The Israel-Gaza conflict rages on and diplomacy has yet to gain in importance
© Reuters. Smoke and flames rise during the Israeli air strikes, while cross-border violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants continues in Gaza City on May 14, 2021. REUTERS / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Rami Ayyub
GAZA / JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has beaten Gaza with air strikes and Palestinian militants fired rockets in Tel Aviv and other cities on Saturday with no sign of an end to their worst escalation since 2014.
A 12-story skyscraper in the Gaza Strip, which houses the offices of the US-based Associated Press and Qatar-based Al Jazeera, as well as other offices and apartments, collapsed Saturday after being hit by Israeli rockets.
The owner of the building had been warned of an imminent Israeli missile attack, a Reuters reporter said, and the building had been evacuated. No injuries were reported.
An AP journalist, unsolicited, confirmed that the building had been destroyed and said all staff were safe but in shock.
The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the strike at the building.
Hamas militants fired rockets at Israel overnight and during the day. Israeli planes hit locations used by Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, according to the military.
US and Arab diplomats tried to halt conflict for almost a week, but efforts have not yet had any effect.
Palestinians say at least 139 people, including 39 children, have been killed in Gaza since the conflict broke out on Monday.
Israel has reported nine deaths, including two children.
The Israeli bombardment killed more than 15 Palestinians in Gaza overnight and on Saturday, including a woman and four of her children who died when their home was hit in a refugee camp, and five others were also killed.
The Israeli military said of the incident that it hit an apartment in the Beach refugee camp that was being used by Hamas.
In Israel, thousands of Israelis ran for protection. Sirens wailed repeatedly in Tel Aviv on Saturday. A missile hit a residential building in the Ramat Gan suburb of the commercial center, killing a 50-year-old man.
In Gaza, 36-year-old Akram Farouq and his family stormed out of his home after a neighbor told him they had received a call from an Israeli officer warning that their building would be hit.
“We didn’t sleep all night because of the explosions, and now I’m on the street with my wife and children who are crying and shaking,” he said.
The Israeli military said its planes hit rocket launch sites and the homes of Hamas fighters.
In Israel’s coastal city of Ashdod, Mark Reidman investigated the damage to his home from a rocket attack.
“We want to live in peace,” said the 36-year-old, adding that he should try to explain to his three young children “what happened and why this is happening”.
Hamas launched the rocket attack on Monday after tensions over a lawsuit 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.
Looking for a CEASEFIRE
Regional and international diplomatic efforts have as yet shown no signs that hostilities have stopped. Egypt, which has led regional efforts, sent ambulances across the Gaza border to take Palestinian victims to Egyptian hospitals.
US President Joe Biden’s envoy, Hady Amr, deputy deputy secretary for Israel and Palestinian Affairs, arrived in Israel on Friday ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Sunday. The US embassy said in a statement that the envoy aimed to “reinforce the need to work towards sustained calm”.
The hostilities between Israel and Gaza were accompanied by violence in Israel’s mixed communities of Jews and Arabs. Synagogues were attacked, Arab-owned shops destroyed and street fighting broke out. Israel’s president, who plays a largely ceremonial role, has warned of civil war.
The conflict increases the complexity of Israel’s fragmented politics. It was a blow to opposition attempts to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when a potential right-wing partner broke off coalition talks after the violence broke out. This could mean that Israelis face a fifth election in just over two years.
Palestinian victims also extend beyond Gaza. Palestinians who mark Nakba or “Disaster Day” on May 15 each year – their expulsion in the 1948-1949 war that coincided with the creation of the modern state of Israel – reported 11 deaths after protesters and protesters in the occupied West Bank this week The Israeli forces clashed.
Egypt pushed for a ceasefire so talks could begin, two Egyptian security sources said Friday. Cairo has relied on Hamas and pushed others like the United States to reach an agreement with Israel.
“The mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations are stepping up contacts with all sides to restore calm, but no agreement has yet been reached,” a Palestinian official said Friday.
The United Arab Emirates on Friday called for a ceasefire and talks and expressed condolences to all victims. In September, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain became the first Arab states to establish formal relations with Israel in a quarter of a century.
The living conditions for the 2 million people in Gaza are deteriorating. Households only get four hours of electricity a day instead of the usual 12 hours after lines from Israel and the only power plant in Gaza were damaged. The fuel was also running low.
The Israeli military announced on Saturday that around 2,300 rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel since Monday, of which around 1,000 were intercepted by missile defense and 380 fell into the Gaza Strip.