Breaking News Gaza conflict Again: Airstrike targets Hamas leader

Excavators work to clear the rubble at the site of Israeli air strikes, in Gaza City May 16, 2021
image captionExcavators worked to clear rubble in Gaza City after the new air strikes

The Israeli military says it has bombed the home of the political leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in a wave of air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

It released video of an exploding bomb which it said had hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, the group’s overall leader in the territory.

Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed at least 26 people early on Sunday, officials there said.

Militants fired more rockets at Israel, sending people fleeing for shelter.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to “continue to respond forcefully” to rocket attacks, amid calls from the international community to end the escalating conflict.

A UN Security Council meeting is set to take place later on Sunday.

US President Joe Biden phoned Mr Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to express concern about the situation on Saturday.

Since the fighting began on Monday at least 174 people have been killed in Gaza, including 47 children and 29 women, with 1,200 injured, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry. Israel says dozens of militants are among the dead.

Ten people, including two children, have been killed by militant attacks on Israel, Israeli officials say.

The flare-up of violence over the last six days came after weeks of increasing Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem, which culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas – the Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza – began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.

How heavy were the overnight bombardments?

Israel’s military said it had struck the homes of both Yahya Sinwar and his brother Muhammad Sinwar, whom it described as head of logistics and manpower for Hamas.

Both residences had, it said, “served as military infrastructure” for Hamas.

Local sources confirmed for media that the Hamas leader’s home had been bombed. There were no immediate reports about the fate of the two brothers.

Multiple air strikes rocked Gaza City during the night, with dozens of people reported missing under the rubble of homes, the BBC’s Rushdi Abualouf said.

I have never covered air strikes with such intensity, explosions are everywhere in Gaza, there are difficulties in communicating with officials to find out where the strikes are,” he said on Twitter.

“The building in which I live in [the] western part of the city shook like an earthquake,” he said. “A hysterical state of chaos, children and women in the building that houses more than 200 people screaming.”

According to the Hamas-run health ministry, 26 people were killed and 50 injured on al-Wehda Street in central Gaza City overnight, with eight children and 10 women among the dead. Searches beneath the rubble continued.

Some 120 rockets were launched by militants in Gaza against southern and central Israel overnight, the Israeli military said. There were no reports of serious injuries.

What are the prospects for a ceasefire?

Blaming the militants for the conflict. Mr Netanyahu said strikes would continue for “as long as necessary” and everything possible was being done to limit civilian casualties.

On Saturday, the Israeli military blew up a tower block in Gaza City used by international media after issuing warnings to evacuate it.media captionA Gaza tower block housing news outlets was destroyed in an Israeli strike on Saturday

President Biden told Mr Netanyahu he continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself. He expressed concern over deaths on both sides and called for journalists to be protected.

Speaking to President Abbas, the US leader said he was committed to “strengthening the US-Palestinian partnership”. He also said the Hamas rocket fire into Israel had to stop.

President Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank, has little power in Gaza but the US will not speak to Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist organisation.

Mr Biden told both leaders he remained committed to finding a two-state solution to the conflict.

US envoy Hady Amr is in Tel Aviv to take part in talks with Israeli, Palestinian and UN officials, and reinforce what US diplomats said was the need for a “sustainable calm”.

Ahead of the Security Council meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reminded all sides “that any indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures violates international law and must be avoided at all costs”.

EU foreign ministers are to discuss the conflict in video talks on Tuesday.

Pro-Palestinian protests were held across the world on Saturday, from Europe to the Americas. In central Paris, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse an illegal demonstration while in London, nine police officers were hurt during clashes with protesters outside the Israeli embassy.

Timeline: How the violence escalated

The worst violence in years between Israel and the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip has seen dozens killed. It follows a month of spiralling tensions before open conflict broke out. Here is what happened in the lead-up to the fighting.

13 April

Israeli police officers detain a young Palestinian man at the Damascus Gate
Image caption Israeli police officers detain a young Palestinian man at the Damascus Gate Image copyright by Getty Images

Clashes erupt in East Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli police.

Palestinians are angry over barriers which had been placed outside the Damascus Gate entrance to the Jerusalem‘s Old City preventing them from gathering there after prayers at the Old City’s al-Aqsa Mosque on what is the first night of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinian discontent had been stoked earlier in the day when President Mahmoud Abbas called off planned elections, implicitly blaming Israel over voting arrangements for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Hamas – Mr Abbas’ Islamist rivals who control Gaza and were running in the elections – react angrily to the postponement.

Violence around Damascus Gate and elsewhere in East Jerusalem continues nightly.

15-16 April

Rockets are fired from Gaza at Israel, which responds with air strikes after a relative period of calm between Israel and the Palestinian enclave.

19 April

Clashes spread to the mixed Arab-Jewish port city of Jaffa, next to Tel Aviv.

20 April

In Jerusalem, Jewish youths, angry over a spate of filmed assaults by Palestinians on Orthodox Jews posted on the TikTok video-sharing app, attack Arabs and chant anti-Arab slogans.

23 April

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians outside the Damascus Gate
Image caption Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians outside the Damascus Gate Image copyright by Getty Images

Hundreds of ultra-nationalist Jews shouting “Death to Arabs” march towards Damascus Gate in protest at the Arab assaults on Jews. Clashes erupt at the site between Palestinians and police trying to separate the two groups, injuring dozens of people.

Violence between Arabs and Jews spreads to other parts of the city.

24 April

Militants fire dozens of rockets at Israel from Gaza, drawing retaliatory air strikes.

2 May

President Abbas’ Fatah faction and Hamas condemn the looming threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers ahead of a planned court hearing. Hamas calls on Arabs to form “human shields of resistance” there.

In the days that follow, police and protesters repeatedly clash at the site as it becomes a focal point for Palestinian anger.

4 May

Militants in Gaza begin sending incendiary balloons into Israel over successive days, causing dozens of fires.

7 May

Two Palestinian gunmen are shot dead and a third is wounded after opening fire on Israeli security forces in the northern West Bank. Israeli authorities say the group planned to carry out a “major attack” in Israel.

The al-Aqsa mosque has been a frequent flashpoint for violence
Image caption The al-Aqsa mosque has been a frequent flashpoint for violence Image copyright by Getty Images

Later on after Friday prayers – the last of Ramadan – major clashes erupt at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, injuring more than 200 people. Israel’s police force says it used “riot dispersal means”, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades after officers came under a hail of stones and bottles.

8 May

A second night of violence erupts in East Jerusalem after tens of thousands of worshippers prayed at the al-Aqsa mosque for Laylat al-Qadr, the holiest night of Ramadan.

Police and protesters clash at Damascus Gate, with police using water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas against crowds of Palestinians, some throwing stones.

More than 120 Palestinians and some 17 police are injured.

9 May

Israel’s Supreme Court postpones the hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah case following calls to delay it because of the growing unrest. Tensions remain high though and more clashes take place between Israeli police and Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and at Damascus Gate.

10 May

Early morning clashes break out between police and Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, where crowds throw stones and officers fire stun grenades.

Palestinian anger has been inflamed by an annual Jerusalem Day march planned for later in the day by hundreds of Israeli nationalists to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.

The march is due to pass through predominantly Arab parts of the Old City in what is seen by Palestinians as a deliberate provocation. It is rerouted at the 11th hour, but the atmosphere remains volatile with more than 300 Palestinians and some 21 police injured in the violence at the holy site.

Hamas issues an ultimatum to Israel to “withdraw its soldiers… from the blessed al-Aqsa mosque and Sheikh Jarrah” by 18:00. When the deadline passes without an Israeli response, rockets are fired towards Jerusalem for the first time in years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the group has “crossed a red line” and Israel retaliates with air strikes, killing three Hamas fighters.

A continuing exchange of rocket-fire and air strikes quickly escalates into the fiercest hostilities between the two sides since they fought a war in 2014.

source: BBC.COM

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