Israel-Gaza conflict: At least 33 killed in Israeli airstrike as Israel's PM vows to push on 'forcefully' with offensive

16 May 2021, 03:50 | Updated: 16 May 2021, 15:37

At least 42 people have been killed by an Israeli airstrike, Gaza's health ministry has said, in the deadliest single attack since the start of heavy fighting between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers nearly a week ago.

Rescuers raced to pull survivors and bodies from the rubble of three flattened buildings after the attack in Gaza City, which also left 50 wounded.

Gaza health officials said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, bringing the number who have died in Gaza since last Monday to 190, including 54 children.

On the Israeli side, there have been at least 10 deaths, including two children.

Medical group MSF said that one of its clinics was among the sites damaged by overnight Israeli aerial bombardment.

As hostilities stretched into a seventh day, rockets were fired into Israel and both Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the enclave, insisted they would continue their cross-border fire despite UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reminding all sides that "indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures violates international law".

A session of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation is under way, with Mr Guterres telling members that the hostilities in Israel and Gaza were "utterly appalling" and the fighting must stop immediately.

In other developments

• Israel targeted the home of the most senior Hamas leader in Gaza, Yehiyeh Sinwar, who is thought to be in hiding. He has headed the political and military wings of Hamas in the territory since 2017

• The Pope denounced the "unacceptable" spiral of violence on both sides, saying the deaths in particular of children was a "sign that they don't want to build the future but want to destroy it"

• US President Joe Biden has spoken again with Mr Netanyahu and for the first time since the crisis began with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in separate phone calls

• Hamas fired 120 rockets overnight, the Israeli military said, with many intercepted and around a dozen falling short and landing in Gaza.

• Amnesty International is calling upon the International Criminal Court to investigate an Israeli attack on a building housing media organizations and another where 10 people including eight children were killed. Israel has said Hamas was also using the 12-storey building, that collapsed after the attack, but AP has challenged Israel to provide evidence

• The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, made up of 57 countries but based in Saudi Arabia, opened an emergency virtual meeting to discuss what has been happening, with the Saudis condemning Israel's "violations" of Palestinian rights

A statement from MSF, which is also known as Doctors Without Borders, said the clinic hit by an Israeli airstrike provided trauma and burn treatment.

The attack left a sterilization room unusable and a waiting area damaged, the group said. No one was injured at the clinic, but people were killed by the bombing, it added.

The Israel Defence Forces are yet to comment on the allegation but have on Sunday said they targeted "military assets in Hamas' intelligence HQ in northern Gaza, significantly harming the terrorist organization's central infrastructure".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to push on "forcefully" with a week-long offensive against Palestinian militants despite growing concern about civilian deaths.

Israeli officials say they have killed more than 30 militants in Gaza since hostilities erupted.

Israel said Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a fellow militant group, had fired some 2,900 rockets towards Israel since last Monday - an unprecedented volume of strikes, launched indiscriminately.

The Biden administration in the US on Sunday reiterated its support for Israel while working to de-escalate the crisis.

US diplomat Hady Amr, who arrived in Israel on Saturday to help with negotiations, met with Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz, who thanked America for its support.

Mr Gantz said Israel "takes every precaution to strike at military targets only and avoid harming civilians, while its civilians are the targets of indiscriminate attack".

In the last week, violence has erupted between Jews and Palestinian Arabs living inside Israel, while anti-Israeli protests have flared across the occupied territories, including the West Bank, as well as in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon.

Diplomatic efforts are under way to try to end the gravest escalation in Israeli-Palestinian hostilities in years but without a breakthrough yet.

Hamas began its rocket assault on Israel last Monday after weeks of tensions over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the city's Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site.

Speaking to crowds of protesters in the Qatari capital of Doha, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said late on Saturday that the underlying cause of the hostilities was what was happening in Jerusalem.

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The Israeli military said on Saturday about 1,000 rockets were intercepted by missile defences and 380 fell into the Gaza Strip..

On Saturday a five-month-old baby boy called Omar - found injured but alive under the rubble - was the sole survivor of one strike that left his mother, four siblings, aunt and four other infants dead.

The Israel Defence Forces were also facing heavy criticism over their decision to target the al Jalaa building in Gaza City that houses media organisations, including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, even though they gave journalists a warning to evacuate.

Mostefa Souag, acting director-general of Al Jazeera Media Network, called the strike a "war crime" aiming to "silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza".