Gaza conflict rages as Israeli PM says air strikes will continue

A tower housing AP, Al Jazeera offices collapses after Israeli missile strikes in Gaza city, May 15, 2021. REUTERS/

Israel pounded Gaza with air strikes into the early hours of Sunday, destroying a tower block that housed news media organisations, while Palestinian militants fired rocket salvoes at Tel Aviv.

The hostilities showed no sign of letting up as they entered a seventh day, with Palestinians saying at least 145 people have been killed since the conflict began on Monday, including 41 children. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.

The 12-storey block in Gaza City brought down by Israeli air strikes housed the U.S. Associated Press and Qatar-based Al Jazeera media operations.

The Israel military said it was a legitimate military target, containing Hamas military offices, and that it had given warnings to civilians to get out of the building before the attack.

The strike was condemned by Al Jazeera and the AP, which asked the Israelis to put forward evidence.

“AP’s bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” the news organisation said. “We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

The United States told Israel “that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

U.S. President Joe Biden later spoke to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to restore calm.

But both Israel and Hamas insisted they would pursue their campaigns, leaving no end to the hostilities in sight despite a U.N. Security Council meeting scheduled for Sunday to discuss the worse outbreak of Israel-Palestinian violence in years.

“The party that bears the guilt for this confrontation is not us, it’s those attacking us,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech.

“We are still in the midst of this operation, it is still not over and this operation will continue as long as necessary.”

Netanyahu said Israel’s air and artillery barrage had eliminated dozens of Hamas militants and taken out “hundreds” of the Islamist militant group’s sites including missile launchers and a vast tunnel network.

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