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Airstrikes hit Gaza overnight as diplomatic push remains stalled

BOY IN GAZA PALESTINE
A Palestinian boy checks the aftermath of Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 19, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
GAZA CITY/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Deafening air strikes and rocket fire once more shook the Gaza Strip overnight and early Wednesday amid an international diplomatic push to broker a ceasefire after more than a week of bloodshed.اضافة اعلان

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's bombing of Gaza had set its Hamas back "many years" since it began on May 10. 

Warplanes hit Gaza City again in the pre-dawn hours, with Israeli occupation forces continuing to target Hamas leaders and infrastructure in the crowded enclave, under Israeli blockade for nearly 15 years.     

Randa Abu Sultan, 45, said her family were all gathered in one room to sit out the night.

"We're all terrified by the sound of explosions, missiles, and fighter jets," said the mother of seven.

"My four-year-old son tells me he's scared that if he falls asleep, he'll wake up to find us dead."

Israeli occupation forces said they had attacked "40 underground Hamas targets" overnight in the southern Gaza Strip.

In the northern Gaza Strip, a journalist working Al-Aqsa radio was killed when an Israeli strike hit his home north of Gaza City, authorities said, the first reporter killed during the current round of violence.

Israeli air strikes have killed at least 219 Palestinians, including 63 children, in the Strip since May 10, the territory's health ministry said.

Palestinian rocket fire has killed 12 people in Israel, Israel said.

Overnight, Hamas fired 50 rockets towards southern Israel, 10 of which fell short and struck inside the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said.

A UN Security Council meeting broke up without issuing a statement late Tuesday, but France then said it had proposed a resolution calling for a ceasefire, in coordination with Israel's neighbors Egypt and Jordan.

Zhang Jun, Beijing's ambassador to the UN, told reporters his team had heard the French ceasefire proposal and China was "supportive".

Another diplomat said the proposal would seek to end hostilities, but also "allow humanitarian access".

Humanitarian crisis

The United States, a key Israel ally, has repeatedly blocked adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for a halt to hostilities.

But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell backed mounting calls for a ceasefire and urged the Israeli military to act in a "proportionate" manner.

Speaking at an air force base in southern Israel on Tuesday, Netanyahu said "We'll continue as long as necessary to bring ... quiet back to the citizens of Israel."

Hamas has launched nearly 3,700 rockets at Israel since May 10, prompting many people living in communities near the border to remain in bomb shelters virtually around the clock.

Israel's bombing campaign has left the Gaza Strip’s 2 million population desperate for relief.

Some 72,000 civilians have fled their homes, seeking refuge in UN-run schools and other public buildings, the United Nations says.

An international relief convoy that started rolling into the Gaza Strip from Israel Tuesday, was halted when Israel swiftly ended its reopening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing, claiming mortars struck the area.

Israel says its fighter jets have targeted Hamas's underground tunnel network, which it has previously acknowledged run in part through civilian areas.

An air raid Monday knocked out Gaza's only COVID-19 testing laboratory, the health ministry said, and the Qatari Red Crescent said a strike damaged one of its offices.

Hospitals in the territory, which has been under Israeli blockade for almost 15 years, have been overwhelmed by patients and there are frequent blackouts.

The healthcare system was already facing severe strain from the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 1,530 people have been wounded, according to health ministry figures.

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