BFF-21, 22, 23 Israel pounds Gaza, hits media building housing AP and Jazeera

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ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS NEWSERIES

Israel pounds Gaza, hits media building housing AP and Jazeera

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories, May 15, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – Israeli
air strikes pounded the Gaza Strip Saturday, killing 10 members of an
extended family and demolishing a building housing international media
outlets, as Palestinian militants fired back barrages of rockets.

On the sixth day since the conflict escalated, the death toll rose
and violence also swept the occupied West Bank as a US envoy prepared
to hold talks with officials seeking a de-escalation.

Despite intensifying diplomatic efforts, Israel’s fighter jets
struck several sites in the densely-populated Gaza Strip which it has
blockaded for more than a decade, while Palestinian Islamists
unleashed rockets again towards Israel, killing one.

Balls of flame reached high into the sky as Israel’s air force on
Saturday afternoon flattened a 13-floor building housing Qatar-based
Al Jazeera television and the Associated Press news agency in the Gaza
Strip, after giving a warning to evacuate.

“Clearly there is a decision not only to sow destruction and
killing, but also to silence those who broadcast it,” Walid al-Omari,
Al Jazeera head for Israel and the occupied territories, told AFP.

Jawad Mehdi, the owner of the Jala Tower, said an Israeli
intelligence officer warned him he had just one hour to ensure the
evacuation of the building.

Israel claimed that “military intelligence” of Hamas, the Gaza
Strip’s Islamist rulers, were also in the building.

Earlier, an Israeli strike on a three-storey building in the Shati
refugee camp killed 10 members of an extended family — two related
mothers and their four children each. Israel’s army said the building
was used by “Hamas terror organisation senior officials”.

– ‘Striking our children’ –

Mohammed al-Hadidi said he had lost most of his family in an air
strike in Gaza. “What did they do to deserve this? We’re civilians,”
said the devastated father, whose surviving five-month-old baby was
wounded in the explosion.

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“They are striking our children — children — without previous warning”.

Israeli air and artillery strikes on Gaza since Monday have killed
139 people including 39 children, and wounded 1,000 more, health
officials say.

Palestinian armed groups have fired 2,300 rockets at Israel,
killing 10 people, including a child and a soldier. Over 560 Israelis
have been wounded.

On Saturday afternoon, a rocket fired from Gaza killed an Israeli
man in the central town of Ramat Gen near Tel Aviv, police and medics
said.

Violence also raged in the West Bank and there were fears of an
escalation as Palestinians Saturday mark the Nakba, the “catastrophe”
of Israel’s creation in 1948, which turned hundreds of thousands into
refugees.

Eleven Palestinians were killed Friday in West Bank clashes.

A Palestinian security source said the fighting was the “most
intense” since the second intifada, or uprising, that began in 2000.

– ‘Sustainable calm’ –

US Secretary for Israel-Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr was to hold
talks Sunday with Israeli leaders ahead of meeting Palestinian
officials.

Amr is seeking a “sustainable calm”, State Department deputy
spokeswoman Jalina Porter said.

Washington has been criticised for not doing more to end the
intensifying violence, after it blocked a UN Security Council meeting
scheduled for Friday.

Israel, which is also trying to contain an outbreak of internal
Jewish-Arab violence, is facing its bloodiest conflict with
Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2014.

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Its bombardment began Monday, after Hamas fired rockets towards
Jerusalem following bloody Israeli police action at the flashpoint
Al-Aqsa mosque compound, and a crackdown on protests against the
planned Israeli expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the
Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in annexed east Jerusalem.

– 10,000 Palestinians flee –

From 7:00 pm Friday to 7:00 am Saturday, some 200 rockets were
fired at southern Israel, the Israeli army said. Over 100 were
intercepted by air defences.

Israel retaliated by hitting nearly 800 targets, including a Hamas
tunnel network dug under civilian areas.

Some 10,000 Gazans have fled homes near the Israeli border for fear
of a ground offensive, the United Nations said.

“They are sheltering in schools, mosques and other places during a
global Covid-19 pandemic with limited access to water, food, hygiene
and health services, said UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied
territories, Lynn Hastings.

Kamal al-Haddad, who fled with his family to a UN-supported school
in Gaza City, said: “All the children are afraid, and we are afraid
for the children”.

Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza on Saturday to
allow in 10 ambulances to ferry out seriously wounded Palestinians for
treatment, medical officials said.

– ‘Not over yet’ –

Within Israel, tensions have spiralled into mob violence in mixed
towns that are both home to Jewish Israelis and Arab citizens of
Palestinian descent.

More than 750 people have been arrested in mixed Jewish-Arab towns
this week, police said, including dozens of Arab Israelis were
arrested overnight.

In the north, where Israel remains technically at war with
neighbouring Lebanon and Syria, tensions were also rising.

Three rockets were launched from Syria Friday, while Israel’s army
said it fired “warning shots” towards a group to stop them crossing
from Lebanon with Israel’s arch-enemy Hezbollah saying one of its
members was killed.

The UN said the Security Council was set to meet Sunday to address
the violence.

But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave no indication
that Israel was ready to ease its campaign.

“I said we’d deliver heavy blows to Hamas and other terror groups,
and we’re doing that,” Netanyahu said. “It’s not over yet”.

BSS/AFP/MRU/2011hrs