Israel bombed what it said were underground tunnels used by Hamas and Palestinian militants fired rocket barrages at Israeli cities as fighting spilled into a second week on Monday (May 17) and international calls for a ceasefire mounted.
After a night of heavy Israeli air strikes on areas across the Islamist Hamas-run enclave, Israel’s military said Gaza militants had fired about 60 rockets towards Israeli cities overnight, down from 120 and 200 the two previous nights.
A Palestinian sponge factory in northern Gaza was hit in a morning air strike and firefighters battled to quell the blaze, which sent plumes of smoke into the air. One Palestinian was killed in an air strike later in the morning, medics said.
After rockets were fired from Gaza at the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon, Israeli jets bombed what the military said were 15 km (nine miles) of underground tunnels used by Hamas. It also struck nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders, it said.
With the sounds of Israeli bombardment continuing throughout the morning, Gaza residents rushed to bakeries and drugstores to stock up on bread and other essentials.
Gaza health officials put the death toll since the hostilities flared at 198, including 58 children and 34 women. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, Israeli authorities say.
Hamas began its rocket assault last 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.
World concern had already deepened after an Israeli air strike in Gaza that destroyed several homes on Sunday and which Palestinian health officials said killed 42 people, including 10 children, and persistent rocket attacks on Israeli towns.