Israel hits Gaza tunnels as truce efforts elusive

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The Israeli military unleashed another wave of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Monday, claiming it had destroyed the militant tunnels and homes of nine Hamas commanders. International diplomacy to end the weeklong war that killed hundreds appears to have made little headway.

Israel has said it will continue its attacks on Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, for now, and the United States has signaled that it will not pressure both sides for a ceasefire, even though President Joe Biden has said he supports one.

The latest attacks destroyed the five-story building housing the Hamas-run Ministry of Religious Affairs, a building that Israel said housed the main center of operations for Hamas’s internal security forces. Israel also killed a top leader of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, another militant group that the IDF has blamed for some of the thousands of rocket attacks launched on Israel in recent days. Israel said its strikes destroyed 15 kilometers (9 miles) of tunnels used by the militants.

At least 212 Palestinians were killed during the week of airstrikes, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,400 injured, according to the Gaza health ministry. Ten people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, were killed in rocket attacks launched from civilian areas of Gaza into civilian areas in Israel.

Violence also erupted between Jews and Arabs inside Israel, injuring dozens. On Monday, a Jew attacked last week by a group of Arabs in the central city of Lod died of his injuries, police said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with senior security officials Monday evening and later said Israel “will continue to hit terrorist targets” in Gaza. “We will continue to operate for as long as necessary to restore calm and security to all Israeli citizens,” he said.

The new airstrikes, which hit Gaza overnight on Monday and again in the evening, carved out a floor of a multi-story concrete building and killed five people. A woman searched for clothes, rubble and exploded furniture in a room that had been destroyed. A strike demolished the wall of one room, leaving an open wardrobe full of bedding inside intact. Children walked over debris on the road.

A car on the street that witnesses said was hit by an airstrike was bent and torn, its roof torn and what remained of the driver’s door was stained with blood. A seaside cafe the car had just left was burst and on fire. Rescuers attempted to extinguish the fire with a small extinguisher.

Gaza City Mayor Yahya Sarraj said the strikes caused extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure. He said the water supply to hundreds of households had been cut off. “We are trying to provide water, but the situation remains difficult,” he said.

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The UN has warned that the territory’s only power plant is at risk of running out of fuel. Gaza already experiences daily power cuts for eight to 12 hours and tap water is undrinkable. Mohammed Thabet, a spokesperson for the territory’s electricity distribution company, said he had fuel to supply Gaza with electricity for two or three days.

Palestinian officials said Israel pledged to open its only cargo crossing with Gaza for several hours on Tuesday to allow humanitarian aid – including fuel, food and medicine – to enter.

Israel also said it was targeting what it suspected to be a Hamas submersible weapon preparing for an attack on the Israeli coast.

War erupted on May 10, when Hamas fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem after weeks of clashes in the holy city between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police. The protests focused on the harsh policing of a sacred site at a flashpoint during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

Further protests were expected in the region on Tuesday in response to a call by Palestinian citizens of Israel for a general strike. The demonstration has the support of the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Biden administration has so far refused to publicly criticize Israel’s part in the fighting or to send a high-level envoy to the region. On Monday, the United States again blocked a proposed UN Security Council statement calling for an end to the “Gaza crisis” and the protection of civilians, especially children.

The White House said Monday evening that Biden expressed “support” for a ceasefire during an appeal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier signaled that the United States has no intention of putting pressure on both sides.

“Ultimately, it is up to the parties to make it clear that they want to pursue a ceasefire,” Blinken told reporters on a trip to Denmark.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who spoke to Netanyahu on Monday, underscored her country’s solidarity with Israel, condemned continued rocket attacks from Gaza and expressed hope for an early end to the fighting, according to his office.

The top Hamas leader, overseas-based Ismail Haniyeh, said the group had been contacted by the United Nations, Russia, Egypt and Qatar as part of the ceasefire efforts but ” will not accept a solution that does not live up to the sacrifices of the Palestinian people. “

Since the fighting began, the IDF has launched hundreds of airstrikes it claims target Hamas’s militant infrastructure. Palestinian militants in Gaza fired more than 3,200 rockets at Israel. Israeli military officials said Hamas had stored around 15,000 rockets before the war began. Rocket attacks continued on Monday, with one hitting a building in the town of Ashdod causing injuries, Israeli police said.

The IDF said six rockets launched from Lebanon on Monday evening apparently fell inside Lebanese territory and artillery returned fire on southern Lebanon.

Israeli airstrikes razed a number of the tallest buildings in Gaza City, which Israel said contained Hamas’s military infrastructure. Among them was the building housing the Associated Press office in Gaza and those of other media.

Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building and said any evidence would be shared through intelligence channels. Blinken said he had yet to see any evidence to support Israel’s claim.

PA chairman Gary Pruitt called for an independent investigation into the attack.

“As we said, we have no indication of a Hamas presence in the building, nor were we warned of such a possible presence before the airstrike,” he said. he said in a statement. “It’s something that we verify as best we can. We don’t know what the Israeli evidence shows, and we want to know.”

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The IDF said it hit 35 “terrorist targets” on Monday as well as the tunnels, which it says are part of an elaborate system it calls the “subway,” used by fighters to get into it. shelter from air strikes. They included a strike on a building that housed the Qatari Red Crescent, Qatar said. This attack killed a man and a 12-year-old girl.

The tunnels stretch for hundreds of kilometers (miles), with some over 20 meters (yards) in depth, according to an Israel Air Force official who spoke to reporters under the guise of anonymity, in accordance with regulations. The official said Israel was not trying to destroy all the tunnels, just the bottlenecks and major crossroads.

The army also said it hit nine houses in different parts of northern Gaza that belonged to “high-ranking commanders” of Hamas. Islamic Jihad said a strike killed Hasam Abu Harbid, the militant group’s commander for the northern Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130 and has released the names and photos of more than two dozen militant commanders who , according to him, were “eliminated”. The Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry does not specify the number of casualties among militants or civilians.

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