The ceasefire is still difficult to achieve in the conflict between Israel and Gaza

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© Reuters. Israeli soldiers watch during an anti-Israel protest against cross-border violence between Palestinian militants in Gaza and the Israeli military near the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on May 18, 2021. REUTERS / Raneen Sawafta

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller

GAZA / JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel bombed Gaza with air strikes, and Palestinian militants kept cross-border rocket fire on, with no impending ceasefire established on Wednesday, despite international calls to fight for more than a week.

Israeli leaders said they would press ahead with an offensive against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but an Israeli military spokesman admitted that with an estimated 12,000 rockets and mortars in the group’s Gaza arsenal, they “still have enough rockets to fire” .

Two Thai workers were killed and seven people were injured in a rocket attack Tuesday on an Israeli farm just across the Gaza border, police said. Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Islamic Jihad took responsibility.

Rockets were also fired in the cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beersheba further north, providing shelter for residents in attacks that continued until late Tuesday.

According to medical doctors in the Gaza Strip, 217 Palestinians have been killed, including 63 children, and more than 1,400 injured since the fighting began on May 10. According to the Israeli authorities, 12 people were killed in Israel, including two children.

Israel said its planes attacked the homes of several Hamas fighters used as command centers or to store weapons. Israeli artillery fired on targets in the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, witnesses said.

Almost 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine basic health centers since the start of the current conflict, the United Nations humanitarian organization said. Around 48,000 of the 52,000 displaced had attended 58 United Nations-run schools.

Israel said more than 3,450 rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip, some fell short while others were shot down by the Iron Dome air defenses. The number of militants killed was around 160.

Hamas began firing rockets nine days ago in retaliation for alleged Israeli violations of rights against Palestinians in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

By linking the confrontation with Israel to the thorny issue of Jerusalem, Hamas also challenged its main rival, West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas, who last month canceled a general election in which the group was likely to make a profit.

The current hostilities are the worst between the militant group and Israel in years and, unlike previous Gaza conflicts, have contributed to fueling street violence between Jews and Arabs in Israeli cities.

DIPLOMACY

France on Tuesday called for a UN Security Council resolution on violence between Israel and Palestinian militants when diplomats said the United States had told the panel that a “public announcement for the moment” would not help calm the crisis.

“Our goal is to achieve the end of this conflict. We will evaluate day by day what the right approach is. It is still the case that calm, intense discussions behind the scenes are our tactical approach at the moment.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.

Egypt and UN mediators have also stepped up their diplomatic efforts, and the UN General Assembly will discuss the violence on Thursday.

Germany called for a ceasefire and offered more aid to help the Palestinians ahead of the European Union’s emergency talks.

Clashes also broke out in the occupied West Bank, in which Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian who tried to attack them with a weapon and improvise explosives on Tuesday, the military said.

Another Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces during a protest in the West Bank. The military said soldiers came under fire, wounding two of them, and fired back.

Israel’s bombing of Gaza by Israel, clashes between police and believers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and a trial of Israeli settlers to evict Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Israel-annexed East Jerusalem have fueled tensions in the West Bank.

Israel’s N12 television news, quoting unidentified Palestinian sources, reported that Egypt had proposed through “secret channels” that fighting between Israel and Gaza end Thursday morning.

Ezzat El-Reshiq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau based in Qatar, issued a statement Tuesday saying that reports approving such a ceasefire were not true.

“No agreement was reached on specific dates for a ceasefire,” he said. “We confirm that the efforts and contacts are serious and will be continued and that the demands of our employees are known and clear.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed in a post on Twitter on Tuesday that the attacks on Israel “will continue for all citizens until calm is restored”.

Netanyahu said Israel’s strikes “set Hamas back many years” – which some Israeli news commentators saw as a possible prelude to a ceasefire within days of winning.

However, Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, said the picture was more complicated. He referred to unrest in Israel, protests by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and a rocket fire from Lebanon.

“As for (Hamas), what’s going on in the West Bank and maybe with (the Lebanese group) Hezbollah and the Arab citizens of Israel – it won here,” Yadlin said on Channel 12 television. “They lost in the military game.”

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