Mourning mounts as efforts to soften Israel-Hamas struggle fail

GAZA CITY – Diplomats and international leaders were unable to negotiate a ceasefire in the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas on Sunday, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the fight and the Council of United Nations security failed to agree on a common response to the worsening bloodshed.

The diplomatic wrangling came after the fighting, the most intense in Gaza and Israel for seven years, entered its deadliest phase to date. At least 42 Palestinians were killed early Sunday morning in an airstrike on several apartments in Gaza City, Palestinian officials said, the deadliest episode of the conflict to date.

Mr. Netanyahu’s wish came true several hours later when, according to the Associated Press, Israeli warplanes unleashed a series of heavy airstrikes on several sites in Gaza early Monday.

Explosions rocked the city from north to south for 10 minutes in an attack that was heavier, covered a larger area, and lasted longer than a series of airstrikes 24 hours earlier in which the 42 Palestinians killed – deadliest single attack in latest round of violence between Israel and Islamist Hamas militant group that runs Gaza. The first Israeli airstrikes razed three buildings.

Local media reported that among the targets hit early Monday were the main coastal road west of Gaza City, security complexes and open spaces. The electricity utility said the airstrikes damaged a power line from the only power plant to large areas in the south of the city.

No injuries were immediately reported.

The number of people killed in Gaza rose to 197 in the seven days of the conflict, Palestinian officials said, while the number of Israeli residents killed by Palestinian militants rose to 11, including one soldier, the Israeli government said. .

On Sunday afternoon, the bombed-out street in the airstrike created a desperate scene as Anas al-Yazji, a graphic designer, climbed the rubble in search of his fiancée, Shaimaa Abul Ouf. There was a wallet stuck between the fragments of the broken walls, a necklace, a Koran, even a few purses.

But 12 hours after Israel hit the building – targeting, the IDF said, an underground network of Hamas tunnels – there was still no sign of Ms. Abul Whew.

“I’ll wait here until we find her,” said 24-year-old Mr. al-Yazji, as a yellow digger shoveled rubble from one pile to another. “Then I’ll bury him.”

By nightfall, the fighting showed no sign of abating.

“Citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech Sunday afternoon at the Israeli army headquarters in Tel Aviv, “our campaign against terrorist organizations continues with all its force.”

He added: “We want to demand a price from the aggressor, as in all types of terrorism. Restoring calm and security and rebuilding deterrence and governance will take time. “

Mr. Netanyahu’s pledge came amid mounting international criticism of the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, which began last Monday after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem after a month of mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israelis in the holy city. .

The IDF says its goal is to destroy the military infrastructure of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave of about two million people under Israeli and Egyptian blockade. Israel blames Hamas for the civilian casualties in Gaza, saying the group is hiding militants in residential areas.

This explanation came under scrutiny over the weekend when Israeli planes destroyed a tower in Gaza City that housed two major international media outlets, the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, after calling the owner of the building and told him to evacuate the tenants. An Israeli strike also killed at least 10 members of the same family in a house in a refugee camp and caused collateral damage in a clinic run by Médecins sans frontières, a medical aid group.

Then, on Sunday morning, the airstrike hit Ms. Abul Ouf’s home. Two relatives said the strike killed two members of her immediate family, at least 12 members of her extended family and more than 30 neighbors, and left her mother in critical condition.

In a statement, the IDF said it had “hit an underground military structure belonging to the terrorist organization Hamas that was under the road.” He added: “Hamas intentionally places its terrorist infrastructure under civilian homes, exposing them to danger. The underground foundations collapsed, causing civilian housing above them to collapse, causing unintentional casualties. “

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield called for restraint on the part of Hamas and Israel at Sunday’s Security Council meeting, which was called to try to find a way to end the violence.

“The United States calls on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to respect international humanitarian law,” she said. “We also urge all parties to protect medical and other humanitarian facilities, as well as journalists and media organizations.”

The Security Council adjourned without taking any action or even making a statement, suggesting that members could not agree on what it would say. Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun, whose country is chairing the Council this month, said after the meeting that he is working to ensure that the Council “acts swiftly and talks about ‘one voice’.

Hady Amr, the United States Assistant Under Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian Affairs, concluded a day of discussions on Sunday with key Israeli officials and the Quartet office, which mediates in the Middle East peace negotiations. He is expected to have similar talks on Monday with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, who rules parts of the West Bank but lost control of Gaza in 2007.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas sparked a related wave of violence between Arabs and Jews in Israel even last week. This and the protests across the occupied West Bank have made analysts question whether the Palestinians are on the brink of a major uprising, the third since the late 1980s. Protests and clashes were less intense on Sunday after a major uprising. repression of the police in Israel and the Israeli army in the West Bank.

But Arabs and Jews clashed in the Negev Desert in southern Israel, East Jerusalem and Lod, a mixed Arab-Jewish city in central Israel. The police response to the civil unrest last week has mainly focused on Arabs, following attacks on synagogues that some have equated to a pogrom.

Umbrella organization for Arab leaders in Israel on Sunday appealed to the international community to help protect the Palestinian citizens of Israel “from violent attacks and human rights violations by state and private actors”. The group added, “Palestinian citizens collectively fear for their lives.”

On Sunday afternoon, a Palestinian rammed into a police checkpoint, injuring several policemen in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Seconds later, the police shot dead the driver. Several Palestinian families face eviction from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in a case that has galvanized Palestinian national sentiment, paving the way for the resumption of conflict in Gaza.

The weekend rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant Islamist groups in Gaza included a major barrage on central Israel early Sunday morning.

Most of these rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome, a missile detection system funded in part by the United States. But where they struck, they sowed terror on Israeli residents, especially in towns like Sderot, near the Gaza perimeter.

An explosion this weekend destroyed a fifth-floor apartment in Sderot, killing a 5-year-old boy, and tore a hole in another, where Eli Botera, his wife, Gitit, and their baby girl, Adele, were huddling in the baby. bedroom.

“My wife panicked and started screaming,” Botera said. “Ultimately, it all depends on God. Each individual must do what they can to protect themselves, but if it is your destiny to die, you will die.

The deadliest attacks took place in Gaza – and the main one was the airstrike on Mrs. Abul Uf’s house in Al-Wehda, a bustling and affluent area of ​​Gaza City, full of shops and of buildings.

Ms Abul Ouf was in training to be a dentist and lived at home with her parents and siblings, relatives said. As of Sunday morning, two were dead and three were pulled from the rubble, relatives said. The father of Mrs. Abul Ouf, owner of a supermarket, was unharmed, having gone for a night visit to fix a neighbor’s Internet.

Mrs. Abul Ouf was due to marry Mr. al-Yazji in two months. They last spoke early Sunday when the bombing began, Mr. al-Yazji said.

“Hide,” he recalled telling her in a text message.

But the message never arrived.

Mr. al-Yazji spent hours on Sunday scouring the rubble for her. Government rescuers lifted the debris, stone by stone, and when they spotted a body, Mr. al-Yazji rushed forward, rubble and sand taking over his feet.

The person was still breathing. But it was not Mrs. Abul Ouf.

The Israeli bombardment forced 38,000 people to seek refuge in dozens of United Nations schools, the United Nations said. Gaza now faces power outages for at least 16 hours a day, while damage to a desalination plant has threatened the access of around 250,000 people to safe drinking water, the United Nations said.

The Israeli airstrikes also halted all Covid-19 vaccinations and virus testing in the Palestinian enclave and increased the risk of viral contagion as civilians crowd shelters for security reasons, said. said UN officials.

Standing in the rubble on Sunday, Mr. al-Yazji gave up hope of finding his fiancée by mid-afternoon. He took a box of his dental equipment from the ruins, a small token to remember her. Then he left with his brother for the nearby hospital where the injured from the airstrike were transported.

After each new ambulance arrived, he rushed to its back doors to look inside and see if Ms. Abul Ouf was lying inside. Each time, he came back disappointed.

After several hours, he went to the morgue instead. And there, motionless on a support, was the body of Shaimaa Abul Ouf.

Mr. al-Yazji came out hysterical with grief. “Be happy,” he said after identifying his body.

“I swear to God,” he added, “she was laughing.”

Reporting was provided by Isabel Kershner from Sderot, Israel; Lara Jakes from Washington; Rick Gladstone from New York; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; and Adam Rasgon from Tel Aviv.




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