Israel’s continued bombardment of Gaza saw the deaths of 8 more civilians, the destruction of a media office and the death of two mothers and four children.
Israeli air strikes on Gaza flattened three residential buildings and killed at least 23 people on Sunday, medics said, making it the deadliest single attack since Monday.
After nearly a week of incessant bombing and shelling, Israel upped the intensity of its air strikes on Gaza in a bid to do as much damage as possible.
On Sunday, as rescue workers were trying to recover bodies from rubble, Israeli warplanes dropped missiles near their locations. Rescue workers say they are being targeted as they carry out their operations.
Israel’s overnight attacks killed 15 more, with 45 injured bringing the total death toll to 174 with over 1,200 injured, since the aggression began on Monday.
The home of senior Hamas politician Yahya Sinwar was also destroyed on Sunday, in the third such attempted assassination by aerial bombardment.
Hamas has maintained steady fire of its homemade rockets into Israel, while affirming that it would not bow to efforts to subjugate the Palestinian population.
In response to the intensifying violence, the UN Security Council have called for an urgent meeting on Sunday.
The most recent targeted strike is part of a larger Israeli strategy to decapitate the Hamas leadership .
On Saturday, it destroyed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a political figure in Hamas.
Most of the Hamas senior leadership has gone to ground however, and their deaths have not been announced by Hamas, although it did acknowledge the death of 20 resistance fighters since Monday.
Israeli missiles strike the Mushtaha building in Gaza City, which is home to 60 Palestinian families. pic.twitter.com/WJJC49Haqt
— CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) May 15, 2021
UN Security Council to meet
Nearly a week after the hostilities ensued, the UN Security Council announced it would urgently meet on Sunday, after an Israeli air strike killed eight children sparking international outcry in the sixth day of its bombardment.
One strike on Gaza killed 10 members of an extended family.
Mohammed al-Hadidi says he lost most of his family in a strike on a three-storey building in the al Shati refugee camp killing 10 relatives, two mothers and their four children each.
The children “didn’t carry weapons, they didn’t fire rockets”, he said.
“They are striking our children — children — without prior warning,” said the devastated father, whose five-month-old baby was also wounded in the explosion.
Israel’s army claimed the building was used by senior Hamas officials without providing any proof.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “dismayed” by civilian casualties in Gaza and “deeply disturbed” by Israel’s strike on the tower housing news bureaus, a spokesperson said Saturday.
Israel ally Washington, which blocked a UNSC meeting scheduled for Friday, has been criticised for not doing enough to stem the bloodshed.
US President Joe Biden again underscored Israel’s right to defend itself in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Biden also expressed his “grave concern” over the violence as well as for the safety of journalists.
In a televised statement late Saturday, Netanyahu thanked Biden for “unequivocal support”.
Netanyahu told the US that Israel did its utmost to safeguard civilians in its Gaza bombing campaign.
“The proof is that towers containing terror sites are cleared of uninvolved people prior to being attacked,” he said.
Meanwhile, Two more Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces Saturday in the West Bank, a day after some of the worst clashes in recent years in the territory left 11 Palestinians dead.
A Palestinian security source said the fighting was the “most intense” since the second intifada, or uprising, that began in 2000.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes across the land-locked, impoverished and blockaded territory, which has yet to fully recover from the destruction of the 2014 Israeli invasion destroyed upwards of 25% of the Gaza City, totalling nearly $7.8 billion dollars in damages, which is about 3 times Gaza’s total annual GDP. Israel has since restricted or presented the delivery of aid and construction materials to Gaza for alleged security reasons, leading to the critical decay of the city’s vital infrastructure for its 2 million inhabitants.
Most recently, Israeli airstrikes have destroyed a number of high-rise buildings. On Saturday, a high-rise building housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices was destroyed, with millions of dollars of media equipment destroyed. Other media outlets that occupied the 12-story al-Jalaa building were similarly affected.
Activists believe the military bombing was done with the tactical purpose of restricting media coverage from within Gaza, to manage global sympathies.
Photos circulated by residents and journalists showed air strikes on Saturday punched a crater into one of the main roads leading to Shifa hospital, the largest medical center in the strip.
“The campaign will continue as long as it is required,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech Saturday. He alleged that “Hamas military intelligence” was operating inside the building, without providing any proof.
Israel routinely cites a Hamas presence as a reason for targeting certain locations in airstrikes, including residential buildings, without providing any proof.
The military also has accused Hamas of using journalists as human shields, but has yet to provide evidence to justify its claims.
Media outlets have operated from the building for more than 15 years, through three wars between Israel and Gaza. The top floor brought the world 24-hour live feeds of the aerial raids and bombardment of the land-locked city.
“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” Pruitt said. “We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken later spoke by phone with Pruitt, offering support for independent journalists and media organisations. In a press statement, the White House revealed it had communicated with Israel urging it safety for journalists.
The continued violence provoked protests in dozens of major cities around the world, with record numbers of protests held in North America to condemn the senseless violence. In London, nearly 150,000 people protested Israeli violence against Palestinians and called for an end to the brutality.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Paris saw attempts to disperse them by police water cannon, while in Copenhagen tear gas was used on crowds that included women and children among them.
The incessant bombing campaign is coming under massive international fire given the high ratio of civilian casualties and use of disproportionate force.
Israel has not responded to any of these claims.
During its 2014 invasion of Gaza, the ratio of violence reached historic highs, with 18,000 homes bombed in retaliation for the destruction of one Israeli destroyed.
More critically, at least 2,251 Palestinian civilians were killed in the same invasion, dubbed Operation Protective Edge in sharp contrast to 6 Israeli civilians killed in the hostilities.
Finally, the 2014 operation saw 550 Palestinian children killed.
According to a UN report, 203 houses of worship destroyed, 467 schools or kindergartens bombed, and at least 101 hospitals razed.
To date, eight Israelis have been killed as a result of Hamas rocket fire, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.
Hamas and other armed groups within Gaza have fired an estimated 2,900 rockets into Israel since Monday, after state-sanctioned settlers sought to evict and resettle a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Palestinian activists described armed paramilitary youth running through the city armed with M16 rifles and maps in a rush to claim the best pieces of land.
While many Palestinians have disputed the Israeli claims on their homes, stating that their eviction is illegal given no Israeli owns their home, Israeli courts are reported to have dismissed any documentation and proof of ownership presented by Palestinian landowners in favour of Israeli settlers.