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May 12, 2021

20 Palestinians martyred as Israel steps up attacks

May 12, 2021

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Tuesday to intensify attacks on Gaza as Israeli airstrikes have so for killed 28 Palestinians in an escalation of tensions sparked by unrest in Jerusalem.

World powers urged calm and Muslim countries voiced outrage amid the worst flare-up of violence in years that saw Hamas rain down rockets on Israel while the Jewish state launched attacks with fighter jets and attack helicopters.

On the Palestinian side, 10 children were among 28 people killed in the blockaded Gaza Strip, and over 150 people there were reported wounded, many rescued from the smouldering ruins of buildings hit in the crowded enclave.

On the Israeli side, rockets fired from Palestinian side killed two women in Ashkelon, just north of Gaza.

Netanyahu warned that the Israel Defense Forces would now intensify their attacks, which the army said have targeted military sites and claimed the lives of at least 17 Hamas and Islamist Jihad commanders. “Since yesterday, the army has carried out hundreds of attacks against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza ... and we will further intensify the power of our attacks,” Netanyahu said.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, “will be hit in ways that it does not expect,” the prime minister warned.

“We have eliminated commanders, hit many important targets and we have decided to attack harder and increase the pace of attacks.”

Tensions that have simmered for weeks flared last Friday when Israeli riot police clashed with large crowds of Palestinians at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, on the last Friday of Ramadan. “They shot everyone, young and old people,” claimed Palestinian man Siraj, 24, about Israeli security forces in a confrontation in which he suffered a spleen injury from a rubber bullet.

The international community has voiced growing alarm, although the UN Security Council at a meeting failed to pass a resolution.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “all sides need to de-escalate, reduce tensions, take practical steps to calm things down”. He strongly condemned the Hamas rocket attacks, saying they “need to stop immediately”.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned “the use of indiscriminate weapons, such as the rockets being fired into Israel” but also warned that “Israel must respect international humanitarian law” and take precautions to avoid civilian deaths. Human rights group Amnesty International accused Israel of using “abusive and wanton force against largely peaceful Palestinian protesters”, describing some of the measures as “disproportionate and unlawful”.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also unequivocally condemned the recent use of brutal force by the Israeli forces against Palestinians and vowed to draw world community s attention to the atrocities.

At the an urgent meeting held in New York following the attacks against worshippers around the Al Aqsa Mosque as also the escalation of clashes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and Gaza the OIC ambassadors called the assaults against Palestinians against all humanitarian norms and human rights laws.

In this regard Pakistan s UN Ambassador Munir Akram s proposal for issuing a joint statement deploring the Israeli actions against Palestinians was unanimously endorsed by the OIC meeting.

Ambassador Akram underscored the need for unequivocal and strong solidarity with all Palestinians.

Meanwhile in France Deputy Foreign Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne tells French lawmakers “Quite clearly, we call for a proportionate use of force by the Israeli authorities.”

France will “continue to work” to ensure a political solution to the crisis and the underlying Palestinian conflict, he adds.

“These events show that a political solution is needed, and with regards to this we will never take a backseat,” he says.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian adds in a statement that “all participants must demonstrate the utmost restraint and avoid all provocations or incitement to hate, in order to end the violence whose primary victims are the Palestinian and Israeli populations.”

Diplomatic sources told AFP that Egypt and Qatar, who have mediated past Israeli-Hamas conflicts, were attempting to calm tensions.

However, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told an Arab League meeting that, although Cairo had “extensively reached out” to Israel and other concerned countries to prevent further a deterioration, “we did not get the necessary response”.

Meanwhile, large protests were held in solidarity with Palestinians in Muslim-majority countries, including Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey.

In Amman, outside the Israeli embassy, protesters held up banners that read “Thank you Gaza”, burnt Israeli flags and chanted “Shame, Shame the embassy is still there”, “Zionists, we dig your graves” and “Death to Israel”. —AFP/ News report