Gaza City, May 19: Israeli airstrikes killed at least six people across the Gaza Strip and destroyed the home of a large extended family early on Wednesday. The military said it widened its strikes on militant targets to the south amid continuing rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled territory.
Residents surveyed the piles of bricks, concrete and other debris that had once been the home of 40 members of al-Astal family. They said a warning missile struck the building in the southern town of Khan Younis five minutes before the airstrike, allowing everyone to escape.
The Israeli military said it struck militant targets around the towns of Khan Younis and Rafah, with 52 aircraft hitting 40 underground targets over a period of 25 minutes. Gaza's Health Ministry said a woman was killed and eight people were wounded in those strikes. Hamas-run Al-Aqsa radio said one of its reporters was killed in an airstrike in Gaza City. Israel-Palestine Conflict: 52,000 Palestinians Take Refuge in UN-Run Schools in Gaza Strip, Says UN Report.
Doctors at the Shifa hospital said his was among five bodies brought in early Wednesday. The fatalities included two people killed when warning missiles crashed into their apartment.
The latest strikes came as diplomatic efforts aimed at a cease-fire gathered strength and Gaza's infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, rapidly deteriorated. The Palestinian territory is ruled by Hamas, an Islamic militant group.
US officials said the Biden administration was privately encouraging Israel to wind down its bombardment of Gaza. Egyptian negotiators also were working to halt the fighting, and while they have not made progress with Israel, they were optimistic international pressure would force it to the table, according to an Egyptian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing diplomatic efforts.
The fighting began May 10 when Hamas fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel's heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
At least 219 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes, including 63 children and 36 women, with 1,530 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130.
Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, have been killed in rocket attacks so far. A rocket attack on Tuesday near Gaza killed two Thai workers and wounded another seven. The Israeli military said rockets also were fired at the Erez pedestrian crossing and at the Kerem Shalom crossing, where humanitarian aid was being brought into Gaza, forcing both to close. It said a soldier was slightly wounded at Erez.
The Israeli military has launched hundreds of airstrikes it says are targeting Hamas' militant infrastructure, while Palestinian militants have fired more than 3,700 rockets at Israel, with some 550 falling short. Israel says its air defenses have a 90 per cent interception rate.
Medical supplies, fuel and water are running low in Gaza, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians and has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Some 47,000 Palestinians have fled their homes. Israel-Palestine Conflict: UN Humanitarian Agency Says ‘Situation in Gaza Is Dire’.
Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.
The Gaza Health Ministry said it had salvaged coronavirus vaccines after shrapnel from an Israeli airstrike damaged the territory's only testing facility, which also administered hundreds of vaccines. The medical operation was relocated to another clinic.