Israeli-Palestinian crisis escalates as diplomacy lags — as it happened | News | DW | 16.05.2021
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Israeli-Palestinian crisis escalates as diplomacy lags — as it happened

Israeli warplanes have launched a series of heavy airstrikes at several locations of Gaza City as the conflict enters the second week.

Israeli airstrike in Gaza

Smoke rises above buildings in Gaza City following an Israeli airstrike, as the crisis enters its second week

  • Israel says 3,100 rockets fired from Gaza in 1 week

  • Death toll of fresh Israeli strike in Gaza reaches 42

  • AP calls for probe into Gaza Tower strike

  • No action taken in UN Security Council meeting 

  • Islamic nations slam Israeli offense

Live updates ended

This live updates article has now been closed. For continued coverage please see here: Israel-Gaza crisis: Fighting enters second week as cease-fire attempts fail

Gaza City pounded with Israeli airstrikes as fighting enters second week

The Israeli military carried out a new round of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Monday morning and late Sunday, as the fighting between Israel and Hamas entered its second week. 

"IDF fighter jets are striking terror targets in the Gaza Strip," the Israeli military said in a tweet.

At one point, Gaza City was rocked with explosions for 10 minutes straight during the attack, according to AP news agency.

Earlier on Sunday, rockets launched from Gaza targeted the southern Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon.

Reporters without Borders calls on ICC to investigate airstrike on media building

Reporters without Borders (RSF) called on International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to investigate Israeli airstrikes targeting the media. An Israeli airstrike flattened a building earlier this week which housed the Gaza offices of the Associated Press (AP), Al Jazeera and other outlets. 

"Delibrately targeting media outlets constitutes a war crime," RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement published Sunday. "By intentionally destroying media outlets, the Israeli Defence Forces are not only inflicting unacceptable material damage on news operations. They are also, more broadly, obstructing media coverage of a conflict that directly affects the civilian population. We call on the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to determine whether these airstrikes constitute war crimes."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the strike on the building housing the news offices, claiming Hamas was using the structure to carry out military operations.

Biden says Palestinians, Israelis deserve to live in safety and security

President Joe Biden said Sunday that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve to live in safety and security, adding that his administration is working towards "sustained calm" in the region.

"We also believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and enjoy equal measure of freedom, prosperity and democracy," Biden said in pretaped video remarks. His comments were screened during an event celebrating the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday on Sunday.

"My administration is going to continue to engage with Palestinians and Israelis and other regional partners to work towards sustained calm," he said.

Biden has previously expressed support for Israel's right to defend itself. At the same time, he has expressed concerns about mounting civilian casualties and attacks on the media during a recent call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

UN Security Council meeting makes no progress in solving crisis

According to the Associated Press, efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the Security Council to issue a statement calling for the cessation of hostilities were blocked by the United States.

The AP quoted diplomats as saying Washington was concerned a statement would interfere with its diplomatic efforts to halt the violence. 

"Many Security Council members do think Israel's actions are illegal and that its use of deadly force is disproportionately harsh, so, that is building up some pressure on Israel," DW correspondent Ines Pohl said. 

"But on the other hand, there is absolutely no doubt at this point that the US would veto any harsh action against Israel," she added. 

During the session, several states called for talks between Israel and the Palestinians. 

China, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, offered to host Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Watch video 02:02

Middle East conflict: While diplomats talk, violence continues

IDF says 3,100 rockets targeted Israel in 1 week

Hamas and other Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired around 3,100 rockets targeting Israel in the past week, the Israeli military said.

"That's the highest daily rate of rocket fire that Israel has faced in the history of the country," the IDF said on Twitter.

Eight Israelis have been killed in some of the 3,100 rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, according to the Associated Press.

The Iron Dome intercepted over 1,000 of the fired rockets, while 450 fell within the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said.

The interception system can detect approaching projectiles in seconds and calculate their trajectory and target.

People in Israel might only have 15 to 90 seconds, depending on how far they leave from the Gaza Strip, to get to safety when the sirens start wailing.

The Iron Dome is designed to intercept short-range rockets

The Iron Dome is designed to intercept short-range rockets

AP top editor calls for Israeli strike probe

The US news agency Associated Press' top editor Sally Buzbee has called for an investigation into the Israeli airstrike that demolished a building housing the agency's bureau and other media offices.

The Israeli military has said it had targeted a Hamas leader who used the building as the group's military intelligence office.

But Buzbee said the AP has had offices in the building for over a decade, and it was never informed that Hamas might be in the tower.

"We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don't know what that evidence is," Buzbee said.

"We think it's appropriate at this point for there to be an independent look at what happened yesterday — an independent investigation," she added.

Watch video 02:05

Israel destroys Gaza building housing international media

US says it is 'working tirelessly' for a diplomatic solution

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Washington had been "working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to this conflict."

"The United States has made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices should the parties seek a cease-fire," she said during the US Security Council session.

"We believe Israelis and Palestinians equally have a right to live in safety and security."

Thomas-Greenfield called on Hamas to immediately halt rocket attacks and provocations.

She also urged all parties to avoid "incitement, violent attacks and terrorist acts as well as the evictions, including in east Jerusalem, demolitions and settlement construction east of the 1967 lines."

US Special Envoy Hady Amr arrived in Israel on Friday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who has been mediating for a cease-fire.  

UK police probe antisemitism in pro-Palestinian protest

British police are investigating footage circulating on social media platforms that appeared to show antisemitic language being used in pro-Palestinian protests.

The videos showed several cars adorned with Palestinian flags driving through an area of north London with a large Jewish population. The passengers reportedly shouted antisemitic language.

"We are aware of a video appearing to show antisemitic language being shouted from a convoy of cars in the St John's Wood area this afternoon,'' the police said in a statement.

"Officers are carrying out urgent inquiries to identify those responsible."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the images. "There is no place for antisemitism in our society," he said on Twitter.

"Ahead of Shavuot, I stand with Britain's Jews who should not have to endure the type of shameful racism we have seen today," Johnson said, referring to the Jewish festival which began on Sunday. 

The latest from DW on the ground

A massive rocket blast was fired from Gaza into the south of Israel Sunday afternoon, said DW correspondent Tania Krämer from Jerusalem, adding that there were also Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.

Hospitals in Gaza were strained and overwhelmed by casualties, Krämer added.

Despite US and Egyptian efforts to bring about a cease-fire, the potential for a truce remains unclear, Krämer said.

Meanwhile, as the UN Security Council holds a virtual meeting on the crisis, DW correspondent Ines Pohl in Washington said there was pressure on US President Joe Biden from members of his Democratic Party to be "more forceful" towards Israel.

On Saturday, Biden had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, separately, and urged a cease-fire.

But shortly after the call, Netanyahu said the fighting would continue "as long as necessary."

"The possibilities of diplomacy are very limited at this point for the US," Pohl said.

As for the UN Security Council, the chances of a binding resolution were also slim.

"We have to keep in mind that in recent years, all the UN Security Council resolutions have not really been earnestly implemented — especially when it comes to the right for Palestinians to build their own state," Pohl said.

Watch video 04:28

DW's Tania Krämer and Ines Pohl on Gaza violence

Israel tells UN Hamas is trying to gain political power

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told a Security Council session that the recent deadly violence was "premeditated by Hamas in order to gain political power."

"Do you really believe that this property dispute is what caused Hamas to launch these large-scale attacks on the people of Israel?" Erdan said, adding that the militant group escalated tensions after the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delayed long-awaited elections. 

The envoy also emphasized that Israel "makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties," while "Hamas makes every effort to increase civilian casualties."

Palestinian Authority urges US to intervene to resolve conflict 

Addressing the UN Security Council's virtual session, the Palestinian Authority's Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called on the US to "shoulder its due responsibilities" as he accused Israel of committing "war crimes" and — in a terminology angrily rejected by Israel — "apartheid." 

"Act now to end the aggression and the assault on our people, our homes, our land. Act now so freedom can prevail, not apartheid," he said.

"Israel always says, put yourselves in our shoes. But Israel is not wearing shoes. It is wearing military boots."

Netanyahu says struck Gaza tower was 'perfectly legitimate target'

After being hit by an Israeli airstrike this weekend, a tower in Gaza that housed offices for international news media bureaus also hosted a Palestinian 'terrorist' group's intelligence office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

There was "an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas housed in that building which plots and organizes terror attacks against Israeli civilians … so it's a perfectly legitimate target," Netanyahu told US broadcaster CBS. 

Watch video 07:07

Israeli military: Hamas leader target of deadly Gaza strike

Gaza wounded taken to Egypt for medical treatment

Some 263 Palestinians entered Egypt through the Rafah border crossing to receive medical treatment, officials said.

Since Israel started launching airstrikes on Gaza earlier this week, 192 Palestinians have been killed, including 58 children, with 1,235 wounded, al-Qadra said.

Rafah is the only border crossing not controlled by Israel to the outside world for Gaza.

Egyptian authorities opened the passage a day earlier than planned after it was closed over the Eid-al-Fitr holiday, according to security officials.

A map showing the Gaza Strip and border crossings

The Rafah border crossing has a heavy security presence and is typically closed during public holidays

Berlin police report 93 officers injured after pro-Palestinian march

Berlin's police reported Sunday that 93 officers were injured after clashes broke out at a pro-Palestinian rally that took place in the capital's Neukölln district on Saturday. 

According to the police, some 59 protesters were arrested for aggravated breach of the peace and assault on law enforcement officers among other offenses during Saturday's demonstration. 

Some 150 people were charged, police said in a statement. 

Another pro-Palestinian protest took to the streets of Berlin on Sunday, with some 400 vehicles carrying 1,000 demonstrators, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.

The convoy of vehicles stopped in front of the Axel Springer media building in protest of the company earlier raising an Israeli flag, according to DPA.

UN secretary-general pleads for immediate end to violence

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened a Security Council session to discuss the latest developments in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Guterres told the 15-member council that hostilities in Israel and Gaza were "utterly appalling" and called for an end to the violence.

"Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately," Guterres said. 

"It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole," he added.

"This senseless cycle of bloodshed, terror and destruction must stop immediately."

The session had been previously delayed by Israel's ally the United States. 

Watch video 01:56

Israel-Palestine conflict: Search for survivors in Gaza

Gaza: Death toll of fresh strike reaches 42 

The Gaza Health Ministry spokesman, Ashraf al-Qadra, said the death toll from Israeli strikes early Sunday has reached 42, including 16 women and 10 children. 

Shortly after midnight, the Israeli airstrike hit a busy downtown street of residential buildings and shops, destroying two adjacent buildings and a third one down the road. 

Organization of Islamic Cooperation holds emergency meeting

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a 57-member bloc of Muslim nations, assembled for an online emergency meeting of regional foreign ministers that was called by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia called for international action to stop the ongoing Israeli offensive on Gaza as the kingdom accused Israel of committing "flagrant violations" against Islamic holy sites and Palestinians.

Map of Israel and Palestinian territories

Israel seized east Jerusalem from neighboring Jordan in 1967 following a short war in the region

"The kingdom demands the international community urgently act to stop the military operations immediately and allow aid and treatment of the injured people in Gaza," Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan told the bloc.

The Saudi envoy called for the revival of long-stalled peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

"These negotiations should be grounded on adhering to peace on the basis of the two-state solution according to international terms of reference and the Arab peace initiative," he added.

The 2002 Saudi-brokered peace initiative offered Israel full diplomatic relations with Arab states if it withdrew from the Palestinian territories it annexed in 1967. 

Riad Malki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, slammed what he called Israel's "cowardly attacks."

"We are facing a long-term occupation, that's the base of the problem. Crimes are committed against the Palestinians without consequences," Malki said.

Malki's Palestinian Authority administers autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank but has no control over Hamas and the Gaza Strip.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blamed Israel for the escalation in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Cavusoglu and the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also slammed OIC members who reached recognition deals with Israel.

Watch video 02:06

Israel establishes ties with two Arab states

"There are a few who have lost their moral compass and voiced support for Israel," Cavusoglu said.

"If there are half-hearted statements within our own family, how could we criticize others who [don't] take our words seriously?"

ICRC urges 'maximum influence' to end violence 

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on world leaders to use their "maximum influence" to end the violence between Israel and the Palestinians. 

"The populations in Gaza and Israel are facing the most intense cycle of hostilities in years," the ICRC said in a statement ahead of a UN Security Council meeting. 

"The intensity of the conflict is something we have not seen before, with non-stop airstrikes in densely populated Gaza and rockets reaching big cities in Israel. As a result, children are dying on both sides," said ICRC director general Robert Mardini.  

fb, wd/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)