UN Security Council meets over escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza

The UN Security Council will meet on Sunday as Israeli airstrikes continue to attack Gaza and Hamas militants fire missile fires from the Palestinian enclave, a day after Israel’s destruction of a tower block housing news media organizations sparked international outrage.

Hostilities showed no sign of slowing down as they entered the seventh day, with Palestinians saying at least 149 people have been killed since the fighting started Monday, including 41 children, and a further 1,100 injured.

Israel has reported 10 deaths, including a child and a soldier. At least 560 Israelis have also been injured.

Israeli air strikes hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas’ political wing in the densely populated Gaza Strip, the army said early on Sunday, without saying whether he was killed. AFP witnesses confirmed that a strike hit Sinwar’s home.

On Saturday, another attack in Gaza killed 10 members of an extended family. The children “weren’t carrying weapons, they were not firing missiles,” said Mohammad al-Hadidi, one of the grieving fathers.

The UN Security Council was scheduled to meet on Sunday to discuss the bloodiest conflict between the Jewish state and Palestinian militants since 2014.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “appalled” by civilian casualties in Gaza and “deeply alarmed” by Israel’s attack on the tower with news agencies, a spokesman said Saturday. Guterres “reminds all sides that any arbitrary attack on civil and media structures is contrary to international law and must be avoided at all costs,” he said.

European Union foreign ministers will also hold urgent video talks on Tuesday about escalating violence, Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, announced on Sunday. “We will coordinate and discuss how the EU can best contribute to end the current violence,” Josep Borrell wrote on Twitter.

Given the ongoing escalation between Israel and Palestine and the unacceptable number of civilian casualties, I am calling an extraordinary VTC from EU foreign ministers on Tuesday. We will coordinate and discuss how the EU can best contribute to ending the current violence

– Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) May 16, 2021

Israeli ally Washington, who blocked the Security Council’s action on Friday, has been criticized for not doing enough to stop the bloodshed.

US Secretary of Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr would hold talks with Israeli leaders on Sunday before meeting with Palestinian officials to seek “lasting peace,” the State Department said.

US President Joe Biden once again underlined Israel’s right to defend itself in a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden also expressed his “grave concern” about the violence and the safety of journalists.

In a televised statement late Saturday, Netanyahu thanked Biden for “unequivocal support.” Netanyahu told the US that Israel has done its utmost to protect civilians during its bombing raids in Gaza. “The evidence is that terror site towers are cleared of uninvolved people before being attacked,” he said.

AP ‘shocked and shocked’ by media agency strike

Mohammed al-Hadidi said he lost most of his family in Saturday’s strike on a three-story building in the Shati refugee camp, where 10 family members died – two mothers each and their four children. The Israeli military claimed the building was used by senior Hamas officials.

“They beat our children – children – without warning,” said the devastated father, whose five-month-old baby was also injured in the explosion.

Palestinian militants responded with bursts of missiles at Israel, killing a man on the outskirts of the commercial capital Tel Aviv, police and medics said.

Israeli air strikes brought down a 12-story block in Gaza City that housed the US Associated Press and Qatar-based media operations Al Jazeera.

The Israeli military said it was a legitimate military target, including Hamas’ military offices, and had warned civilians to leave the building before the attack.

The strike was condemned by Al Jazeera and the AP, who asked Israelis to provide evidence.

“The AP office has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication that Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” the news organization said. “We would never knowingly endanger our journalists.” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said he was “shocked and shocked” by the attack.

Smoke rising from what was the building that housed our @ AP office in # Gaza, shortly after Israeli jets destroyed it. Me and my colleagues were evacuated safely and left our best memories. Thank you for all your wishes. Sorry to not be able to respond to questions now as we are overwhelmed pic.twitter.com/5ccRQggckD

– Fares Akram (@faresakram) May 15, 2021

“It is clear that those waging this war not only want to spread destruction and death in Gaza, but also to silence media that testify, document and report the truth,” said Walid al-Omari, Al’s bureau chief. Jazeera in Jerusalem. told AFP.

The United States told Israel “that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a primary responsibility,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

But both Israel and Hamas insisted that they continue their campaigns and there would be no end to the hostilities in sight, despite a UN Security Council meeting scheduled on Sunday to mark the worst outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in years. discuss.

“The party to blame for this confrontation is not us, but the ones attacking us,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech. “We are still in the middle of this operation, it is not over yet and this operation will continue for as long as necessary.”

Netanyahu said Israel’s air and artillery fire had eliminated dozens of Hamas militants and destroyed “hundreds” of sites of the Islamist militant group, including missile launchers and a massive tunnel system.

Al-Aqsa collides

Hamas began its missile attack on Monday after weeks of tensions over a lawsuit to expel several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third Islam’s holiest site, during the Islamic holy day. month of Ramadan.

>> Itamar Ben Gvir, the ultra-nationalist accused of fueling violence in Jerusalem

Speaking to masses of protesters in the Qatari capital Doha, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Saturday that the fighting was mainly about Jerusalem.

“The Zionists thought … they could demolish the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They thought they could displace our people in Sheikh Jarrah,” Haniyeh said.

“I say to Netanyahu, don’t play with fire,” he continued to the cheers of the crowd. “The title of this battle today, the title of the war, and the title of the intifada is Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” using the Arabic word for ‘rebellion.’

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups have fired about 2,300 missiles from Gaza since Monday, the Israeli army said on Saturday. It said about 1,000 were intercepted by missile defense and 380 fell in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has launched more than 1,000 air and artillery strikes on the densely populated coastal strip and said they targeted Hamas and other militant targets.

The bombings sent columns of smoke over Gaza City and lit the night sky of the enclave.

Earlier this week, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told Reuters that the court was “very closely watching” the latest escalation of hostilities amid an investigation now underway into alleged war crimes in earlier periods of the war. conflict.

Netanyahu accused Hamas of “committing a double war crime” by targeting civilians and using Palestinian civilians as “human shields”.

New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch said on Saturday that it had “grave concern that Israeli airstrikes have caused disproportionate destruction of civilian property” in Gaza.

Failed diplomacy

Biden’s envoy, Hady Amr, arrived in Israel Friday for a meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday.

But diplomacy has so far failed to quell the worst escalation in fighting between Israel and Palestinians since 2014.

The White House said Biden informed Netanyahu of “high-level” contacts with regional partners to restore calm, and expressed concerns about the safety of journalists. Biden also spoke with Abbas, for the first time since the US leader took office in January.

But diplomatic efforts are complicated by the fact that the United States and most Western powers do not talk to Hamas, which they see as a terrorist organization. And Abbas, whose power base is in the occupied West Bank, exerts little influence over Hamas in Gaza.

In Israel, the conflict was accompanied by violence among the country’s mixed communities of Jews and Arabs. Synagogues have been attacked, Arab-owned shops destroyed and street fighting has broken out. The Israeli president has warned of a civil war.

Exclusive Report: Violence fuels fears of civil war in Israel’s mixed cities

There has also been an increase in fatal clashes in the occupied West Bank.

An Israeli soldier on Saturday night shot a Palestinian motorist who was trying to hit soldiers at a military checkpoint, the army said. Palestinian health officials said the motorist had been murdered. On Friday, 11 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, Palestinian medics said.

( Jowharwith REUTERS & AFP)

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