Fighting between Israel and Gaza rages on as diplomatic pressure for ceasefire intensifies

Fighting between Israel and Gaza rages on as diplomatic pressure for ceasefire intensifies

JERUSALEM – The continued fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants has sparked clashes across the region and left the United States and the international community at odds over how to end the violence.

On Wednesday night, more than 50 Israeli warplanes fired 120 guided missiles at Gaza, targeting the “metro” tunnel system used by Hamas, the militant group that governs the Strip.

At least 219 Palestinians, including 63 children, have been killed in Israeli strikes since last Monday, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Hamas, which is labeled a terrorist group by Israel and the United States, continued to launch rockets at Israel, firing an additional 50 in the past 24 hours and bringing the total to 3,750 rockets last week, according to the Israeli army.

About 90 percent of them are intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, the IDF said. The rockets that crossed killed 12 Israelis, including two children, and lit the skies of cities like Tel Aviv and sent residents fleeing to underground bomb shelters.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem protested Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip by staging a general strike on Tuesday amid clashes with Israeli police.

Rockets were launched Tuesday at Israel from Gaza City.Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out in Ramallah, a city in the West Bank. Support for Hamas is not unanimous here – but some see it as an opportunity to pressure Israel on long-standing issues concerning Palestinian territory and equal rights.

Those historic tensions rekindled last week after Israeli police raided the grounds of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque as Palestinian worshipers prayed there during Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims. Hamas responded by firing rockets at Israel, which responded with its own bombing campaign.

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A way out of violence remains elusive.

On Wednesday, the governments of France, Egypt and Jordan called on all parties to agree to a ceasefire and pledged to work through the United Nations Security Council to achieve it.

“The three leaders stressed the urgency to tackle the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by resuming effective negotiations to achieve a just and lasting peace,” the countries said in a joint statement.

“The three leaders stressed that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the two-state solution remains essential for a comprehensive peace in the region.”

A building destroyed by Israeli shelling in Gaza City on Wednesday.Mohammed Abed / AFP – Getty Images

The United States blocked a Security Council statement calling for an end to the “Gaza crisis” and the protection of civilians.

“Our goal is to come to the end of this conflict. We will be evaluating day by day what the right approach is. Still, silent and intensive discussions behind the scenes are tactically our approach at the moment,” he said. added. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.

Although President Joe Biden told Netanyahu on Monday that he supported a ceasefire, he has so far resisted pressure, largely within his own Democratic Party, to criticize Israel’s actions. .

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated in a Twitter post on Tuesday that the Israeli attacks “will continue for as long as it takes to restore calm” for all of its citizens.

Mourners carry the body of Yousef Abu Hussein, an al-Aqsa radio journalist killed in an Israeli airstrike, during his funeral outside Gaza’s main mosque on Wednesday.Adel Hana / AP

Some 52,000 of Gaza’s 2 million people have been displaced as more than 400 buildings, including homes, hospitals and schools, have been damaged or destroyed, UN agency officials on the ground say .

Gaza, already impoverished and struggling to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, has seen its two primary health care centers “wiped out” by strikes in recent days, Dr Medhat Abbas, head of international cooperation at the Palestinian ministry of Health, said in an interview.

“The situation now is that if the number of victims continues to increase with the same rate, I assure you that the health system will collapse in the next few days,” he added, “There will have more room to deal with more victims. this assault. “

Across the fence, in the Israeli town of Ashkelon, near the Gaza border, Dr Nomy Levin described having to treat all of his patients in an underground shelter during the Hamas blockade.

“It’s the best way to feel safe during all the bombs,” said Dr Levin, who works at Barzilai Medical Center. “They’re all hooked up to machines, so if we hear an alarm or the bombs, we can’t disconnect them. So they just have to sit down and pray.”

Alexander Smith and Adela Suliman reported from London, Paul Goldman and Lawahez Jabari reported from Tel Aviv, and Richard Engel and Gabe Joselow reported from Ramallah, West Bank and Jerusalem.

Paul Goldman and Lawahez Jabari contributed.