Published On: Sun, May 16th, 2021

Diplomatic efforts for ceasefire ramp up after strikes claim more lives in Israel and Gaza

Diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas look set to ramp up Sunday as the death toll continued to climb after another night of heavy night of fighting in the region.

The United Nations Security Council is set to convene Sunday to discuss the worst outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in years. Ahead of the meeting U.N. 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,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement on Saturday.

Meanwhile, State Department envoy Hady Amr, who was dispatched to the region for talks with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The meetings follow another heavy wave of Israeli airstrikes overnight on the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, the tiny, impoverished enclave which is home to 2 million Palestinians.

Israel’s military said early Sunday that its fighter jets and aircraft had struck 90 targets in Gaza — including the homes of senior Hamas leader Yahya Sinwa and his brother, Muhammad — over the past 24 hours.

At least 26 people were killed and 50 wounded in pre-dawn raids, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Ambulance teams were still searching for bodies and survivors under the rubble of flattened homes in Gaza City at midday local time (5 a.m. ET).

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Over the past week more than 180 Palestinians — including more than 50 children — have been killed in Gaza, the latest figures from the ministry show. In Israel, nine people have been killed. Hundreds have been wounded on both sides.

Since Monday, Hamas has fired more than 2,900 missiles at Israel, according to Israel’s military.

It also defended its decision to flatten the Al-Jala tower, which housed the offices of international media organizations including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The building was “an important base of operations” for Hamas military intelligence, it said.

Press-freedom organizations and the AP have called for an investigation and justification for the airstrike.

AP’s CEO Gary Pruitt said the news organization had “no indication” Hamas was active in the building.

“This is something we actively check to the best of our ability,” he said in a statement. “We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

International leaders have expressed alarm over the intensifying conflict and urged de-escalation. Saudi Arabia convened an emergency foreign-minister-level meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for Sunday.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief also announced urgent talks with his bloc’s foreign ministers to address the ongoing crisis and “unacceptable number of civilian casualties. “We will coordinate and discuss how the EU can best contribute to end the current violence,” the EU’s Josep Borrell said in a statement on Twitter.

However, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to continue the offensive on Gaza for “as long as necessary,” in a televised address late Saturday.

His comments came after the White House said he had spoken with President Joe Biden who “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks.”

Biden also spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about U.S. diplomatic engagement.

Lawahez Jabari, Paul Goldman and The Associated Press contributed.

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