Israel carried out an intense aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip hours after US President Joe Biden publicly backed international calls for a ceasefire between the Jewish state and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Sixty Israeli fighter jets carried out dozens of airstrikes on what the military described as a network of tunnels, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the armed forces to “keep hitting”.
Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, retaliated with a volley of rockets in Israeli towns after six hours night lull. Witnesses reported that two buildings were targeted early Tuesday in Gaza City, the heavily populated urban center of the stranded territory, as the fighting continued into a second week.
The Israeli strikes had killed 212 Palestinians, including 61 children and 36 women on Monday, according to the Gaza health ministry.
IDF officials said 130 of the dead were Hamas fighters and challenged Gaza’s estimates that more than half of the dead were women and children. Israel has reported 10 deaths from Hamas attacks, including two children.
Biden spoke to Netanyahu as US president faced mounting criticism from Americans progressive, including within his own Democratic Party, which wants the administration to exert more pressure to stop hostilities.
“The president has expressed support for a ceasefire and discussed the United States’ engagement with Egypt and other partners to that end,” reads the White House call . Biden also “encouraged Israel to do everything possible to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.”
United States blocked a UN Security Council statement calling for de-escalation, an end to violence and respect for international law, according to two UN diplomats. The move was the third time Washington has foiled a declaration or softer measures since the violence began.
The UN, Egypt and Qatar have failed to negotiate a short ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to be sent to the Palestinian enclave, controlled by Hamas since 2007.
Aviv Kochavi, head of the Israeli army, warned residents of communities neighboring the territory that hostilities will continue for as long as the country deems necessary.
“Hamas was surprised by our strength, our method and our achievements,” he said, referring to a military strategy, according to which Israel carried out more airstrikes at a faster pace than in previous conflicts. with Palestinian activists.
Israel has been condemned for targeting a building in Gaza that housed international media over the weekend. Officials claimed that Hamas – which the United States has designated as a foreign terrorist organization – operated from the same building.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said Washington had asked for details justifying the decision to strike the building after the attack, but had not seen any evidence himself.
Dennis Ross, a former Middle East negotiator under the Democratic and Republican administrations, said reading the appeal between the Israeli and US leaders indicated Biden was trying to end the crisis.
“It’s a subtle way of [Biden] take stock: “OK, you did what you needed to do. Now is the time to find a way out, ”he said.
In addition, several rockets were fired at Israel from Lebanon on Monday, according to UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force on the border between Lebanon and Israel. Lebanese state media reported that Israel retaliated with more than two dozen rockets. No casualties were reported in either incident.
The incident is the second rocket attack from Lebanon, home to thousands of Palestinian refugees, since the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas began. No damage was inflicted on Israel.
Officials of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed paramilitary group in Lebanon that waged a month-long war with Israel in 2006, have largely supported Palestinian militants. But the group has not said it intends to escalate the latest conflict.