#AceNewsReport – May.17: Israel has bombed what it says are underground tunnels used by Hamas and Palestinian militants have fired rockets at Israeli cities as fighting spills into a second week.
TIMELINE: Israel bombs tunnels in Gaza and Palestinian militants continue rocket fire as fighting enters second week: Live updates: Israeli strikes target Hamas tunnels
Posted 2h ago
After a night of Israeli air strikes on areas across the Hamas-run enclave, Israel’s military said Gaza militants fired about 60 rockets towards Israeli cities overnight, down from 120 and 200 the two previous nights.
A Palestinian sponge factory in northern Gaza was hit in a Monday morning air strike and firefighters battled to quell the blaze, which sent plumes of smoke into the air.
One Palestinian was killed in an air strike later in the morning, medics said.
After rockets were fired from Gaza at the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon, Israeli jets bombed what the military said were 15km of underground tunnels used by Hamas.
It also struck nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders, the military said.
With the sounds of Israeli bombardment continuing throughout the morning, Gaza residents rushed to bakeries and drug stores to stock up on essentials.
BBC Middle East: Israel launches new strikes on Gaza as calls for ceasefire grow
59 minutes ago: Homes and buildings destroyed in Israel and Gaza
The pre-dawn raids on Gaza were some of the heaviest seen since the fighting began a week ago.
Israel said it hit facilities belonging to the militant group Hamas and several commanders’ homes, but main roads and power lines were also damaged.
There were no immediate reports of casualties following the strikes.
People in Gaza have told of their fear. “I was getting ready to die. I had to be at peace with it,” Najla Shawa, a Palestinian humanitarian worker and mother of two, told the BBC.
Describing previous air strikes over the weekend, she said: “People we know [were killed], people we work with… ordinary people, professional people, young and old.”
The Israeli military said more than 50 warplanes conducted a 20-minute attack on the Gaza Strip shortly before dawn on Monday.
They struck 35 “terror targets” and destroyed more than 15km (9.3 miles) of an underground tunnel network belonging to Hamas, it added.
The military also said it had hit the homes of nine “high-ranking” Hamas commanders. Israeli soldiers also fired artillery from positions near the Gaza border.
ReutersIsrael said the air strikes hit Hamas targets, but homes and other buildings were also damaged
The fighting began after weeks of rising Israeli-Palestinian tension in occupied East Jerusalem that culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas, which controls Gaza, began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.
Israel says more than 3,000 rockets have been fired into the country over the past week.
On Monday, rocket warning sirens sounded again, in several areas around southern Israel. One rocket hit an apartment building in the city of Ashdod and several people were reportedly hurt.
Palestinian officials in Gaza, meanwhile, said the overnight strikes had caused widespread power cuts and damaged hundreds of homes and other buildings.
“Slept for 3 hours – we are physically safe but had one of the [most] difficult nights,” one resident wrote on Twitter.
The overall death toll in the territory now stands at 198, including 58 children and 34 women, with 1,230 injured, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says more than 130 militants are among the dead – but Hamas has not recognised this.
International calls for a ceasefire have continued to mount.
Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said on Monday that his country was “going to great lengths to reach a ceasefire… and hope still exists”.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday, and Secretary-General António Guterres warned that further fighting had “the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis”.
He pleaded for an immediate end to the “utterly appalling” violence.
How likely is a ceasefire?
By Paul Adams, BBC diplomatic correspondent
Is Israel’s military operation in Gaza, dubbed “Guardian of the Walls”, nearing its conclusion?
Not obviously. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attacks are continuing with “full force” and will “take time”.
In a news conference on Sunday, he admitted there were “pressures” but thanked US President Joe Biden, in particular, for his support.
Mr Biden’s envoy, Hady Amr, has been in Israel since Friday, discussing the crisis with Israeli officials.
Since the US, like Israel and many other countries, regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation, Mr Amr will not be meeting one of the two warring parties.
Any messages for Hamas will have to go through traditional interlocutors, such as Egypt or Qatar.
Local reports suggest Hamas has been offering some kind of ceasefire for several days, only to be rebuffed by Israel, which clearly wants to inflict as much damage as it can on the militants before the fighting is finally brought to a close.
These episodes follow a familiar pattern: Israel presses home its undoubted military advantage until the international outcry over civilian casualties, and a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, demand that the operation end.
In Israel’s estimation, we have not reached that point yet.
The Israeli strikes followed Palestinian rocket attacks targeting the southern Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon just after midnight on Monday.
Ten people, including two children, have been killed in rocket attacks on Israel in the past week. Israeli officials say they have seen the highest ever concentration of rocket attacks in that time.
The country’s Iron Dome defence system is said to have intercepted 90% of the rockets. But some have caused damage to cars and buildings, including the Yad Michael synagogue in Ashkelon, where a hole was blasted through the wall just before a Sunday evening service for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
ReutersIsrael says more than 3,000 rockets have been launched by Palestinian militants over the past week
Officials in Gaza said Sunday had been the deadliest day of the flare-up so far, with emergency workers spending the day trying to rescue people from under debris.
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The UN has also warned of fuel shortages in Gaza which could lead to hospitals and other facilities losing power.
EPARescuers in Gaza have spent much of the day searching through the debris of the strikes
Lynn Hastings, UN deputy special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the BBC that she had appealed to Israeli authorities to allow the UN to bring in fuel and supplies but was told it was not safe.
The UN Security Council has been unable to agree on a public statement in recent days and none was forthcoming after Sunday’s meeting.
The United States – a strong ally of Israel – is said to be the hold-out, believing it would be unhelpful in the diplomatic process.
President Biden has publicly backed Israel’s right to self-defence, but he has said his administration is working with all parties to achieve de-escalation. “My hope is that we’ll see this coming to conclusion sooner rather than later,” he said of the fighting last week.
Timeline: How the violence escalated
The worst violence in years between Israel and the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip has seen dozens killed. It follows a month of spiralling tensions before open conflict broke out. Here is what happened in the lead-up to the fighting.
13 AprilImage caption Israeli police officers detain a young Palestinian man at the Damascus Gate Image copyright by Getty Images
Clashes erupt in East Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli police.
Palestinians are angry over barriers which had been placed outside the Damascus Gate entrance to the Jerusalem‘s Old City preventing them from gathering there after prayers at the Old City’s al-Aqsa Mosque on what is the first night of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Palestinian discontent had been stoked earlier in the day when President Mahmoud Abbas called off planned elections, implicitly blaming Israel over voting arrangements for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Hamas – Mr Abbas’ Islamist rivals who control Gaza and were running in the elections – react angrily to the postponement.
Violence around Damascus Gate and elsewhere in East Jerusalem continues nightly.
Rockets are fired from Gaza at Israel, which responds with air strikes after a relative period of calm between Israel and the Palestinian enclave.
Clashes spread to the mixed Arab-Jewish port city of Jaffa, next to Tel Aviv.
In Jerusalem, Jewish youths, angry over a spate of filmed assaults by Palestinians on Orthodox Jews posted on the TikTok video-sharing app, attack Arabs and chant anti-Arab slogans.
23 AprilImage caption Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians outside the Damascus Gate Image copyright by Getty Images
Hundreds of ultra-nationalist Jews shouting “Death to Arabs” march towards Damascus Gate in protest at the Arab assaults on Jews. Clashes erupt at the site between Palestinians and police trying to separate the two groups, injuring dozens of people.
Violence between Arabs and Jews spreads to other parts of the city.
Militants fire dozens of rockets at Israel from Gaza, drawing retaliatory air strikes.
President Abbas’ Fatah faction and Hamas condemn the looming threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers ahead of a planned court hearing. Hamas calls on Arabs to form “human shields of resistance” there.
In the days that follow, police and protesters repeatedly clash at the site as it becomes a focal point for Palestinian anger.
Militants in Gaza begin sending incendiary balloons into Israel over successive days, causing dozens of fires.
Two Palestinian gunmen are shot dead and a third is wounded after opening fire on Israeli security forces in the northern West Bank. Israeli authorities say the group planned to carry out a “major attack” in Israel.Image caption The al-Aqsa mosque has been a frequent flashpoint for violence Image copyright by Getty Images
Later on after Friday prayers – the last of Ramadan – major clashes erupt at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, injuring more than 200 people. Israel’s police force says it used “riot dispersal means”, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades after officers came under a hail of stones and bottles.
A second night of violence erupts in East Jerusalem after tens of thousands of worshippers prayed at the al-Aqsa mosque for Laylat al-Qadr, the holiest night of Ramadan.
Police and protesters clash at Damascus Gate, with police using water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas against crowds of Palestinians, some throwing stones.
More than 120 Palestinians and some 17 police are injured.
Israel’s Supreme Court postpones the hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah case following calls to delay it because of the growing unrest. Tensions remain high though and more clashes take place between Israeli police and Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and at Damascus Gate.
Early morning clashes break out between police and Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, where crowds throw stones and officers fire stun grenades.
Palestinian anger has been inflamed by an annual Jerusalem Day march planned for later in the day by hundreds of Israeli nationalists to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.
The march is due to pass through predominantly Arab parts of the Old City in what is seen by Palestinians as a deliberate provocation. It is rerouted at the 11th hour, but the atmosphere remains volatile with more than 300 Palestinians and some 21 police injured in the violence at the holy site.
Hamas issues an ultimatum to Israel to “withdraw its soldiers… from the blessed al-Aqsa mosque and Sheikh Jarrah” by 18:00. When the deadline passes without an Israeli response, rockets are fired towards Jerusalem for the first time in years.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the group has “crossed a red line” and Israel retaliates with air strikes, killing three Hamas fighters.
A continuing exchange of rocket-fire and air strikes quickly escalates into the fiercest hostilities between the two sides since they fought a war in 2014.
#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: May.17: 2021:
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