Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip stretched into a second week as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resisted international efforts to secure a ceasefire and vowed the fighting would continue with “full force”.
As the Israeli military conducted air strikes on Gaza in the early hours of Monday, targeting a network of tunnels, Palestinian militant group Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israeli cities, but on a smaller scale than in previous days.
Israel’s aerial bombardment of the blockaded strip included the homes of nine commanders of Hamas, the Israeli army said on Monday, a day after it struck the homes of Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar and his brother.
As of Monday, Israeli strikes had killed 212 Palestinians, including 61 women and 36 children, according to the Gaza health ministry. Israeli army officials say 130 of the dead are Hamas combatants and disputes Gazan estimates that more than half of the dead are women and children. Israel has reported 10 dead from the Hamas attacks, including two children.
Netanyahu said late on Sunday that the country would continue its military campaign against the Islamist group “with full force”.
“There is talk about international pressure. There is always pressure but all in all we are receiving very serious backing, first of all from the US,” he said.
The US on Monday blocked a UN Security Council statement calling for de-escalation, cessation of violence and respect for international law, according to two UN diplomats, marking the third such time the US has blocked a statement or softer measures since the violence began.
US president Joe Biden said in a taped message for Eid al-Fitr, the religious festival that marks the end of Ramadan, that he was working with Palestinians and Israelis towards “sustained calm”.
Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, said he had spoken to his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. “The violence must end immediately,” he wrote on Twitter.
But, during a visit to Denmark, Blinken stopped short of calling for a ceasefire, saying the US was “prepared to lend our support and good offices to the parties should they seek” one. He said it was ultimately up to the parties to make clear they wanted to pursue a ceasefire.
He added that the US had requested details justifying Israel’s claim that a Gaza building that housed media offices had also harboured Hamas, but he had yet to see any information provided.
The Israeli military had sought the return the bodies of two soldiers before it would consider a truce with Hamas, a government aide said. Also at stake was the fate of two Israeli civilians held in Gaza, the aide added. Hamas has held on to the bodies for a possible prisoner exchange.
Mediation by the UN, Egypt and Qatar to broker a two-hour ceasefire and allow fuel into Gaza failed after Israel’s military struck the home of Hamas leader Sinwar on Saturday night, according to an Egyptian diplomat briefed on talks.
Limited quantities of fuel were moved into Gaza on Monday from the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border, one western diplomat told the Financial Times. It was intended for the power plant in the strip. Gaza’s 2m residents have been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007 following Hamas’s victory in Palestinian legislative elections the year earlier.
The conflict has widened beyond the Gaza Strip, with communal strife erupting in Israeli cities as well as in the occupied West Bank.
A total of 21 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, had been killed and more than 4,000 injured in 10 days of clashes with Israeli soldiers, the Palestinian health ministry said. The territory, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 war, is the seat of Fatah, Hamas’s rival Palestinian faction.
A vast police deployment appeared to have quelled communal violence in Israeli cities between Jews and minority Arabs with Israeli nationality.
The latest crisis was triggered when police used rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades against Palestinian protesters in the compound of al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site. More than 600 Palestinians were wounded.
Al-Aqsa mosque is located in a compound in Jerusalem that is also known to Jews as Temple Mount and which is sacred to both religions. Hamas entered the fray last week, firing rockets deep into Israel, which responded with air strikes. The Israel Defense Forces conducted 1,500 strikes, while the Islamist group has launched more than 3,150 rockets since Monday last week, according to the IDF.