The Latest: Palestinian official alleges Israeli war crimes

Sunday, May 16, 2021 | The Associated Press


A injured Palestinian man mourns over the body of his young son, who was killed in overnight Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Sanad Latifa)

UNITED NATIONS — Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki is accusing Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza and carrying out a policy of “apartheid” in Jerusalem.

Al-Malki told a high-level emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday that “there are no words that can describe the horrors that our people are enduring,” listing families and children and infants killed by Israeli airstrikes.

“Israel is killing Palestinians in Gaza, one family at a time,” he said. “Israel is trying to uproot Palestinians from Jerusalem. It’s expelling families, one home, neighborhood at a time. Israel is executing our people, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The Palestinian minister then challenged the Security Council -- which has remained silent on the escalating violence because of the opposition of Israel’s ally the United States to issue a statement -- asking: “How many Palestinians killed is enough for a condemnation? What is the threshold of outrage?”

Al-Malki urged the Security Council: “Act now to end the aggression and assaults on our people, our homes, our land. Act now so freedom can prevail, not apartheid.”

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TOP NEWS IN THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT:

— Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flatten three buildings and kill at least 42 people on Sunday

— An AP reporter documents the terrifying final minutes of leaving the Gaza office before it is blown 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 news agency to halt. AP's top editor called for an independent investigation into the airstrike.

— 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

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ISRAEL — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday renewed his claim that a Gaza building leveled by an Israeli airstrike housed a Hamas office as well as American and Middle East news organizations, but gave no evidence.

Netanyahu spoke to CBS’s Face the Nation about ongoing violence between Israeli forces and the armed Palestinian group Hamas, and about Saturday’s airstrike that leveled the building housing Gaza offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera news organizations. “It’s a perfectly legitimate target,” he said.

Asked if he had provided any evidence of Hamas presence in the building in a call later Saturday with President Joe Biden, Netanyahu said, “We pass it through our intelligence people.”

Netanyahu gave no time frame for when Israel would be ready to halt its side of the fighting after nearly a week of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages. “We hope that it doesn’t continue very long, but we were attacked by Hamas,” he said.

Asked about reports that Hamas had agreed to an Egypt-brokered cease-fire but Israel had not, he said, “That’s not what I know.”

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UNITED NATIONS -- A U.N. Mideast envoy says the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip has displaced some 34,000 Palestinians from their homes.

Tor Wennesland told the Security Council on Sunday that over 40 U.N. schools in Gaza have been turned into shelters. He says the schools have limited water and no access to food or health care, and serve “for protection purposes only.”

After nearly a week of fighting, Wennesland called for calm and said further escalation would have “devastating consequences for both Palestinians and Israelis.”

He called Hamas’ rocket fire from civilian neighborhoods in Gaza into Israeli population centers a violation of international law. He also urged Israel to show “maximum restraint to spare civilians and civilian objects” in its operations in Gaza.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 people Sunday, medics said. It is the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers nearly a week ago.

The violence, which came as international mediators worked to broker a cease-fire and stave off an Israeli ground invasion of the territory, marked the worst fighting here since the devastating 2014 war in Gaza.

The airstrikes Sunday hit a busy downtown street of residential buildings and storefronts over the course of five minutes just after midnight, destroying two adjacent buildings and one about 50 yards (meters) down the road.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief is appealing to Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza to immediately stop the “utterly appalling” escalation in fighting and “senseless cycle of bloodshed, terror and destruction” at the start of a high-level emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the virtual meeting on Sunday that “the United Nations is actively engaging all sides towards an immediate cease-fire.”

He warned that the most serious escalation in violence in Gaza in years “only perpetuates the cycles of death, destruction and despair, and pushes farther to the horizon any hopes of coexistence and peace.”

The open meeting is scheduled to be addressed by the Palestinian foreign minister and the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, China, Tunisia, Norway, Ireland, Algeria and the deputy foreign minister of Russia along with ambassadors from other nations on the 15-member council, an Israeli representative and the head of the Arab League.

Guterres said he is “appalled by the increasingly large numbers of Palestinian civilian casualties” from Israeli airstrikes, and deplores Israeli casualties from rockets launched from Gaza. He called the destruction of media offices in Gaza “extremely concerning,” stressing that “journalists must be allowed to work free of fear and harassment.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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