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Israel strikes kill 42 Palestinians in Gaza as UN head urges halt to conflict

AFP/Gaza
Filed on May 17, 2021

(AFP)

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation tells Israel to stop barbaric attacks.


Israeli strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily toll in almost a week of deadly clashes, as United Nations Security Council talks fizzled despite global alarm at the escalating conflict.

Israeli warplanes continued to pummel the Palestinian enclave overnight Sunday to Monday, carrying out dozens of air strikes across the densely populated territory in just a few minutes and causing power cuts, AFP journalists said.

The Israeli army said in the first hours of Monday its fighter jets were "striking terror targets in the Gaza Strip".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded for an immediate end to the "utterly appalling" violence and warned of an "uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis".

But the council meeting, already delayed by Israel's ally the United States, resulted in little action.

OIC to Israel: Stop barbaric attacks

The heaviest exchange of fire in years - sparked by unrest in Jerusalem - has killed 197 in Gaza and 10 in Israel since Monday, according to authorities on either side.

Israel said Sunday morning its "continuing wave of strikes" had in the past 24 hours struck over 90 targets across the coastal enclave, where an Israeli strike that destroyed a building housing journalists' offices sparked international outrage.

The death toll kept rising in Gaza as rescuers extracted bodies from vast piles of smoking rubble and the bereaved wailed in grief.

"We were sleeping and then all of a sudden there were rockets raining down on us," said Lamia Al Koulak, 43, who lost relatives in a dawn bombardment.

Palestinians in UAE feel helpless as Gaza burns

"The children were screaming. For half an hour we were bombarded without prior warning. We came out to find the building next door flattened."

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said the campaign would "take time" to finish.

"Our campaign against the terrorist organisations is continuing with full force," he said in a televised address. "We are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm and quiet to you, Israel's citizens."

Israel's army said about 3,000 rockets had been fired since last Monday from Gaza towards Israel - the highest rate ever recorded.

Around 450 fell within the coastal strip, while the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted more than 1,000, according to the army.

Rockets have wounded more than 280 people, hitting districts previously well beyond the range of Hamas' rockets.

Army chief Aviv Kochavi said Israel had reacted with unprecedented force.

"Hamas misjudged the strength of our response," he said.

Two doctors and at least 58 children have died in Gaza, local health authorities said. More than 1,200 people have been wounded and entire city blocks smashed to rubble.

Gaza health authorities said 40,000 people had been displaced from their homes, and the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, announced more than 40 of UNRWA's schools had been converted into shelters.

Save the Children warned that life-saving services were "at breaking point" after Israeli strikes damaged power lines.

The Israeli army says it takes all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians, and blames Hamas for deliberately placing military targets in densely populated areas.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al Maliki urged the Security Council to act, accusing Israel of "war crimes and crimes against humanity".

But Israel's UN ambassador blamed Gaza militants for the bloodshed.

"It was completely premeditated by Hamas in order to gain political power," Gilad Erdan said.





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