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June 30 2022 11:16 PM ˚
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Israel strikes kill senior Hamas commander, Palestinians respond with rockets

Palestine
Heavy smoke and fire rise from Al-Sharouk tower as it collapses after being hit by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City on Wednesday. (Photo AFP)
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GAZA — Israel said it killed 16 members of the Hamas armed wing in Gaza in a barrage on Wednesday and Palestinian fighters rained rockets into Israel as Washington designated an envoy to try to calm their most intense hostilities in years, Reuters reported.اضافة اعلان

According to AFP, Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets targeting Sderot in southern Israel. A new rocket barrage was fired at the Israeli city of Ashdod and Israeli media said the military was preparing for new salvoes on the Tel Aviv area.

At least 59, including 14 children and five women, have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave's health ministry. At least 330 were wounded, some seriously, the ministry was quoted as saying by Palestinian News Agency, WAFA. At least six people have been killed in Israel.

Hamas confirmed the death of the commander, Bassem Issa, a long-time military commander wanted by Israel for 30 year, and of "other leaders and holy warriors" in a statement. Its leader Ismail Haniyeh added: "The confrontation with the enemy is open-ended."

A Palestinian source told Reuters that truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations had made no progress to end violence that flared this week after tension during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and clashes in East Jerusalem.

Describing the scenes of destruction as “harrowing”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a senior aide, Hady Amr, was tasked to urge Israelis and Palestinians to seek calm.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin reaffirmed “ironclad support for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself”. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel would continue to strike Hamas to restore long-term calm, according to a statement on their call.

The fighting is the heaviest between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in the Hamas-ruled enclave, and concern is growing that the situation could spiral out of control.

In Gaza, a multi-storey residential building and a tower housing collapsed after Israel warned occupants in advance to evacuate, and another structure was heavily damaged in the air strikes.

Other air strikes hit what Israel's military said were rocket launch sites, Hamas offices and homes of Hamas leaders.

"Israel has gone crazy," said a man on a Gaza street, where people ran out of their homes as explosions rocked buildings.

Many Israelis also spent a sleepless night as waves of rockets hit Israel's heartland.

Israelis ran to shelters or lay on pavements in some communities far from Gaza.

"All of Israel is under attack. It's a very scary situation to be in," said Margo Aronovic, a 26-year-old student, in Tel Aviv.

Along the Gaza border, an Israeli soldier was killed by an anti-tank missile, the military said. Two people were killed by a rocket in Lod, near Tel Aviv.

Tension also spilled over in mixed Arab-Jewish towns in Israel where there have been demonstrations over the hostilities. After a synagogue was torched in Lod, police deployed paramilitary reinforcements and announced a curfew. 

US energy corporation Chevron said it had shut down the Tamar natural gas platform off the Israeli coast on the instructions of the Energy Ministry.

Hamas said it fired 210 rockets towards Beersheba in southern Israel and at Tel Aviv overnight in response to the strikes on a tower building in Gaza City.

"If they (Israel) want to escalate, the resistance is ready, if they want to stop, the resistance is ready," Haniyeh said, setting as a condition a halt in the attacks in Jerusalem and against Gaza.

The violence followed weeks of tension during Ramadan, with clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters near Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.

These escalated ahead of a court hearing - now postponed - that could lead to the eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers.

The conflict has led to the freezing of talks by Netanyahu's opponents on forming a governing coalition to unseat him after Israel's inconclusive March 23 election.

Violence has also flared in the occupied West Bank. Medical sources said a 16-year-old Palestinian was killed in clashes with Israeli forces on Wednesday.

Israel has dispatched infantry and armour to reinforce tanks already gathered on the border, evoking memories of its last ground incursion into Gaza to stop rocket attacks in 2014.

Although the latest problems in Jerusalem were the immediate trigger for hostilities, Palestinians have also been frustrated as their aspirations for an independent state have suffered setbacks in recent years.

These include Washington’s recognition of disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a US plan to end the conflict that they saw as favorable to Israel, and continued settlement building.

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