Strike from Gaza as Israel topples 6-story building

AP , Tuesday 18 May 2021

At least 213 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes since, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,440 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry

One of the cats of Ahmed Mosabeh, a 28-year-old Palestinian man with special needs, is pictured on a side street in Gaza City after he fled his home with his kittens to a safer area due to Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, on May 18, 2021 AFP

A strike launched from Gaza killed two Thai workers in southern Israel on Tuesday, police said, hours after Israeli airstrikes toppled a six-story building in the Palestinian territory that housed bookstores and educational centers.

With Israel's aerial campaign on Gaza showing no sign of abating and truce efforts apparently stalled, Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories went on strike in a rare collective action against Israel's policies.

Israel maintains its crackdown on Palestinians on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah. Troops fired tear gas canisters at hundreds of Palestinian protesters.

One protester was killed and 46 others wounded _ including 16 by live fire _ in clashes with Israeli troops, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The Israeli army said two soldiers were wounded by gunshots to the leg.

Muhammad Barakeh, one of the organizers of the strike, said Palestinians are expressing a ``collective position'' against Israel's ``aggression'' in Gaza and Jerusalem, as well as the ``brutal repression'' by police across Israel. Israel blames the war on Hamas and accuses it of inciting violence across the region.

Since Israel's offensive on Gaza began last week, the Israeli military has launched hundreds of airstrikes it says are targeting Hamas' militant infrastructure.

Israel continued its airstrikes into Gaza, leaving behind a massive mound of rebar and concrete slabs in its attack on the six-story building with centers used by the Islamic University and other colleges. Desks, office chairs, books and computer wires could be seen in the debris. Residents sifted through the rubble, searching for their belongings.

Israel warned the building's residents ahead of time, sending them fleeing into the predawn darkness, and there were no reports of casualties.

``The whole street started running, then destruction, an earthquake,'' said Jamal Herzallah, a resident of the area. ``This whole area was shaking.''

Since 2012, Hamed al-Ijla had run a training center in the building, teaching first aid, hospital management and other skills to thousands of students.

When the war is over, ``I will set up a tent across the street and resume work,'' he said.

Heavy fighting broke out May 10 when Gaza's militant Hamas rulers fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel's heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Israeli settlers.

At least 213 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes since, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,440 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed in the fighting, while Israel says the number is at least 160.

Israel's campaign on Gaza is the most intense since its 2014 offensive on the coastal enclave.

Egyptian mediators are trying to negotiate a cease-fire.

But the U.S. has stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the hostilities and Israel has so far vowed to press on.

In the meantime, Israeli settlers continue to attack Palestinian civilians and protesters, chanting anti-Palestinian slogans such as "death to Arabs". 

As the fighting drags on, medical supplies, fuel and water are running low in Gaza, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians and has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Nearly 47,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.

Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and entirely destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said in a new report. Nearly half of all essential drugs in the territory have run out.

Essential supplies and aid have only trickled in during the fighting, some from Egypt through the Rafah crossing point it controls and some from Israel when it briefly opened the territory's main commercial crossing Tuesday. Israel shut its crossing after only a few hours after a mortar attack.

The WHO said the bombing of key roads, including those leading to the main Shifa Hospital, has hindered the movement of ambulances and supply vehicles in Gaza, which was already struggling to cope with a coronavirus outbreak.

Israel has vowed to press on with its operations, and the United States signaled it would not pressure the two sides for a cease-fire even as President Joe Biden said he supported one.

``We will continue to operate as long as necessary in order to return calm and security to all Israeli citizens,'' Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday.

The Biden administration has declined so far to publicly criticize Israel's part in the fighting or send a top-level envoy to the region and has blocked a proposed U.N. Security Council statement calling for an end to the crisis.

Among the buildings that Israeli airstrikes have leveled was the one housing The Associated Press Gaza office and those of other media outlets.

Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that Israel had given the U.S. information about the bombing.

Blinken, speaking from Iceland, declined to characterize the material received. Israel has not publicly provided any evidence of its claim.

AP President Gary Pruitt reiterated the organization's call for an independent investigation into the attack.

``As we have said, we have no indication of a Hamas presence in the building, nor were we warned of any such possible presence before the airstrike,'' he said in a statement. ``We do not know what the Israeli evidence shows, and we want to know.''

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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