Israel hits Gaza with new airstrikes despite Biden joining ceasefire calls

Israel hits Gaza with new airstrikes despite Biden joining ceasefire calls

Dozens of Israeli jets launched more than 100 missiles into the Gaza Strip overnight as the violence entered its second week and hours after President Joe Biden said he would support a ceasefire in the conflict.

The Israeli military said that the 110 guided missiles launched from 62 fighter jets had targeted the “metro,” a network of tunnels used by Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza.

At least 212 people, including 61 children, have been killed by the Israeli strikes over the past week, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Fifteen Palestinians have been killed in clashes in the occupied West Bank.

During that time Hamas has launched some 3,440 rockets from Gaza into Israel, killing ten Israelis including two children and one soldier, officials there said. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepts the vast majority of the rockets, and the population shelter in a network of shelters and safe rooms throughout the country.

A six-story building n Gaza City that was destroyed by an early morning Israeli airstrike on Tuesday.Khalil Hamra / AP

Though Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that he supported a ceasefire, he has so far resisted pressure, much of it from within his own Democratic Party, to criticize Israel’s actions.

The U.S. earlier blocked a statement by the United Nations Security Council that called for an end to “the crisis related to Gaza” and for the protection of civilians.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanked the Biden administration “for rightly preventing the unjust U.N. Security Council statement criticizing Israel’s actions in Gaza.”

He said Israel’s sole aim was “to dismantle terror infrastructure and protect our people. This criticism of Israel is hypocritical and detrimental to the global fight against terror.”

The U.S. gives Israel $3.8 billion a year in military aid, equivalent to 20 percent of Israel’s defense budget and nearly three-fifths of U.S. foreign military financing globally.

Long-running tensions reignited last week after Israeli police raided Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound while Palestinian worshippers were praying there during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel, which has replied with its own bombing campaign.

On Tuesday, Israel said it struck “a number of rocket launching sites” that were aimed at Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and other cities. As well as the metro tunnel system, Israel said it also hit the homes of several Hamas commanders, as well as a Hamas anti-tank squad and other infrastructure related to the militant group.

Netanyahu told Israelis Sunday that they should be ready for an extended military campaign.

Israeli airstrikes light up the night sky above Gaza City early Tuesday.Mahmud Hams / AFP – Getty Images

The Israeli military says it tries to minimize civilian injuries and deaths, and accuses Hamas of using people as human shields.

The toll on civilians in this already impoverished enclave has been high.

As well as the deaths and injuries, some 2,500 people in Gaza have been left homeless after at least 90 buildings including hundreds of housing units have been destroyed, according to a statement by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Monday.

Schools and hospitals have been damaged, the OCHA said, including those run by international organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. One high-rise building destroyed by Israeli jets housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera news organizations.

Palestinian children, who fled their homes amid Israeli airstrikes, take refuge at a United Nations-run school in Gaza City on Tuesday.Suhaib Salem / Reuters

Hamas has continued to fire rockets, 90 percent of which are intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome Air Defense System, Israel says.

The rockets that have broken through have lit up the skies over cities such as Tel Aviv and caused people to flee into underground bomb shelters. A 5-year-old boy has been among the 10 people killed, as well as an Israeli soldier.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Palestinians in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank observed a general strike to protest what activists and human rights groups say is a system of apartheid, of which the latest Gaza conflict is only one manifestation.

Israel adamantly rejects that characterization and accuses Hamas of inciting violence across the region.

Alexander Smith reported from London, and Paul Goldman and Lawahez Jabari reported from Tel Aviv. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lawahez Jabari and Paul Goldman contributed.

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