/ 17 May 2021

Israel-Gaza crisis brings death and destruction

Cross-border airstrikes between Israel and the Hamas Islamist militant group that controls Gaza are heading into a second week with no sign of easing up. Ahead of this morning’s United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the crisis, its Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet said “rather than seeking to calm tensions, inflammatory rhetoric from leaders on all sides appears to be seeking to excite tensions rather than to calm them.” Since last Monday, reports say at least 188 people have been killed in Gaza, including 55 children, and Israel has reported 10 dead, including 2 children. Tensions have escalated since the start of the month after Palestinians protested attempts to forcibly evict several families from their homes in East Jerusalem and Israeli police measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, amongst other factors.

Israel has struck more than 90 targets in Gaza, including the home of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. Another was a multi-story building that housed US media outlet Associated Press (whose journalists were given 10 minutes to evacuate), Al Jazeera and others because Israel’s military said it was also used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. And on Friday, the UN refugee agency said an Israeli airstrike on the al-Shati camp killed 10 members of the same family, 8 of them children. In Israel, hundreds of rockets from Gaza continue to bombard their cities with the latest barrage coming late yesterday. There are also disturbing reports of violence across the occupied West Bank, and there have been dangerous clashes and vigilante attacks between Jewish and Arab citizens. The UN says that both sides have taken actions that “may constitute war crimes.”

It’s hoped the UN Security Council meeting that’s underway will help broker a ceasefire as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the violence as “utterly appalling”. US President Joe Biden has also spoken with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in separate phone calls. But Netanyahu says “the campaign will continue as long as it is required”, and top Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh pledged “the resistance will increase”. Peace envoys from the US, United Nations and Egypt are also in the region working to restore calm but have yet to show any signs of progress.

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