, Gaza Strip
(AP) — Israeli warplanes launched a new barrage of heavy airstrikes
on several locations in Gaza City early Monday, just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
declared that the fourth war with Gaza's Hamas
rulers would continue.
Explosions shook the city from north to south for 10 minutes in a heavier, wider-area attack
that lasted longer than a series of air raids 24 hours earlier that killed 42 Palestinians
— the deadliest single attack in the latest round of violence between Israel and the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, and there was little information on the extent of damage inflicted early Monday in the predawn darkness.
According to local media reports, the latest raids hit the main coastal road west of the city, as well as security compounds and open spaces, and the power distribution company said airstrikes damaged a line that supplied electricity from the only power plant to large parts of southern Gaza City.
In a televised address on Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel's attacks would continue in "full force" and would "take time." Israel "wants to levy a heavy price" on the Hamas militant group, he said, flanked by his defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz.
Hamas continued to launch rockets from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel, with one hitting a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, according to Israeli emergency services, with no injuries reported.
Families were buried under piles of cement rubble and twisted rebar during the Israeli air assault early Sunday, and a yellow canary lay crushed on the ground. Shards of glass and debris littered streets blocks away from the major downtown thoroughfare where the three buildings were hit over the course of five minutes around 1 a.m.
The fighting in the territory that is home to 2 million Palestinians has escalated repeatedly over the last week, marking the worst fighting in the territory since Israel and Hamas' devastating 2014 war.
“I have never seen this level of destruction in my 14 years of work,” said Samir al-Khatib, a Gaza emergency rescue official.
Rescuers dug through the rubble with excavators and bulldozers amid clouds of dust, and one shouted into a hole, “Can you hear me?” Minutes later, first responders pulled a survivor out. The Gaza Health
Ministry said 16 women and 10 children
were killed, with more than 50 people
Haya Abdelal, 21, who lives in a building next to one that was destroyed, said she was sleeping when the airstrikes woke her up and forced her to flee into the street, accusing Israel of failing to give residents the usual warning to leave before launching such an attack.
“We are tired,” she said, “and we need a truce because we can no longer bear
According to the Israeli army's press office, the strike was aimed at Hamas' "underground military infrastructure
The strike caused “the underground facility to collapse, causing the foundations of the civilian houses above it to collapse as well, resulting in unintended casualties,” according to the report.
Dr. Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, the head of Shifa Hospital's internal medicine department and a senior member of the hospital's coronavirus
management committee, was among those reported killed, along with two of Abu Al-Ouf's teenage children and two other family members.
Shifa's director, Mohammed Abu Selmia, said the death
of the 51-year-old physician was "a huge loss at a very sensitive time."
Even before the latest conflict, Gaza's health-care system had been severely harmed by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed in 2007 after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces.
Israel's airstrikes have destroyed a number of Gaza City's tallest structures, alleging that they housed Hamas military infrastructure, including the building that houses The Associated Press
's Gaza office and those of other media outlets.
The Associated Press' executive editor, Sally Buzbee
, has called for an independent investigation into the Saturday airstrike that destroyed the AP office.
Netanyahu claimed that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building and said any evidence would be shared through intelligence channels, though neither the White House
nor the State Department would say whether any had been seen.
“It’s a completely legitimate target,” Netanyahu said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
In response to a question about whether he provided evidence of Hamas presence in the building during a phone call with US President Joe Biden
on Saturday, Netanyahu said, "We pass it through our intelligence people."
“We are in a conflict situation,” Buzbee said, “and we do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don't know what that evidence is.”
Meanwhile, the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders asked the International Criminal Court on Sunday to look into Israel's bombing
of the Associated Press building and other media buildings as a possible war crime
In a letter to the court's chief prosecutor, the Paris-based group claimed that the offices of 23 international and local media organizations had been destroyed in the previous six days, claiming that the attacks served to "reduce, if not neutralize, the media's capacity to inform the public."
The Associated Press had been based in the building for 15 years, including three previous wars between Israel and Hamas. The news agency's cameras, which were based on the building's top floor office and roof terrace, provided 24-hour live coverage as militant rockets arced toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes pounded the city and its environs.
“At this point, we believe it is appropriate to conduct an independent investigation into what occurred yesterday,” Buzbee said.
The latest outbreak of violence began last month in east Jerusalem
, when Palestinians clashed with police
in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction
of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers. The Al-Aqsa Mosque
was a focal point of the clashes, which is located on a hilltop compound revered by both Muslims and Jews.
On Monday, Hamas began firing rockets at Jerusalem, sparking Israel's offensive in Gaza.
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women, and 1,230 people have been injured; eight Israelis have been killed in some of the 3,100 rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.
While Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have acknowledged 20 fighters killed in the fighting, Israel claims the true toll is much higher and has released the names and photos of two dozen alleged operatives it claims were “eliminated.”
The assault has displaced 34,000 Palestinians, according to United Nations
Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland, who spoke at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council attended by eight foreign ministers.
Efforts by China
, Norway, and Tunisia to persuade the UN Security Council to issue a statement, including a call for a cessation of hostilities, have been thwarted by the US, which is concerned that it will interfere with diplomatic efforts to end the violence, according to diplomats.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki urged the Security Council to take action to put an end to Israeli attacks, while Israel’s UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, urged the council to condemn Hamas’ “indiscriminate and unprovoked attacks.”
The unrest has also fueled protests in the occupied West Bank and fueled violence within Israel between Jewish and Arab citizens, resulting in clashes and vigilante attacks on people and property.
A driver rammed into an Israeli checkpoint in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday, injuring six officers before police shot and killed the attacker, according to Israeli police.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrations erupted in cities throughout Europe and the United States as a result of the violence.
Israel appears to have increased strikes in recent days in order to inflict as much damage on Hamas as possible while international mediators work to end the fighting and prevent an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.
The Israeli military said Sunday that it had destroyed the home of Gaza's top Hamas leader, Yahiyeh Sinwar, in the southern town of Khan Younis, the third such attack in the last two days on the homes of senior Hamas leaders who have gone underground.
Associated Press writers Samy Magdy in Cairo, Joseph Krauss and Isaac Scharf in Jerusalem, Edie Lederer at the UN, and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.