Israel bombed the home of Hamas’s chief in Gaza early on Sunday and the Islamist group fired rocket barrages at Tel Aviv as hostilities stretched into a seventh day with no sign of abating, Reuters reported.
At least four Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes across the coastal enclave, health officials said, and many were injured as the sounds of heavy bombardment roared through the night.
Reuters reported that Israelis dashed for bomb shelters as sirens warning of incoming rocket fire blared in Tel Aviv and the southern city of Beersheba. Around 10 people were injured while running for shelters, medics said.
At least 149 have been killed in Gaza since the violence began on Monday, including 41 children, health officials said. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.
Envoys from the United States, United Nations and Egypt were working to restore calm but have yet to show any signs of progress. The U.N. Security Council was due to meet later on Sunday to discuss the worst outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in years.
Both Israel and Hamas have insisted they would continue their cross-border fire, a day after Israel destroyed a 12-storey building in Gaza City that had housed the U.S. Associated Press and Qatar-based Al Jazeera media operations.
The Israel military said the al-Jala building was a legitimate military target, containing Hamas military offices, and that it had given warnings to civilians to get out of the building before the attack.
The AP condemned the attack, and asked Israel to put forward evidence. “We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” the news organisation said in a statement.
In what it called a reprisal for Israel’s destruction of the al-Jala building, Hamas fired rockets at Tel Aviv and towns in southern Israel early on Sunday, Reuters reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late on Saturday that Israel was “still in the midst of this operation, it is still not over and this operation will continue as long as necessary.”
In a burst of air strikes early on Sunday, Israel targeted the home of Yehya Al-Sinwar, who since 2017 has headed the political and military wings of Hamas in Gaza, the group’s TV station said.
Another air strike killed a Gaza neurologist and wounded his wife and daughter, Palestinian medics and relatives said.
Hamas began its rocket assault on Monday after weeks of tensions over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Speaking to crowds of protesters in the Qatari capital of Doha, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said late on Saturday that the underlying cause of the hostilities was Jerusalem.
“The Zionists thought … they could demolish Al-Aqsa mosque. They thought they could displace our people in Sheikh Jarrah,” said Haniyeh.
“I say to Netanyahu: do not play with fire,” he continued, amid cheers from the crowd. “The title of this battle today, the title of the war, and the title of the intifada, is Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” using the Arabic word for ‘uprising’.
Reuters reported Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups have fired around 2,300 rockets from Gaza since Monday, the Israeli military said on Saturday. It said about 1,000 were intercepted by missile defences and 380 fell into the Gaza Strip.
Israel has launched more than 1,000 air and artillery strikes into the densely populated coastal strip, saying they were aimed at Hamas and other militant targets.
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Israel’s new government begins, Netanyahu era ends
The first Israeli government in 12 years not led by Benjamin Netanyahu got down to business on Monday, with the former prime minister shying away from a handover ceremony with successor Naftali Bennett.
The right-wing leader’s record run in office ended on Sunday with parliament approving, by a razor-thin majority of 60-59, a new administration led by Bennett, a nationalist whose views mirror Netanyahu’s on many issues.
In Tel Aviv, thousands turned out to welcome the result, after four inconclusive elections in two years.
“I am here celebrating the end of an era in Israel,” said Erez Biezuner in Rabin Square.
“We want them to succeed and to unite us again,” he added, as flag-waving supporters of the new government sang and danced around him.
A combative Netanyahu, 71, said he would be back sooner than expected.
“If we are destined to go into the opposition, we will do so with our heads held high until we can topple it,” he told parliament before Bennett was sworn in.
The traditional handover ceremony was not scheduled at the prime minister’s office, where Netanyahu was expected to meet Bennett later on Monday to brief him on state matters.
The last time Netanyahu was unseated as Israel‘s leader, in 1999, he ended his first term in office with a glass of wine in his hand and affable words of welcome to then-Labour party leader Ehud Barak, who defeated him at the polls.
“Sour, grumpy, not stately – Trump-like until the final moment,” Yossi Verter, a political affairs commentator, wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.
Asked why there would be no such scene now, Topaz Luk, a senior aide to Netanyahu, told Army Radio: “That’s just what happens.”
Netanyahu, he said, was “filled with motivation to topple this dangerous government as quickly as possible”. Luk declined to disclose Netanyahu’s comeback strategy, pointing only to the new administration’s slim margin of support in parliament.
Luk said the incoming government was receiving briefings from Netanyahu’s diplomatic and security advisers to ensure an orderly handover.
After holding its first meeting late on Sunday, Bennett’s new cabinet was invited for a traditional group photograph, showcasing incoming governments, at the official residence of President Reuven Rivlin.
With little in common other than a desire to unseat Netanyahu, the patchwork coalition of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties largely plans to avoid sweeping moves on hot-button issues such as policy towards the Palestinians, and to focus instead on domestic reforms.
Palestinians were unmoved by the change of administration, predicting that Bennett, a former defence chief who advocates annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, would pursue the same right-wing agenda as Netanyahu.
Under the coalition deal, Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew and high-tech millionaire, will be replaced as prime minister in 2023 by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, a popular former television host.
U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated Bennett and Lapid, saying he looked forward to strengthening the “close and enduring” relationship between the two countries.
Addressing parliament on Sunday, Bennett put Biden on notice that he would follow in Netanyahu’s footsteps in opposing any U.S. return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal abrogated by former President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu was Israel‘s longest-serving leader, and had served consecutive terms as prime minister since 2009.
He used his global stature to resist calls for Palestinian statehood, describing it as a danger to Israel‘s security. He sought to bypass the Palestinian issue by forging diplomatic deals with regional Arab states, on the back of shared fears of Iran and its nuclear programme.
But he was a divisive figure at home and abroad, weakened by repeated failure to clinch a decisive election victory, and by a corruption trial in which he has denied any wrongdoing.
Gas pipe explosion kills 12 in China
A gas pipe explosion in a residential community in a central Chinese city killed 12 people and injured 138, state media CCTV reported Sunday.
One hundred-fifty people were evacuated following the deadly accident in the city of Shiyan in Hubei province, it said, of which 37 are critically injured.
The explosion caused a food market building to collapse at 6:30 a.m., local media reported. Footage from CCTV shows wreckage and shattered glass covering the first floor of the collapsed building, where people were having breakfast and buying groceries when explosion happened.
People can be seen walking in a rubble-strewn street between damaged buildings.
Hospitals in Shiyan are asking residents to donate blood, as the injured are still under emergency treatment, CCTV said.
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