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GAZA CITY – Diplomats and international leaders failed to broker a ceasefire in the recent Israel-Hamas conflict on Sunday as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to continue the fight and the United Nations Security Council failed to agree on a joint response to the worsening Bloodshed.
The diplomatic clashes came after the fighting, which had been most intense in seven years in Gaza and Israel, entered its deadliest stage to date. At least 42 Palestinians were killed in an airstrike on several apartments in Gaza City early Sunday morning, Palestinian officials said, the deadliest episode of the conflict to date.
Mr. Netanyahu’s vow came true a few hours later when Israeli fighter jets launched a series of heavy air strikes in several locations in the Gaza Strip early Monday.
Explosions rocked the city from north to south for 10 minutes in an attack that was heavier, covered a larger area, and lasted longer than a series of air strikes 24 hours earlier that killed the 42 Palestinians – the deadliest single attack of the final round the violence between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza. Previous Israeli air strikes flattened three buildings.
According to local media reports, targets hit early Monday included the main coastal road west of Gaza City, security buildings and open spaces. The power distribution company said the air strikes damaged a line that supplies electricity from the only power station to large areas in the south of the city.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
According to Palestinian officials, the number of people killed in Gaza rose to 197 in the seven days of the conflict, while the number of Israeli residents killed by Palestinian militants rose to 11, including one soldier, the Israeli government said.
On Sunday afternoon, the street bombed in the airstrike created a desperate scene when Anas al-Yazji, a graphic designer, climbed over the rubble looking for his fiancée Shaimaa Abul Ouf. Between the fragments of the broken walls was a wallet, a necklace, a Koran, and even a couple of handbags.
But 12 hours after Israel hit the building – aiming, the Israeli army said, at an underground Hamas tunnel network – there was still no sign of Ms. Abul Ouf.
“I’ll wait here until we find them,” said 24-year-old al-Yazji as a yellow excavator shoveled debris from one pile to the other. “Then I’ll bury her.”
By nightfall, the fighting showed no sign of subsiding.
“Citizens of Israel,” said Netanyahu in a speech on Sunday afternoon at the headquarters of the Israeli army in Tel Aviv, “our campaign against the terrorist organizations is continuing with full force.”
He added: “We want to put a price on the attacker, as we do with all forms of terrorism. It will take time to restore calm and security and to rebuild deterrence and governance. “
Mr Netanyahu’s promise came amid mounting international criticism of Israeli air strikes in Gaza that began last Monday after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem after a month of mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israelis in the holy city.
The Israeli army says its goal is to destroy the military infrastructure of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave of about two million people that is under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. Israel blames Hamas for the civilian casualties in Gaza and says the group is hiding militants in residential areas.
That statement was scrutinized over the weekend when Israeli jets destroyed a tower in Gaza City that housed two major international news outlets, The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, after calling the owner of the building and telling him to rent evacuate. An Israeli strike killed at least 10 members of the same family in a home in a refugee camp and caused collateral damage in a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders, a medical aid group.
Then on Sunday morning the air raid hit Ms. Abul Ouf’s house. Two relatives said the strike killed two members of their immediate family, at least 12 members of their extended family and more than 30 neighbors, and left their mother in critical condition.
In a statement, the Israeli army said it had “hit an underground military structure of the Hamas terrorist organization that was located under the street”. It added: “Hamas is deliberately locating its terrorist infrastructure under civilian houses and putting them at risk. The underground foundations collapsed, causing the civil apartments to collapse above them and unintentional casualties. “
American Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged Hamas and Israel to exercise restraint at the Security Council meeting on Sunday to find a way to end the violence.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
“The United States calls on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and respect international humanitarian law,” she said. “We also call on all parties to protect medical and other humanitarian institutions as well as journalists and media organizations.”
The Security Council adjourned with no action or statement indicating that members could not agree on what to say. China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun, whose country holds the presidency this month, said after the meeting that he was working to ensure that the council “takes immediate action and speaks with one voice”.
Hady Amr, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian Affairs, graduated a day of talks Sunday with key Israeli officials and the Quartet’s office that mediates peace negotiations in the Middle East. He is said to have similar talks on Monday with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank but lost control of Gaza in 2007.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas last week sparked a wave of related violence between Arabs and Jews in Israel itself. This and demonstrations in the occupied West Bank have led analysts to wonder if the Palestinians are on the verge of a major uprising, the third since the late 1980s. The protests and clashes were less intense on Sunday after massive crackdown by police in Israel and the Israeli army in the West Bank.
But Arabs and Jews clashed in the Negev desert in southern Israel, in East Jerusalem, and in Lod, a mixed Arab-Jewish town in central Israel. Police response to last week’s riots has mainly centered on Arabs following attacks on synagogues, which some had compared to a pogrom.
On Sunday, an umbrella organization for Arab leaders in Israel appealed to the international community to help protect the Palestinian citizens of Israel “from violent attacks and human rights violations by state and private actors”. The group added, “Palestinian citizens share a fear for their lives.”
On Sunday afternoon, a Palestinian rammed a police checkpoint and injured several police officers in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Seconds later, the police fatally shot the driver. Several Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, fueling the Palestinian national sentiment and creating the conditions for renewed conflict in Gaza.
The rocket fire by Hamas and other militant Islamist groups in Gaza over the weekend included a large barrage over central Israel early on Sunday morning.
Most of these missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome, an anti-missile detection system partially funded by the United States. But wherever they met, they terrorized Israeli residents, especially in cities like Sderot, which are near the Gaza Strip.
An explosion this weekend destroyed a fifth-floor apartment in Sderot, killing a 5-year-old boy and tearing a hole in another where Eli Botera, his wife Gitit, and their young daughter Adele huddled into the baby’s bedroom.
“My wife panicked and started screaming,” said Mr Botera. “After all, everything is up to God. Everyone has to do what they can to protect themselves, but if it is your fate to die, you will die. “
The deadliest attacks were in Gaza – and the most important of them was the air strike on Ms. Abul Ouf’s house in Al-Wehda, a bustling, affluent area of Gaza City full of shops and apartment blocks.
Ms. Abul Ouf trained as a dentist and lived at home with her parents and siblings, relatives said. By Sunday morning, two were dead and three injured were torn from the rubble, relatives said. Ms. Abul Ouf’s father, a supermarket owner, was unharmed after fixing a neighbor’s internet one night.
Ms. Abul Ouf was due to marry Mr. al-Yazji in two months. You last spoke early Sunday when the bombing began, Mr. al-Yazji said.
“Hide yourself,” he remembered telling her in a text message.
But the message never got through.
Mr. al-Yazji spent hours on Sunday searching the wreckage for her. Government rescuers hurled rubble away stone by stone, and when they discovered a corpse, Mr. al-Yazji rushed over, and the rubble and the sand of the rubble formed his feet.
The person was still breathing. But it wasn’t Mrs. Abul Ouf.
The Israeli bombardment has forced 38,000 people to seek refuge in dozen of UN schools, the United Nations said. Gaza now faces power outages for at least 16 hours a day, while damage to a desalination plant has threatened access to drinking water for around 250,000 people, according to the United Nations.
Israel’s air strikes have also halted all Covid-19 vaccinations and virus testing in the Palestinian enclave, increasing the risk of virus contamination as civilians rush into shelters for security reasons, UN officials said.
Mr. al-Yazji stood in the rubble on Sunday, giving up hope of finding his fiancée that afternoon. He took a box of her dental kit from the ruins, a small mark he could remember. Then he went with his brother to the nearby hospital where the victims of the air strike were killed.
After each new ambulance arrived, it rushed to its back doors to look in and see if Ms. Abul Ouf was in it. Each time he went back disappointed.
After a few hours he went to the morgue instead. And there, lying motionless on a stand, was Shaimaa Abul Ouf’s body.
Mr. al-Yazji became hysterical with grief. “Be happy,” he said after identifying her body.
“I swear to God,” he added, “she laughed.”
The reporting was contributed by Isabel Kershner from Sderot, Israel. Lara Jakes from Washington; Rick Gladstone from New York; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; and Adam Rasgon from Tel Aviv.