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Ashdod, Jerusalem and Gaza City (CNN) – The Israeli army hit Gaza with airstrikes on Monday, saying it was targeting the homes and infrastructure of the Palestinian fighting group Hamas, while Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed “to continue attacking the targets of terrorism.”
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said 212 people had been killed and 1,400 others injured since violence broke out last week, in what has become the most serious Israeli-Palestinian confrontation in years. Sixty-one children and 36 women are among the dead, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, Hamas’ rocket fire from Gaza has killed at least 10 people in Israel, including two children, since the outbreak began, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
On Monday, a new barrage of rockets from Gaza sounded the sirens again and sent Israelis fleeing to bomb shelters in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beer Sheva. At least one residential building in Ashdod was hit, the IDF said. Three people were slightly injured, according to the Israeli Red Cross.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released photos on Sunday purporting to show Hamas rocket installations and tunnel entrances placed in close proximity to civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. The IDF said that “Hamas deliberately and systematically places military targets among the civilian population, exposing its citizens to danger.”
A hit health clinic
Dozens of Israeli planes bombed more than 14 kilometers of the Hamas tunnel system in Gaza overnight and attacked 14 residences on Monday that the Israeli military said belonged to Hamas commanders.
Hamas authorities and a video from the ground showed a health clinic in Gaza City damaged by an Israeli airstrike on a nearby target, with the windows smashed. Gaza’s Health Ministry said the clinic was one of its main coronavirus testing centers.
At least two floors of the nearby building that was attacked were destroyed, according to a CNN reporter at the scene. The Qatar Red Crescent reported damage to its office inside the building.
The ministry warned on Monday that Israeli attacks on homes, medical facilities and infrastructure had created the conditions for a “next wave” of COVID-19 cases, and that those fleeing to shelters would be “exposed to the spread of infectious diseases, especially the danger of the spread of the coronavirus.
Netanyhau met with leaders of the IDF and the country’s security services and said in a video statement that the IDF was “fine.” “Today (the IDF) has eliminated another high-ranking Islamic Jihad commander, we have attacked the Hamas naval unit and continue to attack the underground environment, the Hamas’ subway, and there are other targets.”
The Palestinian Health Authority Ministry in the West Bank condemned the attack on the tunnel system and said its local administrative office was also damaged. It was not immediately clear if there were casualties in the attack, or what the IDF was targeting.
Israel’s military previously said it had hit more targets in Gaza last week than in all of 2020.
Brigadier General Hidai Zilberman, an IDF spokesman, told Israeli News Channel 13 that the IDF believes they have destroyed 80-90% of the rocket-making capacity in Gaza. “This includes engineers and developers as well,” he said.
Some 3,150 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israeli territory since last Monday, although the Israeli military said many had fallen short or were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.
The call for a truce grows stronger
According to the UN, the conflict has left more than 2,500 Palestinians homeless and more than 38,000 are internally displaced.
Many are taking refuge in 16 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said in a recorded statement.
“We continue to actively engage all parties towards an immediate ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.
During an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday, Guterres called for peace so that an “unstoppable humanitarian and security crisis” would not break out that would “further foster extremism” in Israel, the Palestinian territories and the region in general.
The United States has continued to prevent the UN Security Council from making a statement on the conflict. But President Joe Biden expressed support for a ceasefire Monday during a phone call with Netanyahu on Monday. The US president “expressed support for a ceasefire and discussed America’s commitment to Egypt and other partners to that end,” a description of the White House call reads.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had five calls with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, France, Qatar, Egypt and Pakistan during a flight to Copenhagen.
Efforts by Egypt and Qatar to negotiate a truce have stalled on two main points, a Hamas leader with direct knowledge of the meditation efforts told CNN on Sunday.
One obstacle is Israel’s insistence that Hamas must initiate the ceasefire at least three hours before Israel, at which point Israel would follow. Hamas flatly rejected this proposal, the Hamas leader said.
The other obstacle is Hamas’ insistence that any ceasefire must include an end to Israel’s “provocations” at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and a resolution of the threatened eviction of Sheikh Jarrah, the Hamas source said. .
Demolition of foreign media offices
Israel also found itself on the defensive over the weekend after it razed a building in Gaza that contained offices for the international media Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. The Israeli army said the building contained Hamas military intelligence assets, a claim Hamas has denied.
A senior IDF official also defended the attack in a background briefing for journalists. When asked why Israeli forces did not carry out a more targeted attack on one part of the building, rather than demolish the entire building, the official argued that such “surgical strikes” would put more civilians at risk.
“We absolutely deny the claims of the Israeli occupation that Hamas had offices in the Al Jalaa building,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.
“We emphasize that these are false claims and an attempt to justify the crime of targeting a civilian facility that included media offices for international channels such as Al Jazeera and the American Associated Press, as well as residential apartments,” he added.
Israel says it has shared information with the United States justifying its airstrike on a Gaza skyscraper that housed the offices of the Associated Press and other media outlets. But which US officials have seen that evidence, and whether they find it credible, remained an open question Monday.
Blinken says he hadn’t seen it. The National Security Council did not comment, but referred to intelligence channels. And the White House said it could provide no indication as to whether the intelligence had been received.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an NGO that works to protect journalists around the world, said in a statement calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate.
RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire said in a statement on the group’s website that “deliberately targeting the media constitutes a war crime” and that the Israeli attacks “obstruct media coverage of a conflict that it directly affects the civilian population ”.
Rashard Rose contributed to this report from Washington.