Israel bombed what it said were underground tunnels used by Hamas and Palestinian militants fired rocket barrages at Israeli cities as fighting spilled into a second week on Monday and international calls for a ceasefire mounted.
After a night of heavy Israeli airstrikes on areas across the Islamist Hamas-run enclave, Israel’s military said Gaza militants had fired about 60 rockets towards Israeli cities overnight, down from 120 and 200 the two previous nights.
After rockets were fired from Gaza at the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon, Israeli jets bombed what the military said were 15 km of underground tunnels used by Hamas. It also struck nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders, it said.
With the sounds of Israeli bombardment continuing throughout the morning, Gaza residents rushed to bakeries and drugstores to stock up on bread and other essentials.
“My children couldn’t sleep all night even after the wave of intensive bombing stopped,” said Umm Naeem, 50, a mother of five, as she shopped for bread in Gaza City. “What is happening to us is too much, but Jerusalem deserves all the sacrifices.” There were no new reports of casualties on either side of the border. The Gaza Health Ministry puts the death toll since the hostilities flared at 197, including 58 children and 34 women. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, Israeli authorities say.
Hamas began its rocket assault last Monday after weeks of tensions over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the city’s al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
World concern had already deepened after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza that destroyed several homes on Sunday and which Palestinian health officials said killed 42 people, including 10 children, and persistent rocket attacks on Israeli towns.
“All parties need to deescalate tensions – the violence must end immediately”, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter, injecting more urgency into Washington’s calls for calm after speaking with Egypt’s foreign minister.
At a U.N. Security Council meeting on Sunday, the United States said it had made clear to Israel, the Palestinians and others that it was ready to offer support “should the parties seek a ceasefire”.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s campaign in Gaza was continuing at “full force”, and that deterrence had to be achieved to prevent future conflict with Hamas.