CITY OF GAZA, Gaza Strip (AP) – An Israeli air strike destroyed a high-rise building in the city of Gaza, which housed offices of the Associated Press and other media, on Saturday, hours after another airstrike on a densely populated refugee camp in the city, killing at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children.
The high-rise strike came nearly an hour after the military ordered people to evacuate the 12-story building, which also housed Al Jazeera, other offices and apartments. The strike brought the entire structure, which collapsed into a giant cloud of dust. There was no immediate explanation as to why he was attacked.
The earlier Israeli air strike on the Gaza refugee camp was the deadliest single strike in the current conflict between Israel and the Hamas battle group. Both sides are pushing for an advantage as ceasefire efforts have gained momentum.
The latest outbreak of violence began in Jerusalem and spread to the region in the past week, with Jewish-Arab clashes and riots in mixed cities in Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests in the occupied West Bank on Friday, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.
The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada” or uprising at a time when there have been no peace talks for years. Palestinians celebrated Nakba Day (Catastrophe) on Saturday, when they commemorate some 700,000 people who were expelled or fled their homes in present-day Israel during the 1948 war over its creation. This raised the possibility of even greater excitement.
US diplomat Hadi Amr arrived on Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the UN Security Council was due to meet on Sunday. But Israel has rejected an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce, which Hamas rulers have accepted, an Egyptian official said on Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks.
Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, which has struck the Gaza Strip in strikes. At least 139 people were killed in Gaza, including 39 children and 22 women; in Israel, eight people were killed, including the death on Saturday of a man killed by a rocket hit Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv.
The strike against the media offices in the building came in the afternoon after the owner of the building received a call from the Israeli military, warning that it would be hit. AP staff and others in the building were evacuated immediately.
Al-Jazeera, an information network funded by the Qatari government, broadcast live air strikes when the building collapsed.
“This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” a presenter told Al-Jazeera English, her voice full of emotion. “We can guarantee you that right now.”
The bombing struck a three-story house at the Shati refugee camp in Gaza earlier Saturday, killing eight children and two extended family women.
Mohammed Hadidi told reporters that his wife and five children had gone to celebrate Eid with relatives. She and three of the children aged 6 to 14 were killed, while an 11-year-old child is unknown. It is known that only his 5-month-old son Omar survived.
Among the wreckage were toys and a Monopoly board game, as well as plates of uneaten food from the festive gathering.
“There was no warning,” said Jamal Al-Naji, a neighbor living in the same building. “Did you film people eating and then bombard them?” He said, addressing Israel. “Why are you standing up to us? Go and stand up to the strong people!”
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a volley of missiles at southern Israel in response to the air strike.
An angry Israeli barrage killed a family of six at their home early Friday and sent thousands of fugitives to UN-run shelters. The military said the operation involved 160 military planes that dropped about 80 tonnes of explosives in 40 minutes and destroyed an extensive tunnel network used by Hamas.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conrick, a military spokesman, said the military aims to minimize concomitant damage from military strikes. But measures taken in other strikes, such as warning shots to leave civilians, were not “feasible” this time.
Israeli media reported that the military believed that dozens of fighters had been killed in the tunnels. Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the military says the actual number is far higher.
Gaza’s infrastructure, which was already in disrepair due to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, showed signs of further disintegration, complicating the suffering of the people. The only power plant in the territory is at risk of running out of fuel in the coming days.
The UN said the city’s residents already suffer daily power outages of 8-12 hours and at least 230,000 have limited access to tap water. The poor and densely populated area is home to 2 million Palestinians, most of whom are descendants of refugees from present-day Israel.
The conflict resonated widely. Israeli cities with a mixed Arab and Jewish population have seen night violence, with crowds from every community fighting in the streets and squandering their property.
Late Friday, someone threw a bomb at the home of an Arab family in Tel Aviv’s Ajami neighborhood, hitting two children. A 12-year-old boy was in a moderate condition with burns on his upper body, and a 10-year-old girl was treated for a head injury, according to the Magen rescue service David Adom.
In the occupied West Bank, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Nablus and other cities, hundreds of Palestinians protested against the Gaza campaign and Israeli actions in Jerusalem. Waving Palestinian flags, they climbed with tires, which they placed in burning barricades and threw stones at Israeli soldiers. At least 10 protesters were shot and killed by soldiers. An 11th Palestinian was killed when he tried to stab a soldier in a military position.
In East Jerusalem, an online video shows young Jewish nationalists firing pistols as they trade in volleys of stones with Palestinians in Sheikh Jara, which has become a source of tension as settlers try to evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes.
Troops opened fire on Israel’s northern border as a group of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters on the other side cut the border fence and briefly crossed it. A Lebanese man was killed. Three rockets were fired at Israel from neighboring Syria without causing casualties or damage. It was not immediately known who fired them.
Tensions erupted in East Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against Sheikh Jara’s evictions and Israeli police measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a common hearth on the mountain in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.
Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem late Monday, in an apparent attempt to present itself as a champion of the protesters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised that Hamas will “pay a very high price” for its missile attacks, as Israel has massaged troops at the border. US President Joe Biden has expressed his support for Israel, while saying he hopes the violence will be brought to a halt.
Hamas has fired about 2,000 rockets at Israel since Monday, according to the Israeli military. Most were intercepted by missile defenses, but they stopped life in southern Israeli cities, disrupted airports and sounded air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.