Israel’s Netanyahu vows to continue airstrikes on Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Saturday to “continue to respond forcefully” to rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in Gaza.

In a televised address, Netanyahu blamed the Hamas militant group for the latest bout of deadly violence, which on Sunday entered its seventh day.

“This past week, millions of Israelis were forced into bomb shelters as missiles rained down on our cities. Several Israelis have been killed. Many more have been wounded,” he said.

“Israel will not tolerate this. Israel has responded forcefully to these attacks and we will continue to respond forcefully until the security of our people is reinstated and restored,” he added.

He accused Hamas of “committing a double war crime” by targeting Israeli civilians and using Palestinian civilians “as human shields.”

His comments followed a dramatic escalation in the conflict during the day, with Israel bombing the home of a senior Hamas commander and destroying a building housing international media organisations including The Associated Press.

This was followed by a new barrage of Hamas rockets late Saturday.

The week of deadly violence was set off by a Hamas rocket attack on Jerusalem, following weeks of mounting tensions and heavy-handed Israeli measures in contested Jerusalem.

Since then, Hamas has fired more than 2,000 rockets, though most have either fallen short or been intercepted by anti-missile defenses.

Israel’s warplanes and artillery have struck hundreds of targets around Gaza, where some two million Palestinians live.

The latest round of fighting — the worst since the 2014 Gaza war — has killed at least 145 Palestinians in Gaza, including 41 children and 23 women. Eight Israelis have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.

The Israeli military said Sunday it targeted the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader, Yehiyeh Sinwar, who is likely in hiding along with the rest of the group’s upper echelon.

Israeli warplanes also struck several buildings and roads in a vital part of Gaza City early on Sunday. Photos circulated by residents and journalists showed the airstrikes created a crater that blocked one of the main roads leading to Shifa hospital, the largest medical center in the strip.

On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building housing several media companies. Everyone was able to evacuate on time.

The White House said following the strike that it had “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is paramount responsibility.”

A US envoy arrived in Israel on Friday evening to hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials in a bid to de-escalate tensions.

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