Israel masses forces near Gaza as air strikes continue: LIVE NEWS

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Death toll in Gaza rises to 87, health authorities say, as Israel boosts troops and tanks near the besieged Palestinian enclave.


AdChoiceTV News — Israeli fighter jets have continued attacking high-rise buildings and other targets in the Gaza Strip as Israel boosted its deployment of troops and tanks near the besieged Palestinian enclave on Thursday.

Palestinians marked the first day of the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday under relentless aerial bombardment with Gaza’s health ministry saying at least 87 people, including 18 children, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began late on Monday. More than 530 others have been wounded.

Palestinians walk next to the remains of a destroyed 15-storey building after being hit by Israeli air strikes on Gaza City [Khalil Hamra/AP]

At least six Israelis and one Indian national have also been killed. The Israeli army said hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza towards various locations in Israel and they have added reinforcements near the enclave’s eastern lands.

There have also been more violent confrontations between Jewish Israelis and Palestinian citizens of Israel in several cities inside Israel.

Here are the latest updates:

No Israeli forces are inside Gaza following bombardment

Al Jazeera correspondent Safwat al-Kahlout, reporting from Gaza, said Israeli forces have not entered Gaza following a barrage of artillery and air raids in the north of Gaza.

“I can confirm that there are no Israeli troops inside Gaza,” al-Kahlout said.

“We have been contacting our sources deployed or living near the border. There is no indication of Israeli troops inside Gaza,” he said.

Palestinian-American congresswoman rips US leaders

Democratic US Representative Rashida Tlaib, the US Congress’s only Palestinian-American member, delivered an emotional speech on the House floor Thursday, slamming President Joe Biden and other top US leaders for offering statements that she says do not acknowledge what Palestinians are currently experiencing amid the Gaza fighting.

“To read the statements from President Biden, Secretary Blinken, General Austin and leaders of both parties, you would hardly know Palestinians existed at all,” Tlaib said.

“There has been no recognition of the attack on Palestinian families being ripped from their homes right now. No mention of children being detained or murdered. No recognition of a sustained campaign of harassment and terror by Israeli police against worshippers kneeling down and praying and celebrating the holiest days in one of their holiest places, no mention of Al Aqsa being surrounded by violence, tear gas, smoke, while people pray.”

UN Security Council to meet to discuss Israel and Gaza, US says

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the UN Security Council would meet on May 16 to discuss the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The US, a permanent member of the 15-nation Security Council, had objected to a public discussion on Friday. The council held two private meetings on the escalating fighting between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza this week.

Palestinian official condemns Israeli attack on north Gaza

Palestinian diplomat Husam Zomlot tweeted an image of flames and smoke in northern Gaza following an artillery bombardment from Israel.

Zumlot is the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom and an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli forces attack northern Gaza, hundreds driven from their homes

Correspondent Safwat al-Kahlout, reporting from Gaza, described a sudden and huge wave of Israeli attacks from the air, artillery and tanks concentrated in the north of the Gaza Strip.

“We could hear lots of explosions,” al-Kahlout said.

Following the Israeli strikes, there were calls for ambulances for people who were injured. Ambulance services had difficulty reaching the area because roads linking to the north were damaged by the Israeli bombardment, al-Kahlout said.

Hundreds of families were driven from their homes and forced to take shelter from the bombing, he said.


Israeli forces announce air and ground troops are attacking Gaza

In a statement on Twitter, the Israel Defense Forces said military forces are attacking Gaza.

Screenshot from Twitter of Israel Defense Forces

Harry Fawcett, reporting from southern Israel, described sounds of artillery being fired into Gaza and machine-gun fire from a helicopter as a column of Israeli armoured vehicles headed toward the border.

Fawcett saw “the first sort of major movement of heavy armour that we had seen so far. Tanks, tracked vehicles, heading in a line south towards Gaza at the same time as there was this extremely intensive artillery barrage lasting about an hour.”

It was unclear whether it was the start of a ground invasion, or the “warning of a potential” invasion, he said.

Gaza-Israel operations continue

The operations on both sides were still going on, but there has been a bit of a lull in terms of the most recent rocket fire out of Gaza.

“However, we are still hearing regularly artillery heading into Gaza from locations nearby.

“Also in the last ten minutes, the sound of machine-gun fire apparently coming from nearby. Helicopter[s] as well, and so the situation remains that this is a continuing military attack that the Israelis seem intent on continuing.

“What we saw earlier was the first of a major movement of heavy armour that we’ve seen so far, tanks, tracked vehicles, heading in a line south towards Gaza, at the same time there was this extremely intensive artillery barrage lasting about an hour, then there was a pause, and then another big artillery barrage coming later.

“It’s not yet clear whether this is a ground invasion, or whether it is a kind of a warning of the potential of a ground invasion. Either way, it is already having a devastating impact it seems in Northern Gaza,” he added.


Gaza death toll climbs as Israel escalates aerial bombardment

The death toll in Gaza has climbed above 100 as Israel pounded the enclave with more air strikes and artillery shells, while Hamas sent a heavy barrage of rockets deep into Israel, even as Egyptian negotiators held in-person mediation talks with the two sides.

The four days of cross-border violence showed no sign of abating as Palestinians marked the first day of the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday on Thursday, and the violence has also spread to mixed communities of Jews and Arabs in Israel, a new front in the long conflict.

Read more here.

A ball of fire engulfing the al-Walid building which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza city [AFP]

Pakistan reaffirms support for Palestinians

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has spoken by telephone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the deteriorating situation between Israel and Palestinians.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said that Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for the rights of Palestinian people. The ministry said Khan strongly condemned the attacks on worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, as well as deadly airstrikes by Israel in Gaza.


Israel shells north Gaza, destroys houses in the south

Al Jazeera’s Safwat Al Kahlout, reporting from Gaza City, said that in a new development Israel has begun firing barrages of artillery shells into the north of the Gaza Strip.

“Hundreds of families are now evacuating their homes in the north of Gaza because of the heavy artillery shells landing. The ambulance services told us that some of the artillery shells had directly hit some houses in the so-called Bedouin village which is very close to the border,” he said.

“It’s the same scenario of the war of 2014 when hundreds of families also evacuated their homes because of the random shooting.”

Al Kahlout said the Gaza ambulance service told Al Jazeera it has also received appeals for assistance from citizens in the south of the Gaza strip, mainly in Rafah, as Israeli jets had destroyed houses in air raids without warning.

“They believe that there are lots of people under the rubble. So far the ambulance services say they have managed to retrieve five bodies – including children and women – from one of the destroyed houses.”

Blinken says rocket attacks against Israel must cease

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against Israel must cease, and also said the United States had been clear that Israel has the right to defend itself.

Blinken made the comments at a joint briefing with Australia’s foreign minister.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

Gaza death toll rises to over 100

More than 100 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been killed over the past four days of military conflict with Israel, officials in the blockaded coastal enclave.

According to the health ministry in Gaza, 103 people were killed, including 27 children and 11 women, while 580 people have wounded since Monday.

Palestinians carry the bodies of 13 people killed in Israeli air strikes over Gaza [Mahmoud Hams/AFP]

At least three rockets fired from south Lebanon toward Israel

Israeli and Arab media reported that three rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israel.

Israel begins firing artillery and tank shells into Gaza

Israel has begun firing artillery and tank shells into Gaza, and scores of families are fleeing their homes, Palestinian witnesses in the Gaza Strip.

The use of artillery fire marks an escalation in Israel’s four-day-old offensive in Gaza and raises the likelihood of civilian casualties.

The attacks occurred in northern communities near the Israeli frontier and in eastern Gaza City.

Resident Ibrahim Jamal said about 200 people have sought shelter in a United Nations school.

Biden urges reduction in rocket attacks

United States President Joe Biden called for a de-escalation of violence in the Middle East as the conflict in Gaza intensified, saying he wants to see a significant reduction in rocket attacks.

Biden, speaking to reporters at the White House, also said he expects to have more talks with leaders in the region. He added that he has not seen a “a significant overreaction” by Israel to rocket attacks by Hamas from Gaza.

“The question is … how they get to a point where there is a significant reduction in the attacks, particularly the rocket attacks, that are indiscriminately fired into population centres,” Biden said.

Biden spoke on Wednesday with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said conversations were continuing between US diplomats, military and intelligence officers with counterparts in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and others about a de-escalation of violence.


Israel calls up 9,000 reservists as troops mass on Gaza border

Israel’s defence minister has approved the mobilisation of 9,000 more reservist troops amid fighting with Hamas, and Israel’s military spokesman says forces are massing on the border with the Gaza Strip.

The defence ministry said that the latest mobilisation approved by Defence Minister Benny Gantz was an “exceptional call-up”.

US objects to UN meeting on Israel, Gaza on Friday

The United States has objected to a request by Norway, China and Tunisia for a public meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday to discuss the worsening violence between Israel and Palestinian fighters, diplomats said.

Diplomats said Washington cited diplomatic efforts as the reason for their objection, saying a council discussion would not be productive, but left the door open for a possible meeting on Tuesday.

‘A nightmare’: Gaza resident recounts Israeli air strike

Yousef Al Hammash, a resident of the Gaza Strip, told Al Jazeera: “Two days ago, I was in my house with my pregnant wife and three-year-old daughter, trying to convince ourselves that it’s safe to be home.

“At 6pm, an air drone suddenly hit the building. Then came an air strike which landed on the apartment below. I had to flee right away because we expected a rocket next.

“I couldn’t take anything. The next day I returned for two minutes to try to get some clothes and medicine, but then they [Israel] hit again.

“Again, today I had to flee my grandparents’ house with all my family. All we can do is move from place to another place and try to convince ourselves that this time it will be safe. It’s been a nightmare.”

A Palestinian man checks the damage caused by an Israeli air strike at a building in Khan Yunis [Said Khatib/AFP]

Panic at Ben Gurion Airport

Social media users said that travellers at Israel’s main airport, Ben Gurion, were scared and panicked as they ran for shelter after a rocket fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip landed near the airport.

Germany warns of protests as conflict intensifies

Authorities warned of further protests in Germany over the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

On Wednesday, German police detained more than a dozen men in three cities suspected of damaging a synagogue, burning Israeli flags and starting a fire at a Jewish memorial site.

“Security agencies expect intensifying protest activities by Palestinians in Germany as well as parts of the leftist movement,” an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Some of the suspects in the earlier incidents told police the Israel-Palestinian violence had motivated them to throw stones at a synagogue.

Gaza death toll reaches 87

The number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip has now risen to 87, including 18 children and eight women, the local health ministry has said.

At least 530 others have been wounded amid the continuing violence.

A Palestinian man looks at the destruction of a building hit by Israeli air strikes in Gaza City [Khalil Hamra/AP]

France asks police to ban pro-Palestinian Paris protest

France’s interior minister asked police to ban a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris this weekend over the conflict with Israel, fearing a repeat of clashes during a similar situation in 2014.

Activists had called the protest in the Barbes district of northern Paris to demonstrate against Israel’s use of force in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire by the militant group Hamas.

“I have asked the Paris police chief to ban the protests on Saturday linked to the recent tensions in the Middle East,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on Twitter.

“Serious disturbances to public order were seen in 2014,” he added, urging police chiefs elsewhere in France to also remain vigilant over demonstrations.

In a circular seen by AFP, Darmanin also urged local police chiefs to assure the “protection of places of worship, schools, cultural centres and businesses of the Jewish community.”

Women pose for a selfie for Eid al-Fitr at the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem [Mahmoud Illean/AP]

Celebrities weigh in on Israel-Palestine conflict

An escalation in the Israel-Palestine conflict, which has seen dozens killed in a matter of days, has prompted international concern and worries about the potential of an all-out war.

The conflict has gripped the international news agenda and led to global calls for de-escalation.

It has also attracted the attention of leading public figures and celebrities, including the Palestinian-Dutch models Bella and Gigi Hadid, the singer Rihanna, Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, and Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

Bella Hadid on the left and Gal Gadot on the right [Reuters]

Palestinian citizens of Israel report attacks by Israeli security forces

Riya Al-Sanah, a Palestinian activist and resident of Haifa, told Al Jazeera: “We need to set the record straight on something. This is not a civil war. We Palestinians in so-called Israel are a colonised people.”

“This started in 1948 with the establishment of the Israeli state and the colonisation of Palestine. So, it’s not correct to describe it [the inter-communal violence] as a civil war. This situation is the continuation of a process that started a long time ago.

“There’s quite a lot of fear amongst Palestinian communities. We’re not only facing structured violence by the Israeli state, police institutions and the military, we’re also seeing organised and armed mobs of Zionists roaming the streets, looking for Palestinians and attacking them,” he said.

“Yesterday in Haifa, mobs that roamed the streets looking for Palestinians to attack were being protected by the police. The police themselves went into people’s homes and attacked them viciously and violently.”


Putin and UN chief call for end to violence

Russian President Vladimir Putin and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed during a video call for an end to fighting between Israel and Palestinians, the Kremlin said.

“In light of the escalation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it was noted that the main goal is to stop violent acts from both sides and ensure the safety of the civilian population,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Palestinian citizens of Israel report attacks by Jewish mobs

Palestinian families in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Haifa told Al Jazeera Arabic that mobs of Jewish Israelis were marking the homes of the city’s Arab community on Wednesday night to help identify them.

Meanwhile, others used lethal force to attack Arabs in their homes while police forces stood by and watched.

“Hundreds if not thousands of settlers [Jewish Israelis] attacked Arab neighbourhoods in Haifa last night,” said Heba, an Arab resident of Haifa.

“They were asking where the Arabs live. They attacked us in our home with stones under the protection of the security forces. There were tens of police officers, cars and even horses. We had nothing to protect ourselves within our own homes,” she added.

Heba said “Settlers went around marking Arab homes with red marks. They vowed to come back to attack us.”

“They are attacking all Arabs whether they are Muslim, Christian or Druze. We are terribly scared that they will come back and attack us in our homes and on the streets. We have nothing to protect ourselves against this state-sponsored violence.nullnullnull

“No one was arrested. The police actually protected them. These groups feel protected by the state, police and military and this violence,” she told Al Jazeera Arabic.

Israel looks to backup airport as flight cancellations mount

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa and Iberia all cancelled flights to Tel Aviv as European carriers joined US airlines in avoiding flying to Israel, which has activated a backup airport in the far south as a precaution against rockets from Gaza.

“The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority, and we continue to monitor the situation closely,” British Airways said after cancelling its flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport for Thursday.

Smoke rises following Israeli air strikes on a building in Gaza City [Hatem Moussa/AP]

Egypt delegation in Tel Aviv for ceasefire talks

An Egyptian delegation is in Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli officials as part of efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the escalating conflict with Gaza, Egyptian intelligence officials said.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to brief the media. The same delegation met with Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip first, they said, and crossed into Israel by land. Egypt has played a mediating role in the past between the sides.

Long-range missile fired towards Ramon Airport: Hamas

The spokesman for Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades said the armed wing has for the first time fired a rocket towards Ramon Airport south of the country.

“The Ayyash 250 missile, with a range greater than 250km has been launched at Ramon Airport, about 220km from Gaza,” Abu Obeida said.

The rocket is named after Yahya Ayyash, one of Hamas’s leading operatives who was assassinated by Israel in 1996.

Abu Obeida called the launch of the rocket part of the al-Qassam Brigades’ response to the killing of its senior commanders.

PM Johnson says UK wants urgent de-escalation

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain wanted to see an urgent de-escalation of violence in Israel.

“Certainly we in the UK are very sad to see what is happening and the cycle of violence that now seems to be taking place,” Johnson told reporters.

“I think it’s important that we break that cycle and we end this idea of reprisals, and I think that what everybody wants to see is urgent, urgent de-escalation.”

Egypt, Russia say Israel needs to stop Gaza attacks

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov agreed that Israel needs to stop attacks on the Gaza Strip.

In a phone call, the two top diplomats reiterated that Israel should stop the bloodshed, according to a statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.


Reporting by Sean Tyler Chan / AdChoiceTV News

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