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Israel Gaza conflict: Netanyahu vows to continue strikes

media captionThis Gaza tower block, housing news outlets, was destroyed in Israeli strike

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to “continue to respond forcefully” to rocket attacks as conflict with Palestinians in Gaza enters a seventh day.

Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed at least three Palestinians early on Sunday, health officials said.

Palestinian militants fired rockets towards Tel Aviv, causing people there to flee to bomb shelters.

The international community has called for an end to the escalating conflict.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden phoned Mr Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to express concern about the situation.

A UN Security Council meeting is set to take place later on Sunday.

Since the fighting began on Monday at least 148 people have been killed in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials, and Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children. Israel says dozens of militants are among the dead in Gaza, while Palestinian health officials say its death toll includes 41 children.

Speaking in a televised address late on Saturday, Mr Netanyahu said the strikes will continue for “as long as necessary” and asserted that everything possible was being done to limit civilian casualties.

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

The flare-up of violence over the last six days came after weeks of increasing Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem, which culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas – the Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza – began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.

How did the fighting escalate on Saturday?

Ten members of one family were killed by an Israeli air strike at a refugee camp west of Gaza City.

A five-month-old baby, Omar Al-Hadidi, was the only survivor, after his mother, four siblings, aunt and four cousins died.

image copyrightReuters

image captionOmar, five months old, was the sole survivor of a strike that hit his family’s home

The baby’s father, Mohammad Al-Hadidi, was not at home at the time. “There were no rockets there, just women and children, no rockets, just peaceful children celebrating [Muslim festival] Eid, what have they done to deserve this?” he told Reuters news agency.

A doctor treating Omar said: “He was in a bad condition. His thigh bone is broken and he has bruises all over his body but thankfully after first inspection he is stable.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Palestinian militants had fired 278 rocket launches from Gaza, with homes hit in the southern cities of Ashdod, Beersheba and Sderot.

The IDF also said “many dozens” of rockets that crossed into Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system.

A rocket hit a street in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, killing a man. He was reportedly hit by shrapnel in his apartment.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThe site of the direct rocket hit in Ramat Gan, where an Israeli man was killed

What happened to the Gaza tower block?

Earlier on Saturday, an Israeli air strike destroyed a high-rise building housing media organisations, including The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera, plus a number of offices and apartments.

In a statement released shortly afterwards, the Israeli military said the building housed military assets belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza. The building’s landlord has denied this.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutteres said he was “deeply disturbed” by the strike on the building.

“The secretary-general reminds all sides that any indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures violates international law and must be avoided at all costs,” a spokesman for Mr Gutteres said.

image copyrightEPA

image captionThe remains of the multi-storey Al-Jalaa tower, which was home to various media organisations

The Associated Press (AP) said the block was hit roughly an hour after Israeli forces ordered people to evacuate.

The news organisation’s CEO, Gary Pruitt, said: “This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time.”

What was said in Biden’s phone calls?

The White House said President Biden told Prime Minister Netanyahu that he continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself. He expressed concern over deaths on both sides and, following the tower-block strike, called for journalists to be protected.

Mr Biden also spoke, for the first time since taking office, with President Abbas, telling him he was committed to “strengthening the US-Palestinian partnership”. He also said the Hamas rocket fire into Israel had to stop.

President Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank, has little power in Gaza, which is run by Hamas militants. But the US will not speak to Hamas, as it regards them as a terrorist organisation.

Mr Biden told both leaders that he remained committed to finding two-state solution to the conflict.

US envoy Hady Amir is in Tel Aviv to take part in talks with Israeli, Palestinian and UN officials, and reinforce what US diplomats said was the need for a “sustainable calm”.

Timeline: How the violence escalated

The worst violence in years between Israel and the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip has seen dozens killed. It follows a month of spiralling tensions before open conflict broke out. Here is what happened in the lead-up to the fighting.

Israeli police officers detain a young Palestinian man at the Damascus Gate
Image caption Israeli police officers detain a young Palestinian man at the Damascus Gate

Image copyright by Getty Images

Clashes erupt in East Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli police.

Palestinians are angry over barriers which had been placed outside the Damascus Gate entrance to the Jerusalem‘s Old City preventing them from gathering there after prayers at the Old City’s al-Aqsa Mosque on what is the first night of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinian discontent had been stoked earlier in the day when President Mahmoud Abbas called off planned elections, implicitly blaming Israel over voting arrangements for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Hamas – Mr Abbas’ Islamist rivals who control Gaza and were running in the elections – react angrily to the postponement.

Violence around Damascus Gate and elsewhere in East Jerusalem continues nightly.

Rockets are fired from Gaza at Israel, which responds with air strikes after a relative period of calm between Israel and the Palestinian enclave.

Clashes spread to the mixed Arab-Jewish port city of Jaffa, next to Tel Aviv.

In Jerusalem, Jewish youths, angry over a spate of filmed assaults by Palestinians on Orthodox Jews posted on the TikTok video-sharing app, attack Arabs and chant anti-Arab slogans.

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians outside the Damascus Gate
Image caption Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians outside the Damascus Gate

Image copyright by Getty Images

Hundreds of ultra-nationalist Jews shouting “Death to Arabs” march towards Damascus Gate in protest at the Arab assaults on Jews. Clashes erupt at the site between Palestinians and police trying to separate the two groups, injuring dozens of people.

Violence between Arabs and Jews spreads to other parts of the city.

Militants fire dozens of rockets at Israel from Gaza, drawing retaliatory air strikes.

President Abbas’ Fatah faction and Hamas condemn the looming threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers ahead of a planned court hearing. Hamas calls on Arabs to form “human shields of resistance” there.

In the days that follow, police and protesters repeatedly clash at the site as it becomes a focal point for Palestinian anger.

Militants in Gaza begin sending incendiary balloons into Israel over successive days, causing dozens of fires.

Two Palestinian gunmen are shot dead and a third is wounded after opening fire on Israeli security forces in the northern West Bank. Israeli authorities say the group planned to carry out a “major attack” in Israel.

The al-Aqsa mosque has been a frequent flashpoint for violence
Image caption The al-Aqsa mosque has been a frequent flashpoint for violence

Image copyright by Getty Images

Later on after Friday prayers – the last of Ramadan – major clashes erupt at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, injuring more than 200 people. Israel’s police force says it used “riot dispersal means”, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades after officers came under a hail of stones and bottles.

A second night of violence erupts in East Jerusalem after tens of thousands of worshippers prayed at the al-Aqsa mosque for Laylat al-Qadr, the holiest night of Ramadan.

Police and protesters clash at Damascus Gate, with police using water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas against crowds of Palestinians, some throwing stones.

More than 120 Palestinians and some 17 police are injured.

Israel’s Supreme Court postpones the hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah case following calls to delay it because of the growing unrest. Tensions remain high though and more clashes take place between Israeli police and Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and at Damascus Gate.

Early morning clashes break out between police and Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, where crowds throw stones and officers fire stun grenades.

Palestinian anger has been inflamed by an annual Jerusalem Day march planned for later in the day by hundreds of Israeli nationalists to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.

The march is due to pass through predominantly Arab parts of the Old City in what is seen by Palestinians as a deliberate provocation. It is rerouted at the 11th hour, but the atmosphere remains volatile with more than 300 Palestinians and some 21 police injured in the violence at the holy site.

Hamas issues an ultimatum to Israel to “withdraw its soldiers… from the blessed al-Aqsa mosque and Sheikh Jarrah” by 18:00. When the deadline passes without an Israeli response, rockets are fired towards Jerusalem for the first time in years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the group has “crossed a red line” and Israel retaliates with air strikes, killing three Hamas fighters.

A continuing exchange of rocket-fire and air strikes quickly escalates into the fiercest hostilities between the two sides since they fought a war in 2014.

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