Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes target the Palestinian enclave on Monday. AFP
Israeli warplanes unleashed a new series of heavy airstrikes at several locations in Gaza City early on Monday amid mounting international calls for a ceasefire.
Explosions rocked the city from north to south for 10 minutes in an attack that was heavier, on a wider area and lasted longer than a series of air raids hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled the fourth war with Gaza's Hamas rulers would rage on, according to The Associated Press.
Israeli air strikes hammered the Gaza Strip on Monday, after a week of violence between the Jewish state and Palestinians left more than 200 people dead as international calls for de-escalation went unheeded.
A relative reacts while carrying the body of a Palestinian child who was killed in overnight Israeli airstrikes. AP
Overnight Sunday to Monday, Israel launched dozens of strikes in the space of a few minutes across the crowded coastal Palestinian enclave, according to the media and the army.
World concern had already deepened after an Israeli air strike in Gaza that destroyed several homes on Sunday and which 42 Palestinians were killed — the deadliest single attack in the latest round of violence between Israel and the Hamas group that rules Gaza. The earlier Israeli airstrikes flattened three buildings.
The Israeli military said it attacked the homes of nine Hamas commanders across Gaza. There were no immediate reports of injuries, and in the predawn darkness there was little information on the extent of damage inflicted early on Monday.
Relatives of Palestinians who were killed in overnight Israeli airstrikes react outside the morgue in Gaza City. AP
Local media reports said the main coastal road west of the city, security compounds and open spaces were hit in the latest raids. The power distribution company said airstrikes damaged a line feeding electricity from the only power plant to large parts of southern Gaza City.
In a televised address on Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel's attacks were continuing at "full-force” and would "take time." Israel "wants to levy a heavy price” on the Hamas group, he said, flanked by his defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity.
In the Israeli air assault early Sunday, families were buried under piles of cement rubble and twisted rebar. A yellow canary lay crushed on the ground. Shards of glass and debris covered streets blocks away from the major downtown thoroughfare where the three buildings were hit over the course of five minutes around 1am.
The hostilities have repeatedly escalated over the past week, marking the worst fighting in the territory that is home to 2 million Palestinians since Israel and Hamas' devastating 2014 war.
An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in the Gaza Strip, at the Israeli-Gaza border. AP
"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."
Rescuers furiously dug through the rubble using excavators and bulldozers amid clouds of heavy dust. One shouted, "Can you hear me?” into a hole. Minutes later, first responders pulled a survivor out. The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, with more than 50 people wounded.
Haya Abdelal, 21, who lives in a building next to one that was destroyed, said she was sleeping when the airstrikes sent her fleeing into the street. She accused Israel of not giving its usual warning to residents to leave before launching such an attack.
"We are tired,” she said, "We need a truce. We can’t bear it anymore.”
The Israeli army spokesperson’s office said the strike targeted Hamas "underground military infrastructure."
US President Joe Biden on Saturday held his first phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since taking office, amid heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli leaders said they were pressing on with an offensive against Hamas, but an Israeli military spokesman acknowledged that with an estimated 12,000 missiles and mortars in the groups' Gaza arsenal, "they still have enough rockets to fire".
Palestinian officials said an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement was reached with Israel on Monday to end a recent surge of violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.
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