Heavy bombing continues in Gaza as Israeli PM vows Hamas will pay 'heavy price'

17 May 2021, 09:24

Israel has carried out further heavy airstrikes against locations in Gaza
Israel has carried out further heavy airstrikes against locations in Gaza. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Israel has launched more heavy airstrikes at Gaza as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he "wants to levy a heavy price" on the Hamas militant group.

The Middle Eastern country's warplanes continued to bomb several locations in Gaza City as the Israeli leader suggested the fighting would continue at "full force".

Explosions rocked the territory for 10 minutes early on Monday morning following the deadliest single attack in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

The shelling was heavier, lasted longer and hit more areas than the series of air raids on Sunday in which 42 Palestinians were killed.

In a televised address, Mr Netanyahu said Israel's attacks would not let up and would "take time".

Speaking alongside his defence minister and political rival Benny Gantz in a show of unity, he added that the nation "wants to levy a heavy price" on the Hamas militant group.

Read more: At least 76 Palestinian casualties after series of Israeli airstrikes

Read more: Israeli airstrike destroys Gaza tower block HQ of international media outlets

Meanwhile, Hamas also continued its offensive against Israel, launching rockets from civilian areas within the territory.

One missile struck a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israeli emergency services said, but no injuries were reported.

It comes amid ongoing hostilities between Israel and Palestine, which has seen the worst fighting in the territory since Hamas and the Middle Eastern country's devastating war in 2014.

"I have not seen this level of destruction through my 14 years of work," said Samir al-Khatib, an emergency rescue official in Gaza.

"Not even in the 2014 war."

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At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza. Picture: PA
Both Hamas and Israel have been firing rockets at each other during the conflict
Both Hamas and Israel have been firing rockets at each other during the conflict. Picture: PA

Israeli airstrikes have levelled a number of Gaza's tallest buildings, which the country's government alleges contained Hamas military infrastructure.

Among those brought down was the building housing the Gaza office of The Associated Press (AP) and those of other media outlets.

Sally Buzbee, the AP's executive editor, called for an independent investigation into the airstrike that destroyed her office on Saturday.

However, Mr Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building and said on Sunday any evidence would be shared through intelligence channels.

Neither the White House nor the State Department would say if any had been seen.

"It's a perfectly legitimate target," Mr Netanyahu told CBS's Face the Nation.

Asked if he had provided any evidence of Hamas's presence in the building in a call on Saturday with US President Joe Biden, Mr Netanyahu said: "We pass it through our intelligence people."

Ms Buzbee called for any such evidence to be laid out.

"We are in a conflict situation," she said.

"We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don't know what that evidence is."

Meanwhile, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders asked the International Criminal Court on Sunday to investigate Israel's bombing of the AP building as a possible war crime.

The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem last month when Palestinians clashed with police in response to Israeli police tactics used during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

A focus of the clashes was the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a hilltop compound revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Hamas began firing rockets toward Jerusalem last Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on Gaza.

At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes in the territory, including 55 children and 33 women, with 1,230 people wounded.

Eight people in Israel have been killed in some of the 3,100 rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier.

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have acknowledged 20 fighters killed in the fighting.

Israel says the real number is far higher and has released the names and photos of two dozen alleged operatives it says were "eliminated".

The assault has displaced some 34,000 Palestinians from their homes, UN Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, where eight foreign ministers spoke about the conflict.