
The Israel army says it takes all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians, and blames Hamas for deliberately placing military targets in densely populated areas.
Pope Francis warned of a descent “into a spiral of death and destruction”.
“Where will hatred and revenge lead? Do we really think we will build peace by destroying the other?” he asked.
The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that children were dying on both sides in “non-stop airstrikes in densely populated Gaza and rockets reaching big cities in Israel”.
The conflict has also sparked inter-communal violence between Jews and Arab-Israelis, as well as deadly clashes in the occupied West Bank, where 19 Palestinians have been killed in a week.
The Israeli army said it had targeted the infrastructure of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including a vast tunnel system, weapons factories and storage sites.
Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s political wing in the Gaza Strip, the army said, releasing footage of plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.
China lashes out at US
China on Sunday accused the 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,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi, whose country holds the Council’s rotating presidency, told a virtual session.
“We call upon the United States to shoulder its due responsibilities.”
The United States, Israel’s main ally, delayed the Council session last week, and has shown little enthusiasm for a statement.
President Joe Biden’s administration says it is working behind the scenes and that a Security Council statement could backfire.
In public remarks, the Biden administration has steadfastly backed Israel’s right to self-defence, while urging de-escalation.
The conflict was sparked by clashes between riot police and Palestinians in Jerusalem, fuelled by outrage over Israeli police actions at the flashpoint Al Aqsa mosque and planned Israeli expulsions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of the city’s Israeli-occupied east.
A “vehicle-ramming attack” in Sheikh Jarrah injured several people on Sunday, including six police officers.
The assailant was “shot by officers”, police said without giving details on his condition.
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2021