Death toll climbs as Gaza conflict rages

Smoke and flames are seen following an Israeli air strike on a building, amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza City May 18, 2021.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Heavy air strikes and rocket fire in the Israel-Gaza conflict claimed more lives on both sides on Tuesday as tensions flared in Palestinian “day of anger” protests in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

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The UN Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting amid a diplomatic push to end the fighting, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Israel would “continue striking at the terrorist targets”.

Israel’s intense bombing campaign has killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 people in Gaza in more than a week of fighting against Islamist group Hamas, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. The death toll on the Israeli side rose to 12 when a volley of rockets Hamas fired at the southern Eshkol region killed two Thai nationals working in a factory and wounded several others, police said.

Israeli strikes that again sent fireballs, debris and black smoke into the sky have levelled homes and multi-story towers, cratered roads and left two million Palestinians in the enclave desperate for reprieve.

“They destroyed our house but I don't know why they targeted us,” said Nazmi al-Dahdouh, 70, of Gaza City, who remained shocked by what he called “a terrifying, violent night”.

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The humanitarian crisis deepened in the impoverished strip, from where Hamas has launched nearly 3,500 rockets at Israel since May 10, .

But a convoy of international aid trucks that started rolling into Gaza through a border crossing from Israel, Kerem Shalom, was halted when Israel quickly shuttered it again, citing a mortar attack on the area.

The UN Security Council session, the fourth since the conflict escalated, was called after the United States, a key Israel ally, blocked adoption of a joint statement calling for a halt to the violence on Monday for the third time in a week.

Humanitarian disaster

The conflict risks precipitating a humanitarian disaster, with the UN saying nearly 40,000 Palestinians have been displaced and 2,500 have lost their homes.

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Fighter jets have hit what the Israeli military dubs the “metro”, its term for Hamas’s underground tunnels, which Israel has previously acknowledged run in part through civilian areas.

Israeli fire has battered crucial Gaza infrastructure, causing blackouts and prompting the electricity authority to warn on Monday it only had enough fuel left to provide power for another two to three days. A strike Monday knocked out Gaza's only COVID-19 testing laboratory, the Health Ministry said, and the Qatari Red Crescent said a strike damaged one of its offices in the enclave.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 3:04:59 AM |

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