According to a leading human rights group, Israel violated international law during the 11 days of fighting with Hamas militants in the densely packed Gaza Strip in May, in what “apparently amount to war crimes.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report Tuesday that highlighted three Israeli strikes on Gaza in which it said 62 civilians, including families, were killed and “where there were no evident military targets in the vicinity.” It said other strikes also are likely to have violated international law.
Human Rights Watch said that Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, which has controlled the coastal territory since 2007, also “committed unlawful attacks” in firing over 4,300 unguided rockets and mortars into Israeli communities. The organization said it would release a separate report on Palestinian violations in August.
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The report renews scrutiny of this May’s deadly exchange of Hamas rockets and Israeli fire in which over 250 Palestinians in Gaza, among them 67 children, and 13 residents of Israel, including two children, died. It was the fourth war between the two sides since 2009, alongside frequent flare-ups.
Israel has argued that it took precautions to protect Palestinians civilians and targeted only sites related to Hamas, which it accused of intentionally operating in residential areas, thereby leaving Israel little recourse.
But the report’s findings could be used as part of an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court of violations by both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups. The court in February ruled that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories that Israel occupied in 1967, a claim Israel rejects.
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Palestinians have increasingly lobbied for rights in international bodies and agencies as the model for peace talks between the two sides has broken down.
Hamas said 80 of the dead in Gaza were militants, according to the Associated Press, a figure Israel has disputed as being higher. One of those killed in Israel was a soldier.
While most rockets fired from Gaza were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, the nearly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza had few places to flee. Israel controls nearly all crossings into and out of Gaza, which is facing multiple compounding humanitarian crises, including a severe shortage of clean water and electricity as well as a lack economic opportunities. Most Gazans cannot leave, and Hamas, an extremist group, suppresses any internal opposition.
Human Rights Watch said that Israel refused to allow the organization’s senior investigators to enter Gaza. For the report, the group relied on a local Gaza researcher, as well as satellite images, expert analysis of photos and munition fragments, and phone and video interviews.
In one of the attacks investigated, Human Rights Watch said that around 6 p.m. on May 10, an Israeli guided missile hit four houses belonging to a family named al-Masri in an area near the town of Beit Hanoun. Eight civilians, including six children, were killed, and 18 people were reported injured. No members of the family were part of an armed group, they said, and Israel did not list any of the dead as members of a militant group.
The Israeli military has said that the strike was caused by an errant missile fired from inside Gaza by the militant group Islamic Jihad aiming for Israel.
On social media, Israel also suggested that one of those identified as a victim in the strike was part of a group killed by its military, who it said were “activists” with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which the family has denied, Human Rights Watch found.
Speaking with residents and analyzing footage, Human Rights Watch found that the nature of the blast site was consistent with damage caused by missiles that Israel is known to use and inconsistent with Islamic Jihad rockets. The absence of an impact crater, among various signs, suggested that the explosion was the result of “munition with a small explosive yield” that detonated in midair, the report said.
The group said it “found no evidence of a military target at or near the site of the strike.”Souad al-Masri’s husband was killed and home destroyed by an Israeli bombing in 2014. This year, they struck again, leaving a crater where her home once stood. (Jon Gerberg/The Washington Post)
On May 15, 10 civilians, including eight children, were killed when a U.S.-made guided bomb collapsed a three-story building in the Shati refugee camp around 1:40 a.m. Israel said it was targeting an apartment used by Hamas militants. It said the missile struck a bunker below, which led to the building’s collapse.
Residents told Human Rights Watch they did not know of any Hamas cell or operations in their building. The group also said it did not find evidence of a bunker below.
The group called for further investigation into “whether Israeli forces targeted a military objective, and, if there was a legitimate military objective, whether all feasible precautions were taken to minimize civilian harm.”A Palestinian shopkeeper in Gaza hasn’t been able to bring himself to tell his injured wife that two of their daughters are gone. (Jon Gerberg/The Washington Post)
The Israeli military said it targeted underground military tunnels and a command center, though it has not publicly provided evidence. Human Rights Watch found no evidence of military targets in the area and said that residents had not been warned to evacuate in time.
“An attack that is not directed at a specific military objective is unlawful,” the group said.
Human Rights Watch has previously accused Israelis and Palestinians of abuses, including apparent war crimes. In April, it released a report accusing Israel of “the crimes of apartheid and persecution” against Palestinians in the military-occupied territories and inside Israel.
Over the years, said Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestinian territories director at Human Rights Watch, “we have documented a pattern of excessive force, attacks that are disproportionate, indiscriminate … that did not hit an apparent military target.”
“More Israeli restrictions and tightening the siege on Gaza will only generate an explosion in the face of the occupant,” Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Abdulatif al-Qanou’a said on Sunday.
“Ending and defying the siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for about 15 years is a natural right for the Palestinian people,” he added.
The spokesperson urged Israel to end the blockade of the Palestinian enclave and respect the May ceasefire that Egypt brokered between Israel and Palestinian factions, including Hamas, reports xinhua news agency.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions complained that Israel has tightened the blockade since the end of the last round of Israeli-Palestinian armed conflict that lasted for 11 days from May 10-21.
One person was killed and 10 were injured Thursday when an explosion tore through a house in a popular marketplace in Gaza City, the Hamas-run interior ministry said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion.
The blast in the Al-Zawiya area collapsed large parts of the house and damaged dozens of buildings and shops nearby, according to the statement.
Police explosives and engineering teams continue to investigate the causes of the explosion. Civil defense teams and the police were able to control the resulting fire.
The blast shook the neighborhood on the third day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The Israeli army signaled it wasn’t involved, calling the explosion an “internal matter” in Gaza.
Gaza City already was struggling with heavy damage sustained during an 11-day conflict in May between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
The World Bank earlier this month said rebuilding Gaza would cost $485 million, including up to $380 million to repair the physical damage alone.
Israeli officials have said they will condition allowing the reconstruction of Gaza on progress and easing the heightened restrictions on reaching a prisoner exchange with Hamas that secures the return of two Israeli civilians and two soldiers’ bodies held by the terror group.
Suzy Ishkontana, 7, clings to her new toys and clothes, but mostly to her dad.
For hours, they were separated under the rubble of their family’s home. Now she cannot bear to be apart.
More than two months have passed since rescue workers pulled the 7-year-old from the ruins, her hair matted and dusty, her face bruised and swollen. The sole survivors of the family, she and her father heard the fading cries of her siblings buried nearby.
Suzy’s mother, her two brothers and two sisters — ages 9 to 2 — died in the May 16 Israeli attack on the densely packed al-Wahda Street in Gaza City. Israeli authorities say the bombs’ target was Hamas tunnels; 42 people died, including 16 women and 10 children.
Altogether, Gaza’s Health Ministry says 66 children were killed in the fourth war on the Gaza Strip — most from precision-guided Israeli bombs, though in at least one incident Israel alleges a family was killed by Hamas rockets that fell short of their target.
And then there are countless others, like Suzy, who bear the scars.
“My kids who died and my wife, they are now in a safe place and there is no worry about them, but my greater fear is for Suzy,” says her father, Riad Ishkontana.
This story is part of “The Cost of War,” a series of stories on the effects of four wars in Gaza over 13 years.
With schools shuttered due to the war, the coronavirus and the summer hiatus, Gaza’s children have little to keep them occupied as they wade through the wreckage. Most are poor; more than half the population lived in poverty before the pandemic and war wiped out more jobs.
Some of them are irritable, their parents say. Some wet themselves at night, are afraid to be alone, suffer from night terrors — all signs of trauma, says Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, director general of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.
But there is only one licensed child psychiatrist for Gaza’s 1 million children, who make up just under 48 percent of the population, Abu Jamei says.
To recover, he says, children need to feel the traumatic event they’ve experienced is over and that life is returning to normal.
These children live in a place where the piercing whine of warplanes, the tremors of airstrikes and the humming buzz of armed drones are familiar sounds, even in times of cease-fire. Where when war erupts, there is no safe place — and where four wars and a blockade have crippled life over the past 13 years.
In Gaza, Abu Jamei says, “life never goes back to normal.”Refugee claimant from Gaza ‘horrified’ when asked why Hamas wouldn’t protect her – Jun 14, 2021
In the hours he and his daughter spent trapped in the rubble, Riad Ishkontana recalls hearing his older daughter Dana, 9, and youngest son Zain, 2, calling for him: “Baba, baba.” Later, Suzy would tell him that she could feel Zain under the wreckage.
Before the war, Suzy was an independent child, walking to school down the street with Dana, and picking up fruits and vegetables from a corner store for her mom.
Now, she struggles to speak with relatives or detach from the mobile phone, spending hours playing games, stopping to look at web pages related to the attack. “It’s almost like in losing her mom, she lost her life and her ability to deal with life and people,” Ishkontana says
When Ishkontana leaves to go on any errand, Suzy weeps and insists on going along — she fears losing him, too. He took her to her mother’s grave; she brought along a hand-written note.
“Mama,” she wrote, “I want to see you.”
The blast blew the al-Masri family apart. And it left a young brother and sister shattered.
It all happened in an instant, around 6 p.m. on May 10. The al-Masri family were harvesting wheat in an open field in Beit Hanoun by their house overlooking Gaza’s border with Israel. The children — cousins, siblings, the neighbor’s kids — played as the adults prepared to break their daylong fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
As usual, BATOOL AL-MASRI, 14, carried her cousin Yazan, a toddler barely 2 years old. “Twenty-four hours a day she was spoiling him,” says Batool’s father, Mohammed Atallah al-Masri.
Then, an explosion.
It’s not clear whether the rocket was fired by Israel or Hamas. But in an instant, eight people were dead, including six children.
Yazan bled out in front of Batool. She tried to save him, ignoring injuries to her legs and pelvis.
Batool’s 8-year-old brother, Qasim al-Masri, 8, was wounded in his head, as were other brothers, including 22-year-old Hammoudah, who lost an eye.
Qasim survived, but his best friend and cousin, Marwan, 7, did not. They’d been inseparable, even in school, al-Masri says. Marwan’s only brother, Ibrahim, 11, also was killed.
Also killed were Batool and Qasim’s sister Rahaf, 10 and their brother Ahmed, 21, who was just a week shy of his wedding.
The attack “completely changed” Qasim, his father says. The young boy talks to himself. At night, he’s paralyzed by fear and does not get out of bed to use the bathroom.
Batool has become irritable, weeps often and in the evenings is terrified, waking every 20 or 30 minutes. She has little appetite.
“What they saw was terrifying,” al-Masri said. “These were innocent kids.”U.S. sees rise in anti-semitic attacks – May 22, 2021
It was the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid in May. Instead of playing with their new toys, the Abu Muawad children were running for their lives.
The airstrikes hit without warning. Their mother — eight months pregnant — and the four children, ages 3 to 11, fled their home in northern Gaza just before it was destroyed.
In the chaos, Maya Abu Muawad, 8, was separated from her mother. Alone and afraid, she rode in an ambulance to safer ground. For 15 minutes, she was locked in the wailing vehicle with a dying person and a wounded boy, her neighbour.
It would be six hours before Maya would be reunited with her parents.
Her younger brother, Oday Abu Muawad, 6, had never experienced war before. He was stunned by the scenes of chaos and death, the sound of airstrikes.
Before the war, Maya was confident and independent. She liked having her hair brushed, couldn’t stand it if her clothes became dirty and liked to wear rings.
Now, the family is sheltering in a U.N.-run school with other displaced families. Maya repeatedly asks when they’ll return home, but her father Alaa Abu Muawad, who works as a driver, has no money to rebuild. She sits alone mostly, preferring to spend all her time on the phone, listening to songs or watching videos on TikTok — anything to escape her reality, says her father.
“If she asks her brother for something and doesn’t get it, she just cries and screams. Everything about her … it’s not my daughter before. It’s not Maya,” Abu Muawad says.
Before the war, Oday always smiled and loved to joke around with people. He preferred playing with older kids and sitting with adults, his father says.
“Now, he watches kids playing on the television and asks: `Why can’t we play like them?”’ Abu Muawad says. “I don’t know how to reply, what to tell him.”
And in the night, he often wakes up screaming.
When the 2014 war broke out, Lama Sihweil, 14, and her family fled their home in Beit Hanoun when the Israeli army invaded, joining some 3,300 Palestinians crammed into the U.N.-run Abu Hussein school in the Jabaliya refugee camp.
As they slept, Israeli shells pounded the school and the street. Three of 7-year-old Lama’s cousins — ages 14, 16 and 26 — were among the 16 killed in that attack. The 2014 war claimed more than 2,100 Palestinian lives in Gaza.
Seven years later, she is afflicted by memories: of screams in the darkness; of frantic searches of loved ones; of the stench of blood and debris.
“Just sitting with her, she appears fine,” says he father, Thaer Sihweil.
“But try to talk to her, she can’t express herself. From the fear she has, she’s unable to communicate what’s in her heart,” he says.
After the war, her grades dropped. She would walk out of class without the teacher’s permission. She became forgetful. The fear and anxiety were constant.
Then, war came again this year. Lama, her mother, siblings, aunts and cousins were sleeping over at her grandmother’s when more Israeli missiles hit. The walls of the house collapsed; the family ran screaming through the streets, stepping over shards of glass, twisted metal and electrical cables until they reached the nearest hospital.
Now, Lama is afraid to venture out on her own. Each night, she clings to her parents.
And there is no escape; Lama and her brothers would love to go the beach for a day, but the war cost their father his job. He does not have 40 shekels ($12) to get to Gaza’s coast.Top UN humanitarian official visits worst-damaged areas in Gaza, discusses aid efforts – May 22, 2021
When Youssef al-Madhoun, 11, hears the popping sound of firecrackers, or a metal door closing loudly, he is terrified. The war courses back.
Youssef, his brother and his parents fled their home in the late afternoon on the last day of Ramadan, as the first rounds of Israeli fire sounded. They’d be safer, they thought, at his great-grandfather’s house in a more crowded neighbourhood of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip.
By nightfall, the neighbourhood was engulfed in a barrage. A family of six was crushed under the weight of a building just steps from where the al-Madhoun family was staying. Their house and others nearby partially collapsed or crumbled around them. An uncle and his wife were killed.
The family fled again, to another grandparent’s home.
Before the war, Youssef excelled in school and talked of one day becoming a doctor. Now, said his father, Ahmed Awad Selim al-Madhoun, he’s afraid to sleep at night, afraid to step outside the house alone. He leaves the door open when he’s in the bathroom.
This was the third war of Youssef’s short life. It’s left him feeling terrified, and unsafe.
Elien al-Madhoun, 6, was not yet born when her father lost his home in the 2014 Gaza War. Young as she is, she doesn’t entirely understand life and death.
But in May, she screamed out at the sounds of airstrikes and shelling in Bait Lahia in northern Gaza, says her father, Ahmed Rabah al-Madhoun.
He tried to shield her from talk of war, tried to keep her busy with games. But older cousins, huddled around her, talked about “airstrikes, missiles, martyrs openly because nothing is really hidden from children.”
Nine people died in the neighbourhood, including relatives.
“When nine homes are completely destroyed next to one another and my daughter sees this, she can’t understand what happened,” he says.
Her father says he doesn’t know what the future holds for her.
“We envy the people who’ve been killed and have returned to God. We envy them because they know their future,” he says. “But here, we’re just waiting for our turn. Our kids, our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, we’re here waiting our turn.”Hamas and Israel both claim victory after ceasefire deal – May 21, 2021
For years, Abdullah Srour, 16, lived in a state of constant fear. He’s survived four wars in Gaza, and with each war he grows more afraid, more insular.
When he was 9, the bedroom where he was sleeping in the Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by a missile, says his mother, Amal Srour. The family fled in their pyjamas to a U.N.-run school to seek shelter, but when they reached the school it too was hit. They saw people killed and animals dead on the road.
Abdullah spent four years in therapy. With time, he began to enjoy being around friends and leaving the house more, his mother says.
Then came May, and the fourth war.
The family would stay up all night, crammed into one room, praying to survive. Except for Abdullah; he refused to stay in the family home located on an upper floor, sleeping instead on the ground floor in his grandmother’s home until the ceasefire was announced.
Abdullah also saw a family of six — a father, a pregnant mother and four children — crushed to death under the rubble of a home that belonged to his grandfather during this last war. He stood amid the debris as rescue teams pulled their bodies out.
Now the smallest thing, including a needle prick at the doctor’s office, sends him into a panic. He bites his nails constantly. He doesn’t like to sit longer than 10 minutes in any one place, rarely smiles and sleeps next to his mother, by his much younger siblings.
“After this war,” says his mother, “he’s regressed to a child of 5 years old.”
For so long, 5-year-old Thaim Abu Oda’s childhood was sheltered, pleasant. There were trips with his father and younger brother to the nearby pool, to the beach and to the few play areas available in Gaza; his parents have steady incomes, and they live in the heart of Gaza City.
But for 11 days in May, the boy’s life was devastated by war — by the terrifying boom of fighter jets overhead and the bombs that shook his neighbourhood.
He stopped eating. He lost more than 5 kilos (11 pounds). His face became gaunt and his ribs protruded. He lost sleep, too, especially after hearing his grandfather had survived an airstrike on his building and had been hospitalized for breathing problems.
When the war ended, Abu Oda’s parents took him to see a therapist. After three sessions and weeks after the cease-fire held, his appetite returned and his weight began to climb.
He still fears sudden noises and has many questions about the sounds heard during the war, but his parents say he appears to be on a path to recovery. They worry, though, about the long-term effects of the war on his personality, and on his future in Gaza.
Seeking to avoid drawing Israeli firepower south towards Gaza, which is deep in recovery mode, Hamas is looking for new avenues to promote an “equation”; Hezbollah to the north announced the equation, and Iraqi militias and the Houthis have pledged allegiance to it.
The two Grad rockets launched at northern Israel early on Tuesday from southern Lebanon were likely fired by Hamas as part of its attempt to respond to tensions in Jerusalem and clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians around the Temple Mount on Sunday.
The Iron Dome air-defense system intercepted one projectile and a second fell in an open area, causing no injuries or damages. Warning sirens went off in border areas of northern Israel, and the Israel Defense Forces responded with artillery fire, firing about 12 shells into Lebanese territory.
The Lebanese Armed Forces found a third rocket, which was not launched, south of Tyre.
“Hamas looked for a response to the Temple Mount tensions, but it isn’t interested in firing from Gaza. Hence, it was easier to do this from Lebanon—with Hezbollah’s coordination,” said Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri, director of the research department at the Alma research center, who analyzes security threats to Israel emanating from Syria and Lebanon.
According to Beeri, a former IDF intelligence officer specializing in the Lebanese and Syrian arenas, Hamas chose to fire from Lebanon for a number of reasons.
The first is that it has not been able to recover from the May conflict with Israel and did not want to draw Israeli fire towards Gaza. Hamas correctly assessed that Israel’s retaliation in Lebanon would be significantly smaller in scale than in Gaza, said Beeri.
A broader strategic consideration is Hamas’s desire to implement, albeit symbolically, a new “equation,” announced by Hezbollah, according to which any perceived Israeli offensive activity near the Temple Mount will be answered with attacks.
Beeri noted that in recent weeks, Iranian-backed Iraqi militias and Houthis in Yemen have pledged their allegiance to this same equation.
The Iraqi Qataib Hezbollah militia announced that it had joined the “regional equation” in June in the latest sign of a coordinated Iranian-led axis of radical entities operating against Israel.
Hamas in Gaza and Hamas in Lebanon tightly coordinate their activities, mainly through the terror organization’s headquarters in Turkey, according to Beeri.
A branch of that headquarters, known as the “Construction Bureau,” is responsible for arming Hamas in Lebanon and ensuring that it has its own ability to activate weaponry.
It appears as if Hamas’s gamble was well-calculated, judging by Israel’s restrained reaction. Israel also seems reluctant to respond more forcefully in Lebanon at a time when the country is experiencing severe economic and humanitarian crises—basically, sitting at the brink of collapse.
Addressing the rocket attacks from Lebanon, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated that Israel “has an interest in a stable, economically prosperous Lebanon. Unfortunately, the situation in Lebanon is deteriorating, and Hezbollah and other terror organizations are working against the interests of the Lebanese people. We responded last night, and we will continue to respond in the right time and place against any violation of Israeli sovereignty.”
He added that Lebanon is responsible for what occurs in its territory.
“We outstretched a hand to Lebanon and offered it humanitarian assistance,” said Gantz. “That same outstretched hand is also a steel fist that will respond against any aggression.”
In early July 2021, it was broadcasted that several arson balloon attacks were launched from Gaza and ignited multiple fires in South Israeli Towns. This comes after two weeks of seemingly quiet combat between Gaza and Israel. The attacks on 1 July 2021 have then sparked Israeli forces to target a Hamas weapon factory. Historic tensions between Israel and Gaza, run by the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Jerusalem, have created violence and conflict in the region for decades. A cease-fire declaration was made in May after conflict caused the death of 260 Palestinians, however, there have been various flare-ups of conflict since then.
Israeli’s new Prime Minister (PM), Naftali Bennett, stated on 3 July 2021 that “Israel is interested in calm and has no interest in harming Gaza residents, but violence… will be met with a strong response”. He also stated that “things have changed” since the recent arson attacks. PM Bennett continued that “we are also working on a solution to allow humanitarian assistance to Gaza residents”. In the Times of Israel, the PM also refers to the reports that Qatar donated money to Gaza. In May 2021, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, commented at the UN General Assembly Meeting on the conflict mentioning he was “horrified” and “deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment” in Gaza.
It is important to place pressures on the UN and other nations to make more of an effort to ensure that the conflict from both sides is ceased, and that civilians can return to their homes, safely. This, however, is likely to end up in another war. Aid agencies and the UN have set up emergency response funds and access to humanitarian goods for victims, although, other countries should implement non-violent measures including sanctions. The hopeful solution from the UN in that Jerusalem remain as the capital of both Israel and Palestine should be the main goal.
The conflict between Israel and Palestinians living in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank has occurred for decades. Gaza, ruled by Hamas, and its borders are tightly controlled by Israel and Egypt to stop weapons getting into the hands of the militant group. Israel claims that its efforts are to restrict the violence coming out of Gaza and to protect its citizens. According to the BBC, the primary issues surrounding the conflict refers to the Palestinians refugees in these areas, and whether Jewish settlements should be moved on. Further, the two cannot agree on whether a Palestinian state should be formed beside Israel and if they can share Jerusalem. Former President of the United States, Donald Trump, attempted to release a peace-plan for the Middle East in January 2020, however, this plan fell through. In May 2021, The UN reported that 208 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military. Further, approximately 12 Israeli fatalities by Hamas.
It becomes more unlikely every day that the conflict and tensions between Israel and Gaza are likely to subside or stop. This creates an array of future issues in the Middle East and across the globe as tensions continue. Unfortunately, it is highly likely that more casualties will occur before a solution is found and implemented into the region. The conflicts between the parties will continue to create uproar in activists around the globe.
For Palestinians who lost loved ones in the fighting between Gaza fighters and Israel two months ago, there is little cause for celebration during the upcoming holiday of Eid al-Adha. The holiday, coinciding with Haj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, begins tomorrow, and the occasion is traditionally marked by slaughtering sheep or cows and exchanging gifts. For this year’s four-day festival, Mahmoud Issa, a 73-year-old retired teacher, bought new clothes for his grandchildren and took them to a farm to choose an animal to slaughter. But he mourns the death of his daughter Manar, 39, and her daughter, Lina 13, who he said were killed by an Israeli missile that destroyed their house in the Bureij refugee camp on May 13. Manar’s husband and three other children survived. “As adults, we are still haunted by pain, but we must get the children out of this atmosphere and make them live the atmosphere of Eid, so that they forget the pain of losing their mother and their eldest sister,” Issa said, sitting next to a large mural of Manar. Gaza’s Hamas-run government says 2,200 homes were destroyed and 37,000 damaged by Israeli bombing during the 11 days of cross-border fighting in May. More than 250 Palestinians were killed in hundreds of Israeli air strikes in Gaza that were launched after Hamas began firing rockets at Israel in retaliation for what the group said were rights abuses against Palestinians in Jerusalem. Thirteen people were killed in Israel during rocket barrages that disrupted life and sent people running for shelter. In Gaza’s livestock markets, breeders and farmers reported poor sales ahead of the holiday. At one market in the town of Khan Younis, some customers loaded animals onto donkey carts to take them home. “This year, the purchase of animals is weak because of the blockade, war and the coronavirus,” said merchant Saleem Abu Atwa, referring in part to tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt, which cite security concerns for the measures.“We hope calm continues. It is for the sake of everyone,” he added. At a street stall in Gaza’s busy Rimal neighbourhood, Mohamed al-Qassas laments the destruction of his shoe store in the fighting as he sells goods that he salvaged from the rubble. The 23-year-old fears that an Egyptian-brokered truce that ended the most serious hostilities between Gaza fighters and Israel in years might not last. “Another war would be a disaster,” he told Reuters.
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli jets launched air strikes on Gaza overnight Thursday to Friday after militants in the Palestinian territory again set off incendiary balloons into southern Israel, the army and AFP journalists said. The fire balloons and air strikes are the latest violence heaping pressure on a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that came into place on May 21, ending 11 days of heavy fighting. “Over the past day, arson balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” Israel’s military said in a statement. “In response… fighter jets struck military compounds and a rocket launch site belonging to the Hamas terror organization.” AFP journalists in the Palestinian enclave also reported hearing explosions, which the army said hit sites in both Gaza City and in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza, home to some two million people. Soon after the strikes, Hamas militants opened fire with heavy machines guns toward the Jewish state, as Israeli warning air raid sirens rang out. US Secretary of State Blinken spoke on Thursday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and discussed “the need to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in practical ways,” the State Department said in a statement. “They also shared opinions on opportunities to deepen normalization efforts as well as on regional security issues, including Iran,” the State Department said. Palestinian militants in Gaza launched balloons for a third day running on Thursday, according to Israeli firefighters battling the blazes sparked by the devices. The balloons are basic devices intended to set fire to farmland and bush surrounding Gaza.