The Latest: Death toll in Israeli strikes in Gaza up to 33

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Gaza Health Ministry says the death toll from Israeli strikes on a main thoroughfare in Gaza City has climbed to 33, including 12 women and eight children.

It was the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers erupted nearly a week ago. The airstrikes hit Wahda Street, a major thoroughfare.

The ministry says another 50 people were wounded in the strikes early Sunday, mostly women and children.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

———

TOP NEWS IN THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT:

— Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flatten three buildings and kill at least 23 people on Sunday

— An AP reporter documents the terrifying final minutes of leaving the Gaza office before it is blow up by the Israelis

— An Israeli airstrike destroys a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press office in the Gaza Strip despite urgent demands by the new agency to halt

— Protesters in major US cities urge Israelis to halt attacks on the Gaza Strip

— French police use tear gas to quell pro-Palestinian march that was banned in Paris

———

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency has offered to share its Gaza offices with The Associated Press and Al Jazeera after Israel bombed the building that housed the media offices.

Anadolu said its Director-General Serdar Karagoz made the offer in letters to AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt and Al-Jazeera’s chairman.

Karagoz said the Turkish wire service was “appalled” by the Israeli military’s targeting of media offices.

“Since this recent conflict has escalated over the past week, there is an apparent pattern of targeting journalists who are carrying out their professional duties so as to block coverage of the situation on the ground,” Karagoz said.

———

PARIS — France’s minister for European Affairs, Clement Beaune, has cautioned against making a hasty judgement about Israel’s destruction of a high-rise building in the Gaza Strip that housed the bureaus of The Associated Press and broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

The tower was pulverized by a bombing raid on Saturday as part of Israel’s offensive against Hamas and its Gaza stronghold. Journalists and residents were given about an hour to evacuate before the building was destroyed.

Beane, asked during a talk show on CNews his reaction to the targeting of a building housing international media, said the bombing is “very worrisome.” But he added, “It is also true, we know, that Hamas sometimes strategically uses places that have media, civilians to take in some of its leaders.” Israel has claimed that was the case with the media tower. The Associated Press has asked Israel for evidence.

“So I think we should always avoid a hasty judgment on these subjects,” Beaune said.

———

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s foreign policy chief says the 27-nation bloc’s foreign ministers will talks Tuesday about what the EU can do to help end the current round of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Josep Borrell tweeted Sunday that he convened the special videoconference “in view of the ongoing escalation between Israel and Palestine and the unacceptable number of civilian casualties.”

He added that “we will coordinate and discuss how the EU can best contribute to end the current violence.”

The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, when Palestinians protested attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, triggering an Israeli assault on Gaza.

———

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has denounced the “unacceptable” spiral of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, saying the deaths in particular of children was a “sign that they don’t want to build the future but want to destroy it.”

Francis prayed for peace, calm and international help to open a path of dialogue during his Sunday blessing, delivered from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

The pope said: “I ask myself: this hatred and vendetta, what will it bring? Do we truly think that we can build peace by destroying the other?”

In unusually pointed comments, Francis added: “In the name of God, who created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity and are called to live as brothers, I appeal for calm” and an end to the violence.

Israeli airstrikes have been pounding Gaza City for days as heavy fighting has broken out between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers. The Gaza Health Ministry said 10 women and eight children were among the 26 people killed in Sunday’s airstrikes, with another 50 people wounded in the attack.

—-

BEIRUT — The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation held an emergency virtual meeting Sunday over the situation in Gaza calling for an end to Israel’s military attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan urged the international community to work on ending Israel’s military operations against Gaza and to allow aid to reach the coastal region.

Speaking from Ramallah in the West Bank, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki blasted Israel calling it an “apartheid state” that is practicing “crimes and brutality against our people in Gaza.” He added that the latest round of violence that began on Monday has displaced 10,000 people.

“The rise of the Palestinian people has made it clear that Jerusalem is a red line,” Malki said. He added that “our people will not be exhausted by Israel’s killing machine.”

Malki said all of Israel’s attempts to make demographic changes in Sheik Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem will fail.

Malki urged Muslim countries to support the Palestinian people by all means urging them to impose political and economic sanctions against Israel.

———

JERUSALEM — Israeli police say they have arrested two suspects who snuck into the country from neighboring Jordan and were carrying knives.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Sunday the two were on their way to Jerusalem to carry out an attack.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that two of its citizens had been arrested in Israel and said it was in contact with Israeli authorities to work on their release.

Jerusalem has seen weeks of Palestinian protests against heavy-handed tactics by Israeli police and Jewish settlers’ attempts to evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes. Nightly clashes boiled over a week ago, triggering heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group ruling Gaza.

The violence has also spread within Israel itself, with Arabs and Jews attacking each other in several mixed cities, setting vehicles ablaze and destroying property.

Jordan, a close Western ally that made peace with Israel in 1994, has a large Palestinian population.

———

JERUSALEM — Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at least 23 people on Sunday, medics said, making it the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers nearly a week ago.

The Gaza Health Ministry said another 50 people were wounded in the attack. Rescuers were racing to pull survivors and bodies from the rubble.

Earlier, the Israeli military said it destroyed the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader in a separate strike. It was the third such attack in the last two days.

Israel appears to have stepped up strikes in recent days to inflict as much damage as possible on Hamas as efforts to broker a cease-fire accelerate. A U.S. diplomat is in the region to try to de-escalate tensions, and the U.N. Security Council is set to meet Sunday.

The military said it struck the homes of Yehiyeh Sinwar, the most senior Hamas leader inside the territory, and his brother Muhammad, another senior Hamas member. On Saturday it destroyed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas’ political branch.

Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman confirmed the strike on Sinwar’s house in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis to army radio.

———

BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in comments to Sunday’s edition of the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that “Israel is using its right to self-defense to protect its population from Hamas’ rocket terror.”

He said there needs to be “1. An end to the rocket terror. 2. An end to the violence and 3. a return to talks on concrete confidence-building steps between Israelis and Palestinians and a two-state solution.”

A pair of tweets from his ministry Sunday expanding on those comments quoted Maas as saying that he has made that clear in his talks over recent days with counterparts in the region. He voiced concern about “the reports about ongoing violence, and people’s fear and desperation. This is an explosive mixture that could lead to unpredictable consequences, including for the region overall. We must prevent this happening.”

There has been no specific German government comment so far about Saturday’s Israeli strike that destroyed the high-rise building in Gaza that housed the offices of The Associated Press and other media.

———

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Sunday it destroyed the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader, the third such attack in as many days, after nearly a week of heavy Israeli airstrikes on the territory. The Palestinian militant group ruling Gaza has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

Israel appears to have stepped up strikes in recent days to inflict as much damage as possible on Hamas as efforts to broker a cease-fire accelerate. A U.S. diplomat is in the region to try to de-escalate tensions, and the U.N. Security Council is set to meet Sunday.

The military said it struck the homes of Yehiyeh Sinwar, the most senior Hamas leader inside the territory, and his brother Muhammad, another senior Hamas member. On Saturday it destroyed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas’ political branch.

———

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli warplanes have struck several buildings and roads in a vital part of Gaza City early Sunday.

According to photos circulated by residents and journalists, the airstrikes created a crater that blocked one of the main roads leading to Shifa, the largest hospital in the strip.

The Health Ministry said the latest airstrikes left at least two dead and 25 wounded, including children and women. It said rescuers are still digging through the rubble and had so far pulled up five more wounded.

Two hours into the heavy bombardment, there has been no comment from the Israeli military.

———

BEIJING — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called on the U.N. Security Council to seek an early de-escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers. He also blamed the U.S. for the council’s lack of action so far.

“Regrettably, the council has so far failed to reach an agreement, with the United States standing on the opposite side of international justice,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Wang as saying in a phone conversation Saturday with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

He expressed support for a two-state solution, and said China, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, expects all parties to speak with a unified voice when the council discusses the conflict later Sunday.

Wang said the Security Council should reconfirm a two-state solution and urge Palestinians and Israelis to resume talks on that basis as soon as possible.

———

UNITED NATIONS — A U.N. spokesman says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply disturbed” by the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City housing offices of several international media organizations and residential apartments, and is “dismayed” by the increasing number of civilian casualties.

“The secretary-general reminds all sides that any indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures violates international law and must be avoided at all costs,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Saturday.

Earlier Saturday, an Israeli airstrike pulverized a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media after warning that it was being targeted.

Guterres singled out the death of 10 members of the same family including children as a result of an Israeli airstrike Friday in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Saturday.

———

LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of protesters shut down traffic as they took to the streets of Los Angeles, calling for an end to Israeli airstrikes over the Gaza Strip.

The protesters waved flags and signs that said “free Palestine” and shouted “long live intifada,” or uprising. They marched from outside the federal building to the Israeli Consulate in the western part of the city on Saturday.

Police shut down traffic on Wilshire Boulevard, a major thoroughfare, and urged motorists to avoid the area. Police from multiple agencies were monitoring the ongoing demonstration.

Also on Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered in Boston’s Copley Square and walked a short distance through the streets to the location of the Israeli Consulate for New England, blocking traffic.

Footage on social media shows protesters then unfurled a banner in the colors of the Palestinian flag with the words “Free Palestine” while standing on top of the awning of the building where the consulate is located.

Other smaller protests in support of Palestinians took place in Hartford and Pittsburgh.

———

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the ongoing campaign against Palestinian militants, now in its sixth day, will “continue as long as needed.”

The prime minister spoke on Saturday from Israel’s defense ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv and issued a warning to leaders of Gaza’s militant Hamas group after a series of airstrikes targeted high-level officials and commanders.

Netanyahu says: “You cannot hide — not above ground, and not underground. Nobody is immune.”

The Israeli leader added that there was “no more just or moral campaign” than Israel’s against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and thanked President Joe Biden and other world leaders for their support.

Netanyahu’s remarks came at the end of a day that saw Israeli airstrikes target and destroy a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets. Everyone was safely evacuated from the building before the strike hit.

———

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Electric Company says that high voltage lines supplying the Gaza Strip with electricity were damaged by rocket fire by Palestinian militants.

The company released a statement on Saturday saying five of the 10 lines have been damaged, in the latest escalation of fighting and that the company cannot fix them because there is no access to the area.

Damage to the power lines came amid days of intense fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s only other source of electricity — besides the power provided by Israel — is its single power plant, which has been working only partially due to fuel shortages. However, both sources are insufficient to cover Gazans’ needs.

Outages of at least eight hours have long been a daily occurrence in the strip and with the power plant not working at regular capacity, rolling blackouts have increased to 12-15 hours per day recently.

With the latest hits on the power line, more outages are expected.

———

BEIRUT — A top Hamas leader says militant groups in the Gaza Strip will not retreat in the face of attacks by Israeli troops, warning that their fighters still haven’t used all their force at their disposal.

Ismail Haniyeh spoke during a rally attended by hundreds in the gas-rich nation of Qatar on Saturday night. He said that “resistance is the shortest road to Jerusalem” and that Palestinians will not accept anything less than a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

He added that “the Zionist enemy struck Gaza, flattened towers and carried out massacres,” thinking that this will make militant groups retreat. He said that as the Israeli attacks escalate, “the resistance will increase (its force) to a higher level.”

Haniyeh also said that despite the fact that Gaza has been under siege for nearly 15 years, militant groups will not retreat.

———

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has expressed “strong support” for Israel’s strikes in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas missile attacks on its territory, but raised concerns about civilian casualties and the protection of journalists on a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House says Biden on Saturday also shared his “grave concern” about intercommunal violence within Israel and escalating tensions in the West Bank. Biden and Netanyahu also discussed Jerusalem, with Biden saying it should “be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”

Biden also held his first call since taking office with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the violence, in which he called for Hamas, the PA’s rival, to stop firing rockets into Israel.

The White House says Biden “expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve” and highlighted the resumption of U.S. aid to the Palestinians under his administration.