Israel’s attacks on Gaza’s civilian buildings are an attempt to demoralise Palestinians and weaken their resolve.
Israeli fighter jets continued to pummel the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, flattening residential buildings and raising the death toll to at least 227.
The health ministry of Gaza said the dead included 64 children and 38 women.
On the 10th day of the escalating violence, US President Joe Biden discussed the Gaza events with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire”.
However, Netanyahu said after the phone call with Biden that he was “determined” to continue bombarding Gaza until Israel’s “aim is met”.
Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas government have failed to make much headway.
The United States continued to block the UN Security Council from issuing a joint statement urging an end to the hostilities, telling diplomats that a public statement would not help calm the tensions.
France, however, says it is working with Israel’s neighbours, Egypt and Jordan, on a new ceasefire resolution. China said it was “supportive” of the French proposal.
Here are Wednesday’s developments – as they happened:
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an interview with television outlet France 24 that the Israeli treatment of Palestinians resembles apartheid-era South Africa.
“Palestinians want their own self-determination rights. They want their own state. They want to be able to run their own affairs and have freedom, and not have to be restricted to move around,” Ramaphosa said.
The way the Israelis “have been denying the Palestinians their rights, the way they’ve been bombing the area, one could quite easily characterise it as an apartheid-type of state”, he said.
“I have no other reference point to describe what the Israelis are doing against the Palestinians,” the South African leader said.
Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq is calling for an international investigation into Israeli attack in Gaza, including on journalists and media organisations.
The group pointed to the destruction of al-Jalaa tower, which housed the offices of Al Jazeera and The Associated Press, among other attacks, as “unlawful”.
UN member states must “condemn Israel’s unwarranted targeting of media buildings”, Al-Haq said, and “pressure Israel to urgently and immediately treat media personnel and media buildings as protected civilians and civilian objects, and respect their humanitarian immunity”.
"The targeting of media offices, whether directly or as collateral damage, cannot be distinguished from a willingness to silence opposition media & voices expressing against IOF’s crimes committed against civilian population in the Gaza Strip" #GazaUnderAttack #SaveSheikhJarrah https://t.co/TqAqOt0vZR
— Al-Haq الحق (@alhaq_org) May 19, 2021
“In more than a decade of his right-wing rule in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has cultivated an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism,” said Senator Bernie Sanders in Senate floor remarks.
At the same time, Sanders condemned the Palestinian group Hamas as a “corrupt” and “repressive” organisation.
“We must stand in solidarity with those Palestinians and Israelis working to build a future of peaceful co-existence and not with those who would destroy it,” said Sanders, who called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
US-based political analyst Omar Baddar says the Israeli government has a “long history … [of] being resistant to any possibility of American pressure to change their behaviour”.
“Ultimately, the Biden administration has come under pressure to merely rhetorically demand that Israel de-escalate, but the United States military funding of Israel continues completely untouched,” Baddar told Al Jazeera.
“I think the Israeli leadership understands that this is ultimately a bluff – that there is not going to be action put where there are only words – and therefore they are completely free to carry on with their massive assault against Gaza’s civilian population.”
A special session of the UN General Assembly will be held on Thursday to discuss the continuing violence in Gaza, Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey reported from New York.
The meeting comes amid failed efforts by the UN Security Council to agree to a statement calling for a ceasefire due to US opposition.
“With no agreement in sight, the Arab Group here at the United Nations along with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation called for this special session, hoping to keep the spotlight on the problem,” Saloomey said.
Al Jazeera’s Safwat al-Kahlout said “more selective” Israeli air raids had been conducted in central and south Gaza late on Wednesday.
Some houses in those areas were directly targeted, al-Kahlout said, but far fewer Israeli attacks had been carried out over the past hour compared with the same time the day before.
Rocketfire from Gaza towards Israel also reduced significantly compared with previous days, al-Kahlout said.
Several Palestinian journalists have spoken to Al Jazeera of their fear and the exhaustion of covering the continuing Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip and their determination to continue their work.
Read more here.
Leicestershire fire brigade union members refuse to remove activists of the Palestinian solidarity group Palestine Action from the roof of Israel’s arms factory in the United Kingdom’s city of Leicester, according to a statement by the union chair shared on Twitter by Palestine Action.
“Union officials immediately reminded senior managers that as firefighters, we are, and remain, a proud humanitarian service and our role does not involve law enforcement,” the statement said.
“Once the safety of those involved had been confirmed, fire brigades union members withdrew from the incident,” it added.
Fire Brigades Union @fbunational statement on their refusal to cooperate with police operation to remove Palestine Action activists from the roof of Israel’s arms factory in #Leicester.
This is direct action. This is solidarity. The occupation continues #ShutElbitDown pic.twitter.com/HvbNtaFt2n
— Palestine Action (@Pal_action) May 19, 2021
Several survivors of Israeli air attacks on Gaza, many of them pulled from the rubble and mourning decimated families, have shared their experiences with Al Jazeera.
Read more here.
More than 2,000 people turned out at a rally in Berlin under the banner “Against Israeli aggression in Palestine,” a police spokesperson said.
Many people waved Palestinian flags. The demonstration was peaceful, according to initial reports.
However, it was called off before the procession had reached the city’s Brandenburg Gate, and the police spokesperson was initially unable to explain the reasons it ended sooner than planned.
Hundreds of Kuwaitis demonstrated in support of Palestinians and burned an Israeli flag to protest at the bombardment of Gaza after authorities allowed the rally to proceed despite coronavirus restrictions.
Protesters, who were only granted access to a main square on foot to limit numbers, chanted “Death to Israel” and held banners rejecting normalisation accords struck by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to forge ties with Israel.
“We send a message to our friends in GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries that any normalisation with the Zionists will not help. It helps the killer against the Palestinian people,” said 43-year-old Osama al-Zaid, a Kuwaiti political activist.
“Palestine and Al-Aqsa are in our hearts. We absolutely refuse it (normalisation),” said 30-year-old Kuwaiti employee Zahraa Habeeb.
Other protesters, who included dozens of expatriates, chanted slogans calling for rocket attacks on Tel Aviv.
In response to Biden’s de-escalation call, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassam said those who sought to restore calm must “compel Israel to end its aggression in Jerusalem and its bombardment of Gaza”.
Once that happened, Qassam said, “there can be room to talk about arrangements to restore calm.”
The leader of Islamic Jihad, another Gaza group, said political talks “remain at a standstill”.
“The only path towards freedom [is] to protect Jerusalem and people,” said Islamic Jihad chief Ziad al-Nakhala.
The US mission to the United Nations said it “will not support actions that we believe undermine efforts to de-escalate” violence between Israel and Palestinian fighters when asked about a French push for a Security Council resolution.
“We’ve been clear and consistent that we are focused on intensive diplomatic efforts underway to bring an end to the violence and that we will not support actions that we believe undermine efforts to de-escalate,” a spokesperson for the mission said.
Pakistanis marched in the streets of Karachi to protest the Israeli air raids on Gaza.
“I think we all need to come together as humans, we all need to come together as Muslims to help Palestine gain its freedom. Enough is enough,” said one protester, civil society activist Lubna Lakhani.
“Palestine has suffered for years and years and years. This really needs to stop, and I am doing my very little bit to help that cause. And I am praying every single night for them. Free Palestine.”
A small group of US progressive legislators led by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are objecting to a $735m US munitions sale to Israel approved by the Biden administration.
“For decades, the US has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement on Wednesday.
“In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions,” she said.
The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing.
We have a responsibility to protect human rights. https://t.co/OctBNYFpwp
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 19, 2021
Ocasio-Cortez and Representatives Mark Pocan and Rashida Tlaib, with six other Democrats, introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives that would disallow the sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel.
The Biden administration had notified Congress on May 5 of the planned sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) and Small Diameter Bombs, the same kinds of weapons now being used by Israel in Gaza.
UN aid convoy still being held up at Gaza-Israel border
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from southern Israel, said the UN aid convoy was still being held up at the Karam Abu Salim border crossing (Kerem Shalom in Hebrew), more than 24 hours after Israel re-shut the border into Gaza that it briefly opened for aid deliveries.
“The UN is frustrated with the Israelis. The Israelis are simply not opening the border because they say the barrier isn’t secure and they can’t secure that convoy into the Gaza Strip,” he said.
“Once again, it’s one of these things [that is] incredibly frustrating on all sides. If there was a breakthrough, people would perhaps be talking louder about a ceasefire, some potential cessation of hostilities but that no longer seems to be something that’s being talked about.”
“In fact, we’ve heard very hard words from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is saying effectively all options are on the table including the reoccupation of Gaza and that’s not something most people in Israel are taking seriously.”
“It just goes to show the kind of language and mood the Israelis are in and that’s why that aid, 24 hours later, is still stuck at that barrier crossing.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that he is “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met”, despite US President Joe Biden’s call for a de-escalation of hostilities in Gaza.
In a statement from the his office, Netanyahu said that he “greatly appreciates the support of the American president”, but said Israel will push ahead “to return the calm and security to you, citizens of Israel”.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was hopeful a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinians would pass at the Security Council and that discussions were being held to persuade Washington.
Le Drian told a parliamentary committee there was a chance of success, but added: “It’s not done yet.”
Death toll from the continuing Israeli attacks on Gaza has reached 227, including 38 women and 64 children, according to the enclave’s health ministry. The number of those injured has hit 1,620, it said.
Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington DC, said US President Joe Biden’s phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “really important” even though he didn’t call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
“Instead, the read out says they had a detailed discussion about the state of events in Gaza. Still, what we can see in diplomatic speak is an incremental step forward,” she said.
“Earlier in the week, the US president was insisting that there was support for a ceasefire, so we’ve now gone a step further but there still is not this outright call for one,” Halkett added.
“What the White House has been doing in this time is insisting that quiet diplomacy is taking place, that telephone diplomacy is taking place and there is diplomacy going on with some of its partners and allies, namely Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, who have channels to Hamas and this is the way the US believes they can bring down the escalation.”
Mazen Naim, communications officer for Save the Children in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that the continuing Israeli air raids were preventing international organisations from delivering aid and assessing the damages in Gaza.
“We draw up plans and wait until the ceasefire happens so we are able to reach people and deliver the assistance and do the assessment of the schools,” he said.
“The first step is to do an assessment of the damage and raise funds for the rebuilding and rehabilitation for the schools, everything that’s related to the physical side in order to resume education which is going to be expensive, exhausting and will take a lot of effort from international donors and aid organisation here on the ground.”
“But there is also the psychological part, the children themselves will be suffering from trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder and various other disorders,” he said.
Iran supports Palestinians’ fight against Israel, the head of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards said in a televised speech.
“Tehran backs the Palestinians’ fight against the Zionist regime (Israel),” Hossein Salami said. “The Palestinians have emerged as a missile-equipped nation.”
Four rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel, in the third such attack in less than a week, a Lebanese military source told the AFP news agency.
The rockets were fired from near the village of Seddiqine in the district of Tyre, the source said, without specifying who was responsible.
The Israeli army confirmed the attack, saying it retaliated with artillery fire.
“Four rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory” and Israel’s air defences intercepted one while the rest “likely fell in open areas”, it said in a statement.
Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from a pro-Palestinian protest in Tehran, said, “We have just heard Hamas’ representative to Tehran address the crowd. Iran has been a staunch supporter of the Palestinians.”
“In fact, they see the Palestinians as part of they call the axis of resistance which is made up of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Syria and also various militias across Iraq.”
He said Iran has been outspoken in its defence of the Palestinians and the condemnation of Israel.
“We’ve seen placards here and chants, the traditional chants of death to Israel and death to the United States. Iran hasn’t hidden the fact that they support the Palestinians in terms of technology and know-how when it comes to those rockets and drones.”
Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy press secretary, said US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke again in the morning.
“The two had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States,” she said.
“The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.”
The Arab League parliament has convened an extraordinary meeting in Cairo to express solidarity with the Palestinians and condemn Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said: “The truth is becoming crystal clear now with all its ugliness and hideousness: we are before a colonising people that lives under an apartheid state and an occupation government that systematically practices ethnic cleansing.”
Others also criticised Israel, with Arab parliament speaker Adel Al-Asoumi accusing Israel of “war crimes and of full-fledged crimes against humanity”.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Al Jazeera from Paris: “I think that President [Emmanuel] Macron has been very clear, diplomacy cannot be blocked on this long-running conflict.”
“There is a need for a ceasefire, there is a need for diplomatic action and that’s why President Macron has proposed this initiative with Egypt and Jordan,” he said.
“I think these are very positive initiatives, and once again I think everywhere in the world, everybody is waiting for a ceasefire, is expecting a ceasefire [and] that’s exactly the road that has been proposed by France and by President Macron.”
Sirens sounded in the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, and in the central city of Rehovot due to a round of rockets launched from Gaza, Israeli media reported.
BREAKING: Rocket barrage launched at southern, central Israel from Gazahttps://t.co/PdIfCDNo0B
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) May 19, 2021
At least 333 wounded in Israel have received medical treatment since violence flared on May 10, the Israeli Magen David Adom emergency service said on social media.
Journalist Youmna al-Sayed, reporting from Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital, said that more than 72,000 internally displaced people are facing “extremely difficult conditions” due to a shortage of food, water and electricity.
Health officials, al-Sayed said, are also concerned about the continuing coronavirus crisis in the territory given that the only COVID-test laboratory is now inoperable due to damages caused by an Israeli air raid that hit a nearby building.
A senior Russian official warned Israel’s ambassador that actions that led to a further increase in civilian casualties in Gaza were unacceptable, Russia’s foreign ministry said.
As Israeli air raids in Gaza have killed more than 200 people over the past 10 days, Al Jazeera went closer to the ground to speak to the people living in this warzone.
Listen to Al Jazeera’s podcast The Take, with our host, Malika Bilal.
UNRWA Director Matthias Schmale, speaking at a news conference in Gaza, pleaded with the international community to donate $37m for immediate assistance, especially to assist internally displaced people.
On Tuesday, some fuel trucks were allowed into the besieged enclave, but food convoys were returned, before the crossing was reclosed due to what the Israeli army said were security concerns, Schmale said.
“We will work on having safe humanitarian corridors in the next days,” he added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is pursuing “forceful deterrence” against Gaza’s Hamas government, but does not rule out a further escalation.
Meeting with foreign ambassadors, he said “you can either conquer them, and that’s always an open possibility, or you can deter them”.
Netanyahu said Israel hopes to restore quiet “quickly” and is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties.
ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו מקיים תדרוך ללמעלה מ-70 שגרירים ונציגים דיפלומטיים זרים, בקריה בת״א, יחד עם שר החוץ גבי אשכנזי.
בתדרוך משתתפים נציגים דיפלומטיים מארה"ב, נציג האיחוד האירופי, שגרירים מרוסיה, סין, הודו, גרמניה, אוסטריה, אוסטרליה, יפן, בריטניה, ברזיל, קנדה, איטליה ועוד. pic.twitter.com/dCqtLfaduC
— ראש ממשלת ישראל (@IsraeliPM_heb) May 19, 2021
Translation: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding a briefing with more than 70 foreign ambassadors and diplomatic representatives in Tel Aviv, together with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
The briefing is attended by diplomats, including from the US, the EU, Russia, China, India, Germany, Austria, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada and Italy.
YouTube has added an age restriction to Al Jazeera Arabic’s live stream amid the channel’s continuing coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A message appeared on Al Jazeera Arabic’s YouTube page, indicating the channel’s content may be inappropriate and that viewing the live stream requires verification of the user’s age.
Read the full story here.
The bodies of Islam Wael Bernat, 15, and Adham al-Kashef, 20, have been carried to their final resting place in the occupied West Bank city of al-Bireh.
The two were among four Palestinians killed by Israeli forces while participating in a protest on Tuesday as part of a general strike across the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israel is assessing whether conditions are right to halt its air campaign against Palestinian armed groups in Gaza but is preparing for “more days” of attacks if necessary, an Israeli military source told AFP news agency.
“We are looking at when is the right moment for a ceasefire,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The source added that Israel was evaluating whether its objective of degrading the capabilities of Gaza’s Hamas government had been achieved and “whether Hamas understands the message” that its rocket barrages towards Israel cannot continue.
Dozens of Palestinian families have rushed to evacuate their tower block after receiving a warning that Israel would destroy it in an air raid. The Al-Andalus tower is a 16-storey building in the north of Gaza City.
Smoke was seen rising after a warning shot fired by the Israeli army.
At least 58 Palestinian citizens of Israel were detained overnight, according to the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (ADALAH).
Turkey rejected accusations by the United States that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made “anti-Semitic” remarks in his criticism of Israeli attacks in Gaza, his party’s spokesman said.
“Accusing our president of anti-Semitism is an illogical and untrue approach. This is a lie said about our president,” Omer Celik tweeted.
Israeli air raids killed at least four people in Gaza, destroyed seven residential houses, a youth centre in the southern town of Khan Younis and a charity centre in Rafah, local media reported.
The four Palestinians killed include a journalist in Gaza City’s western area of Radwan and a family comprised of a husband, wife and son after their apartment was hit in Gaza City.
Members of the al-Astal family, whose house was among the seven destroyed overnight, said a warning missile struck the building five minutes before its bombardment.
Fifty schools in Gaza have been damaged by Israeli air raids over the past week, according to Save the Children, affecting a total of 41,897 children.
Three further schools have been damaged in Israel by rockets fired from Gaza, according to UNICEF.
UNRWA is “deeply worried” about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, while it appealed for the immediate opening of the Beit Hanoon (Erez in Hebrew) and Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom in Hebrew) crossings into the enclave.
The two crossings would enable the movement of critical humanitarian personnel, such as security officers, trauma coordinators and humanitarian supplies.
The continuing hostilities are taking place amid a COVID-related health crisis in the Palestinian territories. “The pandemic, with people crowding seeking refuge, remains a serious emergency: Gaza and the West Bank just had the highest COVID-19 outbreaks recently, worse than India in terms of rate,” read a statement from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
The Israeli police arrested 21 Palestinian protesters in various cities across the occupied West Bank, according to Wafa news agency.
Three were arrested in the city of Hebron, three in Nablus, three in Jenin and four in Bethlehem, local media reported.
Chile’s Palestinian community – the largest outside the Middle East, with more than 300,000 people – staged a protest in Santiago on Tuesday, denouncing Israel’s deadly air attacks against Gaza.
More than 1,000 people met at the Club Deportivo Palestino football headquarters in eastern Santiago, the AFP news agency reported.
Maurice Khamis, president of the Palestinian Community of Chile, said the protesters wanted to add “to the demonstrations that have taken place around the world … and also to support the hundreds of Palestinian civilian victims who have died in these Israeli attacks and bombings”.
The Israeli military dropped 122 bombs on Gaza during a 25-minute period on Tuesday night, the Times of Israel reported.
The raids, which began at 10pm local time, targeted an underground Hamas tunnel network in Gaza, the website said, quoting military spokesman, Hidai Zilberman.
A fourth Palestinian was killed in Israel’s continuing raids on Gaza Strip, according to local media.
Yusef Abu Hussein was a journalist at the radio station, al-Aqsa Voice, according to the Wafa news agency and the Shehab news agency.
Israel continued to bomb the Gaza Strip as dawn approached on Wednesday, according to local media reports, hitting a residential building in central Gaza City and killing at least three Palestinians.
Three others were wounded, the Wafa news agency said.
This morning in Gaza pic.twitter.com/Xqyzvxv0FX
— TIMES OF GAZA (@Timesofgaza) May 19, 2021
Palestinian armed groups also continued firing rockets towards Israel. An AFP photographer reported streaks of light in the sky late on Tuesday as Israel’s air defence system intercepted the rockets.
Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, called on the international community to ensure adequate funding for the global body’s humanitarian operations in Gaza.
“We are seeing immense human suffering and extensive damage to homes and vital infrastructure in Gaza,” he said in a tweet.
We are seeing immense human suffering and extensive damage to homes and vital infrastructure in Gaza.
I call on the international community to ensure adequate funding for our humanitarian operations in Gaza. https://t.co/lbKUIbhulU
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) May 18, 2021
Earlier, the UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock called on Israel to provide “unimpeded humanitarian access” to Gaza.
“The crossings with Gaza need to be opened and to remain as such for the entrance of essential and humanitarian supplies, including fuel for basic services and supplies to curb the spread of COVID-19,” he said in a statement.
I'm deeply concerned by the ongoing hostilities between the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.
In order to support civilians caught in the crisis, we need adequate funding for the response and unimpeded humanitarian access.
My statement: https://t.co/FAFtCf3bt6
— Mark Lowcock (@UNReliefChief) May 18, 2021
Hundreds of protesters gathered across the street from the Israeli consulate in the US city of New York, denouncing Israel’s continuing attacks on Gaza.
Today, NYC turned up for Palestine as part of a global solidarity campaign in support of the general strike being waged by Palestinians. We will keep fighting until Palestinians are liberated and Palestine is free. (This is only part of the march – cops kicked us off the bridge.) pic.twitter.com/yY8KVVYuDU
— Andy Ratto (@andyratto) May 18, 2021
Rallies in support of Palestine were also held in Boston and Los Angeles.
— PSL Boston (@BostonPSL) May 19, 2021
— alaa 🌙 (@stanhijabi) May 18, 2021
For all the developments from Tuesday, May 18, go here.