Israeli warplanes launched a new round of heavy airstrikes on Gaza City early Monday, just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the fourth war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers would continue.
Explosions rocked the city from north to south for 10 minutes in a heavier, wider-area attack that lasted longer than a 24-hour series of air raids that killed 42 Palestinians — the deadliest single attack in the latest round of violence between Israel and the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza. Three buildings were destroyed by earlier Israeli airstrikes.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, and there was little information on the extent of the damage inflicted early Monday in the predawn darkness.
According to local media reports, the latest raids targeted the main coastal road west of the city and security compounds and open spaces. According to the power distribution company, airstrikes damaged a line that supplied electricity from Gaza’s sole power plant to large areas of southern Gaza City.
In a televised address on Sunday, Netanyahu stated that Israel’s attacks would continue in “full force” and would “take time.” “Israel wants to levy a heavy price” on the Hamas militant group, he said, flanked in a show of unity by his defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz.
Hamas also persisted, launching rockets from civilian areas in Gaza into Israeli civilian areas. According to Israeli emergency services, one slammed into a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. There were no reported injuries.
Families were buried under piles of cement rubble and twisted rebar during the Israeli air assault early Sunday. A crushed yellow canary lay on the ground. Streets were littered with shards of glass and debris blocks away from the major downtown thoroughfare where the three buildings were hit over the course of five minutes around 1 a.m.
The fighting in the territory that is home to 2 million Palestinians has repeatedly escalated over the last week, marking the worst fighting in the territory since Israel and Hamas’ devastating 2014 war.
“I have not seen this level of destruction through my 14 years of work,” said Samir al-Khatib, an emergency rescue official in Gaza. “Not even in the 2014 war.”
Rescuers worked furiously through the rubble with excavators and bulldozers, surrounded by clouds of dust. One person yelled into a hole, “Can you hear me?” Minutes later, first responders extracted a survivor. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 16 women and 10 children were killed, and more than 50 people were injured.
Haya Abdelal, 21, who lives in a building next to one that was destroyed, said she was sleeping when the airstrikes woke her up and forced her to flee into the street. She accused Israel of failing to give residents the usual warning to leave before launching such an attack.
“We are tired,” she said, “We need a truce. We can’t bear it anymore.”
The Israeli army spokesperson’s office said the strike targeted Hamas “underground military infrastructure.”
As a result of the strike, “the underground facility collapsed, causing the civilian houses’ foundations above them to collapse as well, leading to unintended casualties,” it said.
Dr. Ayman Abu Al-Ouf, the head of Shifa Hospital’s internal medicine department and a senior member of the hospital’s coronavirus management committee, was among those reported killed. Two of Abu Al-teenage Ouf’s children and two other family members were buried beneath the rubble.
The death of the 51-year-old physician was a “huge loss at a very sensitive time,” according to Shifa director Mohammed Abu Selmia.
Even before the latest conflict, Gaza’s health-care system had been ravaged by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed in 2007 after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces.
Israel’s airstrikes have destroyed several of Gaza City’s tallest structures, alleging that they housed Hamas military infrastructure. Among them was the building that housed The Associated Press’s Gaza office as well as the offices of other media outlets.
The Associated Press executive editor, Sally Buzbee, has called for an independent investigation into the airstrike that destroyed the AP office on Saturday.
Netanyahu claimed that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building and promised that any evidence would be shared through intelligence channels on Sunday. Neither the White House nor the State Department would confirm whether any had been spotted.
“It’s a perfectly legitimate target,” Netanyahu told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Asked if he had provided any evidence of Hamas’ presence in the building in a call Saturday with US President Joe Biden, Netanyahu said: “We pass it through our intelligence people.”
Buzbee called for any such evidence to be laid out. “We are in a conflict situation,” Buzbee said. “We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don’t know what that evidence is.”
Meanwhile, the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders asked the International Criminal Court on Sunday to look into Israel’s bombing of the AP building and other media buildings as a possible war crime.