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Israel braced for more rocket attacks after killing of Hamas-allied militant commander

Israel Palestine: Iron Dome intercepts rockets in Fox broadcast

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As the fiercest hostilities in the region in years entered a second week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken today urged all sides to protect civilians and UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said the 193-member body will meet on Thursday to discuss the escalating crisis. The death of Hussam Abu Harbeed, Islamic Jihad’s armed commander for north Gaza, is almost guaranteed to provoke a fierce response from the militant group which is fighting alongside Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs the coastal enclave.

The Israeli military said in a statement Harbeed had been “behind several anti-tank missile terror attacks against Israeli civilians”, and an Israeli general said his country could carry on the fight “forever”.

Militant groups in Gaza offered no indication that an end to fighting was imminent.

Soon after Harbeed’s death, Islamic Jihad fired rockets at the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod, and medics said seven people had been injured, with more expected.

At least seven Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza on Monday by early evening, including two who died in a missile attack on a seven-storey office building in Gaza City, medics said. The intensity of Israeli strikes has tended to increase after dark.

Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll since the hostilities flared last week at 201, including 58 children and 34 women. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children.

Police said an Israeli man also died in hospital on Monday after being attacked last week by Arab rioters as clashes broke out in mixed Jewish-Arab communities in Israel, a new front of violence that has been ignited by the Gaza fighting.

Israel bombed what its military called 15 km (nine miles) of underground tunnels used by Hamas.

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Nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders in Gaza were also hit, it claimed.

Osher Bugam, a resident of the Israel coastal city of Ashkelon, said after a rocket fired from Gaza hit a synagogue there: “We have to continue the war until there is long-term ceasefire – one that is not temporary.”

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.

Palestinians have also become frustrated by setbacks to their aspirations for an independent state and an end to Israeli occupation in recent years.

US envoy Hady Amr, appointed by President Joe Biden last week, met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday, and Mr Blinken said US officials had been “working around the clock” to bring an end to the conflict.

Speaking after talks with Denmark’s foreign minister in Copenhagen, he said: ”The United States remains greatly concerned by the escalating violence. Hundreds of people killed or injured, including children being pulled from the rubble.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged an end to the fighting in a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, a German government spokesman said, and France and Egypt said they would continue efforts for a ceasefire.

The United States said on Sunday it had made clear it was ready to offer support “should the parties seek a ceasefire”.

Brigadier General Yaron Rosen, a former Israeli air division commander, indicated that Israel was ready to persist with what he termed a “war of attrition”.

He explained: “The IDF can go with this forever. And Hamas can go on with their rockets, sadly, also for a very long time.

“But the price they are paying is rising higher and higher,” he told reporters.

The Israeli military said at least 130 Palestinian combatants had been killed since fighting began.

Harbeed had been a commander with Islamic Jihad for 15 years and was behind an attack on the first day of hostilities last week, it said.

The Israeli military said Hamas, a group regarded by Israel, the United States and the European Union as a terrorist movement, and other armed factions had launched about 3,150 rockets from Gaza over the past week. Israel’s missile defence system, the Iron Dome, intercepted most of them, it said.

The unrest in Israel’s mixed Jewish and Arab towns opened a new front in the conflict, with the Israeli president warning of civil war between Israel’s Jewish majority and 21 percent Arab minority.

General strikes against the Gaza fighting are planned for Tuesday in Palestinian towns in the West Bank and Arab towns within Israel.

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