The violence between Israel and Gaza shows little sign of slowing down as global diplomacy rises from Reuters
© Reuters. Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on May 17, 2021. REUTERS / Suhaib Salem
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Rami Ayyub
GAZA / TEL AVIV (Reuters) – More than a week of fighting between Israel and Hamas showed little sign of easing on Tuesday, despite intense US and global diplomacy to halt the region’s most violent hostilities in years.
The Israeli military announced late Monday that Hamas and other Palestinian groups had fired some 3,350 rockets from Gaza – 200 of them on Monday alone – and that Israeli air and artillery strikes had killed at least 130 militants.
Health officials in the Gaza Strip put the number of Palestinian fatalities at 212, including 61 children and 36 women, since hostilities began last week. Ten people were killed in Israel, including two children.
Amid seemingly unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to stop the violence, U.S. top military officer General Mark Milley warned that the violence could spread.
“I believe that if the fighting continues, you risk widespread destabilization and a whole host of negative consequences,” Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters before landing in Brussels on Monday for talks with NATO allies. “It is of no interest to anyone to keep fighting.”
Around midnight, six shells were fired from Lebanon towards northern Israel, but the border was not crossed, the Israeli military said, adding it had fired artillery at “the sources of launches” in Lebanon.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) announced that it was stepping up patrols after discovering missiles being launched from the Rashaya Al Foukhar area north of Kfar Choub in southern Lebanon.
UNIFIL added on Twitter that the situation in the region is now calm and that its head of mission has kept in touch with all parties to ensure stability.
Israel waged war against the Hezbollah guerrillas in 2006, trading missiles and air strikes, but the border has been largely calm since then.
US President Joe Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to express his support for a ceasefire, the White House said in a statement.
But Netanyahu earlier told Israelis that strikes against militant sites and leaders in Gaza would continue.
“The directive provides for continuing to attack terrorist targets,” he said in a televised address after a meeting with military and intelligence chiefs. “We will continue to act as necessary to restore peace and security to all residents of Israel.”
The armed wing of Hamas promised more rockets in return: “The criminal Zionist enemy has intensified its bombing of houses and apartments in the last few hours, and therefore we warn the enemy that if he does not stop this immediately, we will launch the rocket Tel Aviv, ”said spokesman Abu Ubaida.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged all sides to protect the civilian population.
Although Blinken insisted that Israel had the right to defend itself, he said he had seen no evidence from Israel to suggest that Hamas operated in a building where media outlets – including the US-based Associated Press – that was destroyed in an Israeli rocket attack on the weekend.
Hamas denied having offices in the building. “These are false allegations and an attempt to justify the crime of targeting a civilian tower,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
Egypt and the United Nations mediators have also stepped up diplomatic efforts as the United Nations General Assembly meets on Thursday to discuss the violence.
The Biden government cleared the possible sale of precision weapons worth $ 735 million to Israel, and sources in Congress said Monday that U.S. lawmakers were not expected to object to the deal.
Hamas began its rocket attack last Monday after weeks of tension over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and in retaliation for clashes by Israeli police with Palestinians near the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, while the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The hostilities between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have been accompanied by an increase in violence in the West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self-government.
There were also clashes between the Jewish and Arab communities of Israel in mixed areas.
The Israeli President has warned that tensions between Jewish and Arab Israelis could turn into “civil war”.
General strikes are planned for Tuesday in Arab cities in Israel and in Palestinian cities in the West Bank. Posts in social media demand solidarity “from the sea to the river”.