Israeli warplanes pounded the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least eight children in a refugee camp and razing a high-rise building that housed international media offices, as Hamas launched a new barrage of rockets targeting it. central Israel.
The bombings – for a sixth consecutive day – have fueled fears of a return to all-out war between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
US diplomat Hady Amr arrived in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Saturday to meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials to push for calm. Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned that the attacks carried out by both sides could constitute “serious violations of international humanitarian law”.
A rocket struck an area of Ramat Gan, in central Israel, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, where raw footage showed fire and debris in the streets. The Magen David Adom ambulance service said a man died at the scene.
Hamas rocket fire targeting central Israel came just hours after the Israeli airstrike on al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City. In addition to the eight children killed, two adults died in the strike, according to the Palestinian health ministry, making it one of the deadliest incidents since the resumption of the long-standing conflict between Israel and Hamas earlier. this week.
Mohammed Hadidi told reporters that his wife and five children went to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with relatives, according to the Associated Press. She and three of the children, aged 6 to 14, were killed, while an 11-year-old was missing, he said. Only her 5 month old son, Omar, was known to have survived.
Live footage later showed an Israeli airstrike destroying a high-rise building that housed the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera offices in the Gaza Strip. The AP said the building was hit about an hour after the IDF ordered people to evacuate the tower, which also housed other offices and apartments.
Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of The Associated Press, said he was “shocked and horrified” that the IDF targeted and destroyed the building.
“This is an extremely worrying development,” he said. “We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen PA journalists and freelancers were inside the building and luckily we were able to evacuate them in time.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists called for a “detailed and documented justification” for the military action, while White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that “we have informed the Israelis directly that ensuring the safety of journalists and independent media is paramount. accountability. “
President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone about the situation with Gaza.
“The prime minister briefed the president on developments and actions Israel has taken and actions Israel intends to take,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
The statement added that it “thanked the President for the wholehearted support of the United States for our right to defend ourselves.”
Netanyahu also “stressed in the conversation that Israel is doing everything to avoid harming those who are not involved, and the proof is that in the towers where there are terrorist targets attacked by the IDF, they are evacuated from those who are not involved. who are not involved, “the statement said.
Biden also briefed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of the U.S. diplomatic commitment underlined the need for Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel, the White House said.
He highlighted the recent US decision to resume assistance to the Palestinian people, including economic and humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Biden also stressed his strong commitment to a negotiated two-state solution as the best way to achieve a just and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern on Saturday that the situation is deteriorating “at an alarming rate”, warning that attacks by both sides may constitute “serious violations of international humanitarian law” .
“Rather than seeking to calm tensions, the inflammatory rhetoric from leaders of all stripes seems to seek to excite tensions rather than calm them,” Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. international law … Those found responsible for violations must be held to account. “
The latest chapter in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the militant group ruling Gaza, was sparked by the unrest in Jerusalem. Since Monday, Hamas has fired more than 2,300 missiles at Israel and the IDF has hit tiny and poor Gaza, home to 2 million Palestinians, with airstrikes.
At least 129 Palestinians – including 39 children – were killed in the stranded enclave. In Israel, nine people were killed. Hundreds of people were injured on both sides.
While the recent clashes were initially limited to Gaza, they spread to the West Bank on Friday, where health officials said 11 people died and more than 250 were injured.
Violence between Jews and Arabs, meanwhile, swept through several towns and neighborhoods in Israel. Scenes of mobs of vigilantes beating people and throwing stones disturbed the nation and prompted calls for calm, but showed no signs of slowing down.
A 12-year-old Arab boy was burned in the face and was hospitalized in serious condition after an apparent arson attack at his home in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, according to Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer.
The Israeli police, meanwhile, said 15 people were arrested in the city of Lod overnight for involvement in riots, while a number of rioters were also arrested in East Jerusalem.
Palestinians are due to celebrate Nakba Day on Saturday, which commemorates the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people during the creation of Israel in 1948. Protests in support of their cause were underway in cities around the world, including London and Berlin.
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Netanyahu warned on Friday that more attacks were about to happen, saying Hamas “attacked our capital, they sent missiles into our city, they are paying a heavy price.”
The Israeli army called in 9,000 reservists and massed troops along its border with Gaza. While there was alarm and confusion Thursday evening after the IDF announced that “ground troops” were attacking the area, the military later clarified that its forces were inside the borders. of his country and had not invaded Gaza.