181 Palestinians martyred in Israeli bombings as UN Security Council to meet
Israeli air strikes on Gaza has claimed the lives of 26 more people, taking the death toll to 181 as the UN Security Council prepared to meet amid global alarm at the escalating attacks.
During Sunday’s air strikes, Israeli forces also targeted the home of a Hamas leader.
Israel said Sunday morning its “continuing wave of strikes” had in the past 24 hours struck over 90 targets across Gaza, where the destruction of a building housing news media organisations sparked an international outcry.
In Gaza, emergency teams worked to pull out bodies from vast piles of smoking rubble and toppled buildings, as relatives wailed in horror and grief.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “dismayed” by civilian casualties in Gaza and “deeply disturbed” by Israel’s strike on Saturday on the tower housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera bureaus, a spokesperson said.
Israel’s army said Sunday that about 3,000 rockets had been fired from the coastal strip controlled by Hamas towards Israel, “of which approximately 450 failed launches fell in the Gaza Strip”.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had targeted the infrastructure of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including by pounding a vast tunnel system with some 100 strikes, and by targeting weapon factories and storage sites.
Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’ political wing in the Gaza Strip, the army said, releasing a video showing plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.
At least 52 children have lost their lives in Gaza, 1,225 people have been wounded and entire buildings and city blocks reduced to rubble.
One strike on Gaza killed 10 members of an extended family.
The children “didn’t carry weapons, they didn’t fire rockets”, said Mohammad al-Hadidi, one of the grieving fathers.
Some 10,000 Gazans have fled their homes near the Israeli border for fear of a ground offensive, the UN said.
“They are sheltering in schools, mosques and other places during a global COVID-19 pandemic with limited access to water, food, hygiene and health services,” UN humanitarian official Lynn Hastings said.
Balls of flame and a cloud of debris shot into the sky Saturday afternoon as Israel’s air force flattened the 13-floor Gaza building housing Qatar-based Al Jazeera and the Associated Press news agency, after giving a warning to evacuate.
Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Walid al-Omari, told AFP: “It is clear that those who are waging this war do not only want to spread destruction and death in Gaza, but also to silence media that are witnessing, documenting and reporting the truth.”
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said he was “shocked and horrified” by the attack.
AFP Chairman Fabrice Fries said the agency “stands in solidarity with all the media whose offices were destroyed in Gaza” and called on all parties “to respect the media´s freedom to report on events”.