Israel-Gaza battle rages on, diplomacy but to achieve traction By Reuters

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© Reuters. Smoke and flames rise during the Israeli air strikes, while cross-border violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants continues in Gaza City on May 14, 2021. REUTERS / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Rami Ayyub

GAZA / JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has beaten Gaza with air strikes and Palestinian militants fired missile barriers in Tel Aviv and other cities on Saturday in conflict.

US and Arab diplomats are trying to calm the situation down. In overnight violence, militants fired around 200 rockets at cities in Israel whose planes had allegedly hit targets of Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza.

At least 139 people, including 39 children, have been killed in Gaza since hostilities broke out on Monday, Palestinian medics said.

Israel has reported nine deaths, including children.

The Israeli bombardment killed more than 15 Palestinians in Gaza overnight, medics said, including a woman and four of her children who died when their home was hit in a refugee camp. Five more died and others were injured, the medics said.

The Israeli military said of the incident that it hit an apartment in the Beach refugee camp that was used by Hamas. It was said that details of the case were being examined.

In Israel, thousands of Israelis ran for protection. Sirens wailed repeatedly in Tel Aviv on Saturday. A missile hit a residential building in the Ramat Gan suburb of the commercial center, killing one person there, medics said.

In Gaza, 36-year-old Akram Farouq and his family stormed out of his home after a neighbor told him they had received a call from an Israeli officer warning that their building would be hit.

“We didn’t sleep all night because of the explosions, and now I’m on the street with my wife and children who are crying and shaking,” he said.

The Israeli military said its planes hit rocket launch sites and the homes of Hamas fighters.

In Israel’s coastal city of Ashdod, Mark Reidman investigated the damage to his home from a rocket attack.

“We want to live in peace,” said the 36-year-old, adding that he should try to explain to his three young children “what happened and why this is happening”.

Hamas launched the rocket attack on Monday after tensions over a lawsuit to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and in retaliation for clashes by Israeli police with Palestinians near the city’s Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.

Looking for a CEASEFIRE

Regional and international diplomatic efforts have as yet shown no signs that hostilities have stopped. Egypt, which has led regional efforts, sent ambulances across the Gaza border to take Palestinian victims to Egyptian hospitals.

US President Joe Biden’s envoy, Hady Amr, deputy deputy secretary for Israel and Palestinian Affairs, arrived in Israel on Friday ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Sunday. The US embassy said in a statement that the envoy aimed to “reinforce the need to work towards sustained calm”.

The hostilities between Israel and Gaza were accompanied by violence in Israel’s mixed communities of Jews and Arabs. Synagogues were attacked, Arab-owned shops destroyed and street fighting broke out. Israel’s president, who plays a largely ceremonial role, has warned of civil war.

Palestinian victims also extend beyond Gaza. Palestinians, who mark their expulsion in the 1948 War for the Creation of Israel on May 15 each year, have reported that 11 people were killed this week in the occupied West Bank after protesters clashed with Israeli forces.

Egypt pushed for a ceasefire so talks could begin, two Egyptian security sources said Friday. Cairo has relied on Hamas and pushed others like the United States to reach an agreement with Israel.

“The mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations are stepping up contacts with all sides to restore calm, but no agreement has yet been reached,” a Palestinian official said Friday.

The United Arab Emirates on Friday called for a ceasefire and talks and expressed condolences to all victims. In September, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain became the first Arab states to establish formal relations with Israel in a quarter of a century.

Living conditions in Gaza are deteriorating. Households now only get four hours of electricity a day instead of the usual twelve after the lines to Israel and the only power station in Gaza were damaged. The fuel was also running low.

“The power plant may stop working on Sunday or Monday if no fuel is allowed into Gaza,” said Mohamed Thabet, spokesman for the Gaza electricity distribution company that operates the network for the 2 million people in the enclave.

The Israeli military announced on Saturday that around 2,300 rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel since Monday, of which around 1,000 were intercepted by missile defense and 380 fell into the Gaza Strip.

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