Israel says Gaza assault to continue on day of Palestinian protests and strikes

Further clashes as Netanyahu issues warning and world powers ramp up ceasefire efforts

Palestinian paramedics evacuate a wounded protester amid clashes with Israeli security forces near the settlement of Beit El and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images

Palestinian paramedics evacuate a wounded protester amid clashes with Israeli security forces near the settlement of Beit El and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images

 

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu told mayors in southern Israel on Tuesday that the operation in the Gaza Strip will continue for several more days, despite mediation efforts to end the conflict with militants, led by Egypt and the US.

Mr Netanyahu promised that any resumption of rocket fire towards the Gaza border region after the fighting is over will be met with a harsh response.

“Our enemies see what price we exact for aggression against us, I’m sure they’ll draw the conclusion,” he said, adding that the operation will go on “as long as needed to restore calm for the citizens of Israel”.

On the ninth day of the conflict Israel hit more militant targets in Gaza including missile launch pads and more underground tunnels. Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters continued firing rockets into Israel.

In what was perceived as a major propaganda victory for Hamas, Israeli Arabs observed a general strike on Tuesday to protest at Israel’s attacks on Gaza, while West Bank Palestinians staged a “day of rage” called by Hamas and Fatah.

Palestinians protesting near the settlement of Beit El and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images
Palestinians protesting near the settlement of Beit El and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images

At a number of West Bank locations there were exchanges of fire and at least two Palestinians were killed and a number of Israeli soldiers were injured.

“The first priority for the Palestinian political leadership now is to have Israel stop its crimes and massacres against our people in Gaza,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee.

Mediation efforts

US president Joe Biden said he supported a ceasefire during a phone call with Mr Netanyahu on Monday, according to a statement from the White House. Though the support for a ceasefire represents a shift in the US attitude towards the conflict, Mr Biden stopped short of calling for an immediate end to violence or making any further public comments.

The United States is continuing to block the United Nations Security Council from issuing a joint statement. For the fourth time in eight days, the council convened to address the crisis in Israel and the occupied territories on Tuesday, but no statement was agreed.

A Palestinian youth looks for salvageable items amid the rubbe of the Kuhail building which was destroyed in an early morning Israeli air strike on Gaza CityPhotograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images
A Palestinian youth looks for salvageable items amid the rubbe of the Kuhail building which was destroyed in an early morning Israeli air strike on Gaza CityPhotograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking after the meeting, Ireland’s ambassador to the United Nations Geraldine Byrne-Nason said: “Conflict is raging, resulting in utterly devastating humanitarian impact. The security council has yet to utter a single word publicly. Council members have a collective responsibility for international peace and security. It is high time the council steps up, breaks its silence and speaks out.”

As Mr Biden continues to feel pressure from a growing number of Democrats to take a more robust stance on the crisis, and concern over the approval of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel in recent weeks, Republican senators drafted a resolution underlining America’s support for Israel.

EU foreign affairs ministers, except for Hungary, on Tuesday adopted a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East.

“The priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a ceasefire,” foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after a video conference of ministers.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli security forces amid clashes near the settlement of Beit El and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images
A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli security forces amid clashes near the settlement of Beit El and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images

More than 200 Palestinians have died in the current round of fighting, including 61 children, with more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Agricultural workers

Two Thai agricultural workers were killed when a packing house in an Israeli border community received a direct hit on Tuesday. They became the 11th and 12th people to die in Israel.

Six rockets were fired from Lebanon towards northern Israel on Monday night but fell short, landing inside Lebanon. It is believed a small Palestinian militia was responsible. Israel responded with artillery fire.

And in northern Israel, a drone launched from Jordan was intercepted by the Israeli air force.

An Israeli border police member confronts a Palestinian man during protests at Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images
An Israeli border police member confronts a Palestinian man during protests at Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

There was a rare lull in the fighting of six hours on Tuesday morning to allow five Israeli lorries to deliver much-needed petrol to the beleaguered coastal enclave.

The fuel was transferred at the border to trucks belonging to UNRWA, the United Nations refugee agency. The rocket fire resumed shortly after the transfer was completed.

The current escalation began last Monday with a massive rocket salvo from Gaza aimed at the Jerusalem area, following days of clashes in the city, including around the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City. Palestinian anger was fuelled by plans to expel residents from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood to make way for Jewish families.

Meanwhile, Israeli police are continuing their crackdown on Arab and Jewish rioters following the wave of communal violence that swept the country. Some 1,000 suspects have been arrested– 850 Muslim Arab Israelis and 150 Jews.