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Agencies
May 11, 2021

9 children among 20 killed in Israeli airstrikes at Gaza

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Agencies
May 11, 2021

By Sibte Arif

GAZA CITY: At least 20 people were killed, including nine children, and 65 others wounded in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets towards Israel, Hamas said.

Israel has said it was striking Hamas targets in retaliation for the dozens of rockets fired Monday from the enclave towards Israel, but has not confirmed its strikes had caused fatalities.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said the updated death toll included a 10-year-old girl, while Hamas has confirmed that one of its commanders was killed in a strike.

Adding to the sense of chaos, a huge fire engulfed trees in the compound that houses the mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and the Temple Mount sacred to Jews.

At least nine people were killed in Gaza — among them a senior Hamas commander — local authorities said. But it was not immediately clear whether they all died in Israeli strikes or from a misfired Hamas rocket.

The Gaza health ministry said nine Palestinians, including three children, were killed “in a series of strikes in northern Gaza”.

“We have started, and I repeat started, to attack military targets in Gaza,” Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

He said Israeli forces had targeted “a Hamas military operative,” while Hamas sources in Gaza confirmed to AFP that one of their commanders, Mohammed Fayyad, had been killed.

Conricus said he could “neither confirm nor deny” that its strikes caused all the nine fatalities, adding it may have been an “internal matter”. Tensions in Jerusalem have flared since Israeli riot police clashed with Palestinian worshippers on the last Friday of Ramazan in the city’s worst disturbances since 2017.

Nightly unrest since then at the Al-Aqsa compound has left hundreds of Palestinians wounded, drawn calls for de-escalation from the international community and sharp rebukes from across the Muslim world.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, on Monday warned Israel to withdraw all its forces from the mosque compound and the east Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, where looming evictions of Palestinian families have fuelled angry protests.

Sirens wailed across Jerusalem just after the 1500 GMT deadline set by Hamas as people in Jerusalem, including lawmakers in the Knesset legislature, evacuated into bunkers, amid warnings over loudspeaker in Hebrew and English.

The Israeli army said seven rockets were fired from the coastal strip into Israel, two of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system and three of which fell onto vacant lands.

A spokesman for Hamas armed wing the Qassam Brigades said that “a volley of rockets was fired towards the enemy in occupied Jerusalem in response to its crimes and aggression on the holy city and repression of its residents in Sheikh Jarrah and the Al-Aqsa mosque”.

“This is a message that the enemy must understand well: if you respond we will respond, and if you escalate we will escalate.”

One Gaza rocket impacted at Beit Shemesh south of Jerusalem, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israeli army said on Twitter that, separate to the rockets, “as a result of an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza, an Israeli civilian in a nearby vehicle was lightly injured” in the Gaza border area. Fears of further chaos in the Old City had temporarily eased when Israeli organisers of a march to celebrate the Jewish state’s 1967 capture of east Jerusalem cancelled the event.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Hamas had crossed a “red line” by directing missiles towards Jerusalem on Monday and that the Jewish state would “respond with force”.

“We are engaged in a fight on many fronts. Jerusalem, Gaza and other places in Israel. The terrorist organisations in Gaza crossed a red line on the night of Jerusalem Day, by firing rockets towards Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said.

“We will respond with force. We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, our capital, our citizens and our soldiers. Those who attack us will pay a heavy price,” he added.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged both Israel and the Palestinians to lower tensions and urged an immediate end to rocket fire by Hamas.

“All sides need to de-escalate, reduce tensions, take practical steps to calm things down,” Blinken said as he met his Jordanian counterpart in Washington.

Meanwhile, the US State Department has expressed concern over the violence in Jerusalem and Kabul and has called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take immediate steps to end escalating tensions.

Speaking with The News, the Urdu Spokesperson of the State Department Zed Tarar stressed on Israel and Palestinian authorities to patiently diffuse tensions rather than sparking emotional sentiments.

Expressing the grief over the loss of human lives in recent Kabul blast, Zed Tarar clarified that the American forces have been withdrawing from Afghanistan but the United States (US) would not leave Afghanistan alone. The US spokesman said the United States would keep working with its allies for peace as well as support for Afghan forces and the people in future.

Referring to the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic in South Asia, Zed Tarar said that the US was determined to assist not only India but also Pakistan to tackle the pandemic.

The Urdu Spokesperson of the State Department Zed Tarar mentioned that Pakistan received 1.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine delivered by COVAX programme. He further added that the second batch of the coronavirus vaccines will be supplied to Pakistan through COVAX soon.

COVAX programme aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 to cover 20% of the most vulnerable people in poor and middle-income countries.

“The US is deeply concerned by the severe COVID wave in Pakistan and outbreak in India”, stated Zed Tarar, adding that they are working around the clock to deploy more supplies and support to our friends and partners as they bravely battle this pandemic

Zed Tarar hinted that vaccine plant could be set up in South Asia, but that the raw material challenges existed for developing the vaccine.

He explained that US President Joe Biden had already announced $2 billion to make the world safer through vaccination program and that economic activity would be difficult to restore until vaccinations were completed.