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Israel will complete operation against Hamas targets, Netanyahu says

Updated May 16, 2021 - 5:15 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday signaled the fourth war between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza would rage into a second week despite international efforts to broker de-escalation or a cease-fire.

In a televised address, Netanyahu said Sunday evening the attacks were continuing at “full-force” and will “take time.” Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” from Gaza’s Hamas rulers, he said, in response to unrelenting rocket attacks on Israeli civilians by the militant group. Netanyahu was flanked by his defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity.

Hamas and other militant groups have fired some 2,900 rockets into Israel.

The U.N. Security Council and Muslim nations convened emergency meetings Sunday to demand a stop to civilian bloodshed, but President Joe Biden gave no signs of joining calls for Israel to agree to an immediate cease-fire.

Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the U.N. Security Council that the United States was “working tirelessly through diplomatic channels” to stop the fighting. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Egypt and other countries that all parties “should de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence.” American diplomat Hady Amr met with Gantz, who thanked the U.S. for its support.

Appeals to stop not showing progress

Diplomatic appeals by other countries for Hamas and Israel to stop their fire showed no sign of progress. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi blamed the United States and its support for Israel for the Security Council’s lack of action thus far.

Egypt attempted to broker a ceasefire on Friday, but failed. An official involved in the talks told the Israel Hayom newspaper that both sides rejected all proposals for a truce, but especially Israel. According to the official, Israeli Defense Forces are intent on completing operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and only then would be open to a ceasefire.

Speaking alongside Netanyahu on Sunday, Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, said Hamas did not anticipate Israel’s overwhelming response to the militants’ rocket fire. “Hamas made a serious and grave mistake and didn’t read us properly.”

The Egyptian diplomat said the destruction of Hamas’ rocket capabilities would require a ground invasion that would “inflame the whole region.” Egypt, which made peace with Israel decades ago, has threatened to “suspend” cooperation in various fields, the official said, without elaborating.

Representatives of Muslim nations met to demand Israel halt attacks that are killing Palestinian civilians in the crowded Gaza strip.

The meeting of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation also saw Turkey and some others criticize a U.S.-backed push under former President Donald Trump that saw the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other Islamic nations signed bilateral deals with Israel to normalize their relations, rather than focus on long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Tuesday, European Union foreign ministers will hold video talks on the escalating fighting between Israel and Hamas, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced on Twitter.

“In view of the ongoing escalation between Israel and Palestine and the unacceptable number of civilian casualties, I am convening an extraordinary VTC of the EU Foreign Ministers on Tuesday,” Borrell said.

“We will coordinate and discuss how the EU can best contribute to end the current violence.”

Sunday violence 

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 people Sunday, medics said. The Israeli air assault was the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas nearly a week ago.

At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women, with 1,230 people wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, and more than 500 have been wounded.

The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem last month, when Palestinian protests and clashes with police broke out in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers. A focal point of clashes was the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint that is located on a hilltop compound that is revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on Gaza, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

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