Israel has unleashed another wave of air strikes across Gaza, killing at least one Palestinian and wounding several even as expectations rose that a ceasefire could be coming.
A senior Hamas official is optimistic a ceasefire was within reach even as Israeli warplanes carried out new air strikes in Gaza on the 11th day of its assault
Israel carried out over a dozen air strikes early on Thursday morning.
Earlier, a tepid call by US President Joe Biden for “significant de-escalation” by Israel in Gaza was rebuffed by Tel Aviv with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterating the assault will continue.
Israel’s air strikes and artillery assaults on the besieged Palestinian enclave have killed 230 people, including 65 children, as aerial bombardments worsen Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation.
An Egyptian security source said the sides had agreed in principle to a ceasefire after help from mediators but that details were still being negotiated in secret.
“I think ongoing efforts regarding the ceasefire will succeed,” Hamas political official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV.
“I expect a ceasefire to be reached within a day or two, and the ceasefire will be on the basis of mutual agreement.”
Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV reported that UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland was meeting Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar.
1/2 I am appalled by the horrific incident in Al-Shati camp which claimed the lives of 8 Palestinian children, in an Israeli airstrike. Since 10 May, 40 children killed in #Gaza by Israeli strikes; 2 children killed in #Israel by #Palestine|ian rockets. I mourn their short lives.
— Tor Wennesland (@TWennesland) May 15, 2021
More air strikes
Explosions shook Gaza and orange flares lit up the pre-dawn sky, with bombing raids also reported in the central town of Deir al Balah and the southern town of Khan Younis
As the sun rose, residents surveyed the rubble from at least five family homes destroyed in Khan Younis. There were also heavy air strikes on a commercial thoroughfare in central Gaza
Medics said four people were wounded in an air strike on the town of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Activists say Israel is not giving people enough – or any – warning in the form of the expected text message, phone call, or initial strike on the roof.
Many bereaved Palestinians in Gaza say Israel is bombing their family members without warning, while others say their telephones have rung, but they were not given enough notice.
Israel’s military said its aircraft early on Thursday struck what it said was a “weapons storage unit” located in Gaza and “military infrastructure located in the residences” of Hamas commanders, including in Khan Younis.
Israel’s bombing campaign has left the two million population in Gaza, under Israeli blockade for 14 years, desperate for relief.
Hospitals have been overwhelmed, and some 75,000 civilians have fled their homes, seeking refuge in UN-run schools and other public buildings, the United Nations says.
The International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday said that people “urgently need respite from non-stop hostilities.”
“People in Gaza – exhausted from sleepless nights, from constant fear, worry and grief – need a window during which they can go outside and about their business without fear of being killed or injured, or of witnessing death,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC director for the Near and Middle East, said in a statement.
Rocket sirens blared early on Thursday in the southern Israeli town of Beersheba and in areas bordering Gaza. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
The Israeli military says more than 3,700 rockets have been fired since May 10, with hundreds falling short and landing inside Gaza.
Gaza’s rockets are mostly repurposed handmade weapons in comparison to Israel’s military might, which gets over $16 billion for defence spending and $3.8 billion from the US annually for a 10-year period.
Biden seeks ‘significant de-escalation’
Netanyahu has repeatedly hailed what he has described as support from the United States, Israel’s main ally, for a right to “self-defence.”
But Biden’s attempt on Wednesday night to show it was time to lower the intensity of the conflict fell flat after the Israeli PM denied a slow-down of the offensive was in sight.
The 193-member United Nations General Assembly is due to meet on the conflict on Thursday with the participation of several foreign ministers but is not expected to take action.
The US mission said it would not support a French push for a resolution in the 15-member UN Security Council, saying it believed such actions would “undermine efforts to de-escalate” violence.
Hamas began firing rockets on May 10 in retaliation for what it called Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Israeli police deployed heavy-handed tactics against Palestinian worshippers in and around Al Aqsa Mosque in the last week of the holy month.
A major flashpoint in recent days has been a court case that could end with Palestinian families evicted from occupied East Jerusalem homes in Sheikh Jarrah claimed by Jewish settlers.
If the court rules for the settlers, Palestinians living in the neighbourhood would be displaced for a second time, the first was when they were moved into Sheikh Jarrah as refugees by Jordan in the 1950s.
Palestinians protesting in solidarity with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah have been targeted by Israeli forces.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian woman who the military said had fired a rifle at troops and civilians on Wednesday.
At least 21 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops or other incidents in the West Bank since May 10, Palestinian officials said.
The conflict has also spilled over to the Israel-Lebanon frontier.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 – a move that has never been recognised by the international community.
Four rockets were launched towards Israel from Lebanon on Wednesday, the third such incident since the Gaza conflict began, the military said. There was no claim of responsibility.