Hamas hits deep in Israel, thrashing Gaza when Biden predicts the end of the conflict
© Reuters. US President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response and vaccination program at the White House in Washington, USA, on May 12, 2021. REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams (NYSE 🙂
GAZA / JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Hamas launched rockets in Tel Aviv and towards Jerusalem early Thursday, and Israel pledged to keep beating the Islamist faction in Gaza, despite U.S. President Joe Biden predicting their most violent hostilities in years will end soon could.
From the pre-dawn volley that set off sirens as far as northern Nahalal, 100 km from Gaza, and sent thousands of Israelis to shelters, there was no immediate word about victims.
At least 67 people have been killed in Gaza since the violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave’s health ministry. Seven people were killed in Israel, medical officials said.
As world powers called for the de-escalation of a conflict reminiscent of the 2014 Gaza War, Washington planned to send an envoy, Hady Amr, to meet with Israel and the Palestinians.
“My expectation and hope is that this will be closed sooner rather than later, but Israel has the right to defend itself,” Biden said Wednesday after speaking with Netanyahu.
Biden did not explain the reasons for his optimism. Netanyahu’s office told the US president that Israel “will continue to act to attack the military capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist groups active in the Gaza Strip”.
On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed a senior Hamas commander and bombed several buildings, including high-rise buildings and a bank that Israel said was linked to the group’s activities.
Hamas and its leader Ismail Haniyeh signaled defiance and said: “The confrontation with the enemy is unlimited.”
Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv during the fasting month of Ramadan in retaliation for clashes by Israeli police with Palestinians near the Al-Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem.
These escalated ahead of a now postponed trial that could result in the eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers.
For Israel, targeting the two big cities posed a new challenge when confronting Hamas, which Israel and the United States view as a terrorist organization.
A Palestinian source said the ceasefire efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations had made no progress in ending the violence.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and said Washington “is working with all relevant parties to calm down,” said the official Palestinian news agency WAFA. Abbas is a rival of Hamas, whose authority is limited to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
STRIFE WITHIN ISRAEL
The fighting has sparked controversy within Israel, where some members of the Arab minority staged violent pro-Palestinian protests. Media reported that they had spread street attacks by Jews on Arab passers-by in ethnically mixed areas on Wednesday.
In Gaza, two multi-story apartment buildings and a media tower, including one connected to Hamas, collapsed after Israel urged inmates to evacuate before the air strikes and another building was badly damaged.
“Israel has gone mad,” said a man on a street in Gaza where people ran from their homes when explosions hit buildings.
Many in Israel also hid in shelters when rocket waves hit their heartland, some of which were blown from the sky by Iron Dome interceptors.
“All of Israel is under attack. It’s a very scary situation,” said Margo Aronovic, a 26-year-old student in Tel Aviv.
Deaths in Israel include a soldier killed while patrolling the Gaza border and five six civilians, including two children and an Indian worker.
US energy company Chevron (NYSE 🙂 said it closed the Tamar platform off the Israeli coast as a precaution. Israel said its energy needs would continue to be met.
At least two US airlines canceled flights from the US to Tel Aviv on Wednesday and Thursday.
Israel, whose Ben Gurion airport briefly ceased operations on Monday after a rocket attack on Tel Aviv, said the national airline El Al was ready to offer additional flights.
Thursday’s barrage in Tel Aviv prompted Israel to reroute an El Al flight from Brussels away from Ben Gurion, its intended destination, to Ramon Airport in the south. It appeared to be the first time Israel had used Ramon as a war alternative to Ben Gurion. According to Avi Scharf, an aviation tracker, a flight there was previously diverted due to bad weather.
The conflict has resulted in Netanyahu’s opponents freezing talks on forming a ruling coalition to oust him after the inconclusive elections in Israel on March 23.
According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, 17 of the people killed in the enclave were children and six were women. The Israeli military said Thursday that around 350 of 1,500 rockets fired by Gaza factions had missed out and may have killed some Palestinian civilians.
Although the recent problems in Jerusalem were the immediate catalyst for hostilities, the Palestinians have been frustrated as their aspirations for an independent state have suffered setbacks in recent years.
These include Washington’s recognition of the controversial Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a US plan to end the conflict they viewed as favorable to Israel, and continued settlement building.