Israel says ‘mistakes have been made’ in Gaza offensive

Israeli political and religious leaders have call on Arabs and Jews to end their rampage

The first day of Eid in Gaza was met with barrages of air strikes and rocket fire on Thursday as the death toll from the latest violence rose to 87 killed in the blockaded strip and seven killed in Israel.

The four days of cross-border violence showed no sign of abating and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the campaign "will take more time".

Hamas officials in Gaza said that over 530 Palestinians have been wounded so far as the Israeli military admitted mistakes had been made in the current offensive.

"There are mistakes but we are trying to do everything in our power and all of our resources are focusing on those things,” an Israeli security official said on Thursday. Every target needs to be approved by the highest rank officer in order not to harm civilians."

But the official also said that a number of Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by a miss-fired Hamas rocket.

Although an Israeli military spokesman early on Thursday that additional soldiers were being posted to the Gaza border and the army was in "various stages of preparing ground operations", the security official declined to elaborate by evening.

“When we get all of our goals, we will stop the operation, but we haven't finished yet,” they said.

Following a day of violence in Jerusalem on Monday that left over 700 Palestinians wounded after police stormed the city’s Al Aqsa Mosque, the already tense situation has exploded. Armed groups in Gaza have now fired over 1,750 rockets and Israel has hit nearly 1,000 targets in Gaza.

Survivors of Israeli air strikes on the Sheikh Zayed neighbourhood in Gaza say they feared for their lives as their homes fell down on top of them.
"I witnessed death while I was under the rubble. I wondered if we would survive or not,"

Khaled Almalfouh, 25, who was buried alive with seven of his family members when the building he lived in collapsed after an air strike, told The National.

In the densely packed and blockaded enclave, people are assessing the toll both in lives and property.

Officials say at least 500 housing units have been damaged and destroyed and traders near blast sites are counting their losses.

A combination picture shows a tower building before and after it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Gaza City, May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

"There is not any joy for Eid, the destruction is everywhere and we are, unfortunately, set back years," Gaza City shopkeeper Shaban Al Helwo told The National from his destroyed women's clothing store.

According to the Associated Press, a delegation of senior Egyptian security officials are in Tel Aviv in a bid to mediate a de-escalation of the conflict having travelled into Gaza to meet Hamas leadership.

Even as word came of the mediators’ presence, Gaza militants fired a volley of some 100 rockets nearly simultaneously, raising air raid sirens around southern and central Israel.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties – but the barrage appeared aimed at demonstrating that Hamas’ arsenal was still full even after three nights of air strikes and the killing Wednesday of several Hamas leaders involved in the rocket programme. Israel also destroyed the home of Hamas's political bureau head, Ismail Haniyeh, although he is in exile in Doha.

There was no talk of a ceasefire when Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaida addressed the public.

Threatening Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa Mosque means “The decision to strike Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Dimona, Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva is easier to us than drinking water.”

He reiterated the groups demand that Israel refrain from attacking Muslim worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque and pull security forces from the East Jerusalem area of Sheikh Jarrah where Palestinian families face eviction in what they see as an attempted annexation of their lands but Israel sees as a domestic ownership despite.

TOPSHOT - Palestinian demonstrators run away from the gas fired by Israeli soldiers during an anti-Israel demonstration over tensions in Jerusalem near the Jewish settlement of Beit El near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, on May 13, 2021. A Palestinian man was killed during a confrontation with Israeli soldiers near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, the Palestinian health ministry said on May 13, as violence soars in the occupied territories. The death brings the number killed in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the West Bank to three on Wednesday alone. / AFP / ABBAS MOMANI

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to restore order after outbreaks of intercommunal violence in mixed Arab and Israeli cities saw roving gangs and stone-throwing mobs.

"Nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews and nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs," the prime minister said after dozens of far-right ultranationalist Israelis dragged a man they believed to be Arab from his car and beat him in the street until he was unconscious late on Tuesday night.

Medical officials said the man, identified in local media as an Israeli Arab, was in a critical but stable condition after the attempting “lynching”.

Far-right lawmaker Betzalel Smotrich, head of the "Religious Zionism" party, said he was "ashamed" of the "atrocious cruelty" of the attack.

Issawi Fredj, an Arab deputy from the left-wing Meretz party, said the images were a sign that the country was heading towards "civil war".

Thousands of miles from the rockets and bombs, the ambassadors of Israel and Palestine have been waging their own diplomatic skirmishes at the United Nations. Both have sent widely shared letters condemning the actions of the other side as diplomats call the third emergency meeting on the crisis in the hopes of getting an official UN Security Council statement without another US veto.

The goal of a new meeting is "to try to contribute to peace ... and to have a Security Council able to express itself and to call for a ceasefire" a diplomat said.

Israel’s Ambassador Gilad Erdan condemned the Gaza militant group Hamas for launching hundreds of “murderous” and “indiscriminate” rockets into Israeli towns and cities while Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour accused Israel of “unleashing all means of lethal military aggression against the defenceless Palestinian civilian population”.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday said that he was leading conversations with Israeli officials but also having discussions with “the Egyptians, Saudis and others” on “how we get to a point where there is a significant reduction in the attacks, particularly the rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centres.”

Finding an end to the fighting was, however, “a work in progress right now.”

With rockets still firing out of Gaza and air strikes pounding the strip, several international airlines cut flights to Israel and Tel Aviv airport – the only international terminal – cancelled most services.

“We saw a couple of rockets, so there is no reason for us to stay here,” Andre Valenta told The National as he travelled home to Dubai after cutting short a business trip.

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