Israel and Hamas continue attacks

·3-min read

Israel has bombarded Gaza with air strikes and Palestinian militants have resumed cross-border rocket fire after an overnight lull during which the UN sent a fuel convoy into the enclave, where it says 52,000 people are now displaced.

Israeli leaders said they would press on, for now, with an offensive to destroy the capabilities of the armed factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad, amid calls by the United States and other world powers for an end to the conflict.

Two Thai workers were killed and seven people were wounded in a rocket strike on an Israeli farm just over the Gaza border on Tuesday, police said. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

"The fighting will not cease until we bring total and long-term quiet," Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said in a video statement, blaming Hamas for the worst escalation in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in years.

Hamas began firing rockets eight days ago in retaliation for what it said were Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians in Jerusalem. Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Israel's 21 per cent Arab minority staged a general strike on Tuesday in solidarity.

Gaza medical officials say 213 Palestinians have been killed, including 61 children and 36 women. Israeli authorities say 12 people have been killed in Israel, including two children.

Nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza strip have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary care health centres, the United Nations humanitarian agency said. Some 47,000 of the 52,000 displaced had fled to UN schools.

Israel said more than 3450 rockets have been launched at it from Gaza, some falling short and others shot down by its Iron Dome air defences. It says its forces have killed around 130 Hamas fighters and another 30 from Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza, Ramadan clashes between police and worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and a court case by Israeli settlers to evict Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem have caused anger among Palestinians.

General strikes were held on Tuesday in East Jerusalem, Arab towns within Israel and in the West Bank cities with posts on social media bearing a Palestinian flag and urging solidarity "from the sea to the river".

Palestinian businesses across East Jerusalem were shuttered, including in the walled Old City, and in the mixed Jewish-Arab port city of Haifa in northern Israel, protest organiser Raja Zaatar told Reuters the strike had closed 90 per cent of businesses in Arab neighbourhoods.

Yuval Steinitz, an Israeli cabinet minister from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, deplored the strike as "another blow to the delicate fabric of relations and cooperation between Jews and Arabs".

Gaza residents said Israel was keeping up intense air strikes. In Israel, sirens indicated rocket salvoes were focussed on border communities - despite a threat by Hamas on Monday to renew longer-range attacks on Tel Aviv.

Demonstrations over the Gaza crisis and recent Jerusalem tensions were also planned for Ramallah, Hebron and other Palestinian cities across the West Bank.

Strike participation in Ramallah seemed to be high, with the main highway from the city centre to the Qalandia checkpoint giving access to Jerusalem almost completely deserted, a Reuters witness said.

In signs of a possible spread of the violence, the Israeli military said its troops shot dead a Palestinian who tried to attack them with a gun and improvised explosives in the occupied West Bank and that it downed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) near the border with Jordan on Tuesday.

Calling Netanyahu on Monday night, US President Joe Biden said Israel had the right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks but encouraged it to make every effort to protect civilians, the White House said.

Egypt and UN mediators also stepped up diplomatic efforts, while the UN General Assembly will meet to discuss the violence on Thursday.