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US for 3rd time blocking Security Council joint statement calling for ceasefire

Statement would criticize both sides for ongoing violence * IDF says it struck Hamas-dug tunnel shaft located near kindergarten * Congress sees 1st bipartisan call for ceasefire

  • US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield attends a Cabinet meeting with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House on April 1, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)
    US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield attends a Cabinet meeting with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House on April 1, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)
  • Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes carry out strikes, early on May 17, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
    Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes carry out strikes, early on May 17, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
  • A streak of light appears as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021.  (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
    A streak of light appears as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
  • Israeli soldiers walk next to an ammunition transport vehicle at their position by the border with the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
    Israeli soldiers walk next to an ammunition transport vehicle at their position by the border with the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
  • A firefighter extinguishes a burning vehicle in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon following a rocket attack fired from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
    A firefighter extinguishes a burning vehicle in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon following a rocket attack fired from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
  • An excavator clears the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaza City's Rimal residential district on May 16, 2021. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)
    An excavator clears the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaza City's Rimal residential district on May 16, 2021. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)
  • A man reacts while walking past the the rubble of the Yazegi residential building that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP/Adel Hana)
    A man reacts while walking past the the rubble of the Yazegi residential building that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP/Adel Hana)
  • Mourners pray over the bodies of 17 Palestinians who were killed in overnight Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP/Sanad Latifa)
    Mourners pray over the bodies of 17 Palestinians who were killed in overnight Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP/Sanad Latifa)
  • A young girl inside a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv as rocket barrages from Gaza rain down on the city, on May 16, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    A young girl inside a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv as rocket barrages from Gaza rain down on the city, on May 16, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Israeli security forces inspect on May 16, 2021 the scene of a car-ramming attack in East Jerusalem. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli security forces inspect on May 16, 2021 the scene of a car-ramming attack in East Jerusalem. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
  • Israeli security forces at the scene where a synagogue in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
    Israeli security forces at the scene where a synagogue in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
  • A long exposure picture shows iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missile as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, as it seen from the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
    A long exposure picture shows iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missile as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, as it seen from the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
  • Palestinian firefighters search for survivors and bodies under the rubble after an intensive bombardment of Gaza City following rocket fire, May 16, 2021 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
    Palestinian firefighters search for survivors and bodies under the rubble after an intensive bombardment of Gaza City following rocket fire, May 16, 2021 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
  • A member of Israeli security forces inspects a crater in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon following a rocket attack fired from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
    A member of Israeli security forces inspects a crater in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon following a rocket attack fired from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
  • An Israeli man at the scene where a home was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in Ashdod on May 16, 2021. (Flash90)
    An Israeli man at the scene where a home was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in Ashdod on May 16, 2021. (Flash90)
  • Israeli soldiers at a staging area near the Israeli border with Gaza, May 16, 2021 (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
    Israeli soldiers at a staging area near the Israeli border with Gaza, May 16, 2021 (Avi Roccah/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded. For a recap of Saturday’s events, click here.

IDF defends strike on Gaza media building, noting Hamas, PIJ assets in building

Fire and smoke rises from the Jala Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike after the IDF warned the occupants to leave, Gaza City,  May 15, 2021 (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Fire and smoke rises from the Jala Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike after the IDF warned the occupants to leave, Gaza City, May 15, 2021 (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman pushes back against American lawmakers’ condemnation of the targeting of a building in Gaza that housed a number of international media outlets, where the military says Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization also maintained facilities.

One of the main occupants of the building, the Associate Press news agency, which has maintained offices there for some 15 years, has denied knowledge of Hamas’s presence in the building and demanded the Israel Defense Forces release evidence of that fact, which Zilberman rejected.

“Yesterday I released a statement with the assets that were in the building. I’ll repeat them: a Hamas research and development unit, Hamas military intelligence and offices of the PIJ. It was very clear what was in there,” he says.

Asked if the strike wasn’t a mistake nevertheless given the denunciation by key Israeli allies, including US President Joe Biden and Democratic US Senator Bob Menendez, who have until now overwhelmingly supported Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip in response to ongoing rocket fire from Gaza at cities and towns throughout the country, Zilberman balked.

“We’re in the midst of an operation. They are firing wherever they want, on a civilian population, on cities that have tens and hundreds of thousands of people. Think for a second about all the people you mentioned, imagine what they would say if one rocket — one! — were fired at Washington. I want to know what they would say,” Zilberman says.

“A building that has Hamas and Islamic Jihad assets in it needs to be brought down.”

The spokesperson adds that this operation was meant to deter terror groups from maintaining offices alongside media outlets in the future.

“If Hamas and the Islamic Jihad think that the media are their shield, then in the next operation in Gaza, we’ll find that media outlets’ offices are going to be popping up as covers for terrorist assets,” he says.

IDF lauds Iron Dome performance in overnight rocket barrage from Gaza

Some 55 rockets were fired at Tel Aviv and central Israel in Hamas’s Saturday midnight barrage, the Israel Defense Forces says.

Without releasing exact numbers, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman says the Iron Dome missile defense system performed well against the fusillade.

“We intercepted a very, very good percentage of them,” he says.

No direct injuries were reported in the strikes, though a number of people were injured while running to bomb shelters, according to medics.

IDF releases footage of bombing of Hamas chief Sinwar’s home

The IDF releases footage of its bombing of the home of Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, overnight.

Three-hour quiet punctured by 5 a.m. rocket fire at Gaza border towns

After a three-hour lull in Gaza rocket fire from roughly 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., fresh rocket sirens sound this morning throughout the Gaza border area, including in Berekhaya, Nitzanim, Nir Israel, Nahal Oz and Hodaya.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

60 brushfires put out in West Bank on Saturday, half of them said caused by arson

Israeli Fire and Rescue Services officials say 60 brushfires were put out throughout the West Bank since Saturday morning that were sparked by firebombs and burning tires in protests.

An estimated 30 of those brushfires were started intentionally, the officials say.

In call with Gantz, US defense chief condemns Hamas and calls for calm

The Pentagon releases a readout of a Saturday phone call between US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

While Austin “reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself” and “strongly condemned the continued onslaught of attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups targeting Israeli civilians,” he urged an end to the fighting and the restoration of calm.

IDF says over 130 rockets fired at Israel overnight

Palestinian terror groups fired over 130 rockets toward Israel from the Gaza Strip from Saturday night to Sunday morning, the military says, with dozens of the incoming projectiles being intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, roughly 120 rockets were fired into Israeli territory during that time, while 11 failed to clear the border and landed within the Gaza Strip.

Roughly half of the projectiles — 55 — were fired at Israel in a massive barrage aimed at central and southern Israel around midnight Saturday, which caused neither injury nor significant damage, according to Israeli authorities.

In total, terrorists have launched nearly 2,500 rockets since the start of the fighting on Monday evening, according to the military’s tally.

Israeli security cabinet to meet Sunday to consider next steps in Gaza

Israel’s security cabinet, the small committee of ministers empowered by Israeli law to make war decisions, is set to meet on Sunday morning to consider the next steps in the fighting in Gaza.

Egypt said to ask Israel for brief humanitarian ceasefire

The London-based Arabic-language Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news site reports that Egypt is seeking a brief humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but that the idea is on hold apparently because the Palestine side won’t agree to Israel’s condition that all rocket fire and West Bank violence stops for the duration of the ceasefire.

Citing Egyptian sources, the paper says the ceasefire would last a few hours to allow rescuers to rescue anyone found trapped in rubble where buildings were destroyed, and to recover bodies of those killed.

Israel, the paper reports, “is intransigent,” conditioning its participation in the complete cessation of hostilities by Palestinian factions.

The Egyptian proposal was reportedly presented by Egypt’s intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel to Mossad head Yossi Cohen.

Gaza expected to run out of fuel for generating electricity today

The Gaza Strip is expected to run out of fuel for its power station later today, significantly reducing the already small amount of electricity in the beleaguered Palestinian enclave, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

With the outbreak of fighting last Monday, the Israeli military shuttered the Kerem Shalom Border Crossing, through which passes the primary pipeline into Gaza, blocking the flow of fuel to the Strip and reducing the amount of electricity in the enclave to between four and five hours per day.

On Thursday, a senior Israeli defense official said Gaza was due to run out of fuel by Sunday. Asked about the issue today, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman confirms that this is the case.

“They’ll have trouble operating their power plant because they don’t have fuel. This will have a significant effect on the amount of electricity in Gaza,” Zilberman says.

As second week of violence dawns, many towns see efforts to repair and reconnect

In Acre, Arab and Jewish residents joined together to clean the streets.

In Haifa, Arab residents handed out flowers to motorists.

Gantz meets Biden envoy Hady Amr to talk de-escalation

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with US envoy Hady Amr for talks on de-escalating the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Amr, who serves as the US deputy assistant secretary for Israel and Palestinian affairs, arrived in Israel on Friday to advance the Biden administration’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict.

Amr’s mission seems to be a bid to compensate for the lack of US ambassadors to either Israel or the Palestinians. Neither position has been filled yet by the new administration.

After lull, rocket fire renews toward Gaza border towns

Rockets are launched towards Israel from Rafah, in the southern the Gaza Strip on May 15, 2021 (Said KHATIB / AFP)
Rockets are launched towards Israel from Rafah, in the southern the Gaza Strip on May 15, 2021 (Said KHATIB / AFP)

After a 4-hour lull, fresh rocket sirens have been set off in the Gaza border towns of Nirim and Ein Hashlosha.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

15 Palestinians killed in morning strikes, Hamas-run health ministry says

Palestinian firefighters search for survivors and bodies under the rubble after an intensive bombardment of Gaza City following rocket fire, May 16, 2021 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Palestinian firefighters search for survivors and bodies under the rubble after an intensive bombardment of Gaza City following rocket fire, May 16, 2021 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

At least 15 Palestinians have been reported dead so far in a heavy Israeli bombardment on Gaza City early Sunday morning, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says.

Israeli airstrikes reportedly targeted Al-Wehdat, a thoroughfare in Gaza City, late last night.

According to reports on social media, no warning was given to residents that an Israeli strike was on its way.

One of the casualties is a well-known doctor at Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, Ayman Abu Aouf, the Health Ministry reports.

Paramedics have reported more fatalities at the scene as they continue to dig people out.

“We’re hearing screams under the rubble,” a member of Gaza’s Civil Defense tells the Al-Jazeera network.

Palestinians say 174 killed in Gaza since fighting started, 47 of them children

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says that 174 Palestinians have died since the beginning of hostilities between Hamas and Israel. According to the ministry, 47 were children.

Another 1,200 Palestinians were wounded.

Israel has said it doesn’t target civilians, and that most of those killed in Gaza were either members of terror groups or were killed by errant Palestinian rockets.

Non-Israeli airlines cancel flights this week amid rocket fire

Foreign airlines cancel their services to and from Israel due to the rocket fire by terror groups in the Gaza Strip, leaving Israeli companies alone in offering flight connections abroad.

On Saturday, Fly Dubai and Etihad Air, two carriers with lines to the United Arab Emirates, both halted operations, Hebrew media reports. They joined a slew of other airlines that canceled flights in the past few days.

Airlines have pulled out despite Israel last week arranging to divert some incoming flights away from Ben Gurion Airport, the main international terminus, to land at Ramon Airport in the south of the country.

The cancellations cover flights that were scheduled through Tuesday for the most part. The Ben Gurion Airport flight board shows that many airlines still have flights scheduled from May 19.

Security cabinet meets on Gaza operation

Israel’s security cabinet, the committee of ministers legally empowered to make war decisions, is meeting now to discuss the next steps in the Gaza operation.

Hebrew media reports suggest some of the ministers plan to urge a quick end to the fighting.

IDF says it struck 11 Gazan rocket launchers, one Hamas cell Sunday morning

The IDF says its airstrikes against Hamas rocket launchers in Gaza continue this morning.

Air Force jets struck 11 launchers in Shejaiyah and Khan Younis, as well as a Hamas cell in Khan Younis while it was operating a launcher.

None hurt in shooting attack on Israeli motorist east of Hebron

Military officials say an Israeli driver came under fire east of Hebron in the southern West Bank a short time ago.

No one was hurt in the shooting.

The IDF is searching for the perpetrator.

Israeli airlines step up with rescue flights for Israelis stuck abroad

All three Israeli airlines, El Al, Arkia and Israir, will run special rescue flights for Israelis trapped abroad by flight cancellations of non-Israeli airlines amid the rocket fire from Gaza.

Israir sent planes to the Belgian city of Liege this morning. Another plane will head to the Greek island of Crete late Monday. Israir plans to send planes to Frankfurt, London and Paris today.

Rocket sirens sound in Netivot, Gaza border villages

A barrage of rockets is being fired at Israeli towns and villages near the Gaza border. Rocket sirens are sounding in Netivot and Kissufim.

Major rocket barrage on Ashkelon, Ashdod; two rockets fall in Netivot

The rocket barrages from Gaza continue, with sirens sounding in the coastal cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.

Two rockets fell in Netivot, one exploding outside a supermarket.

Initial reports say no one was hurt in the Netivot explosion.

Police say no one hurt and no damage after rockets hit Netivot

Police arrive on the scene in two locations in the southern town of Netivot where Gazan rockets landed just moments ago.

Initial police reports say the rockets caused no casualties or damage.

Police sappers are working to dispose of the exploded warheads.

The Kan public broadcaster tweeted footage from the site where one of the rockets fell in the city.

Two Jordanians caught after crossing into Israel carrying knives, police say

Two Jordanian nationals were caught inside Israel after apparently crossing the border from Jordan undetected, police say.

Police responded to a phone call about two suspicious men seen walking along Route 6666 near the village of Beit Alfa. Officers caught up to the men, who turned out to be Jordanians without entry permits into Israel.

They were carrying knives and reportedly said they were headed to Jerusalem.

Rocket sirens sound in Sderot, Gaza border villages as barrage continues

The rocket barrage from Gaza continues.

Rocket sirens are sounding throughout the Gaza border region, including in Sderot, Gavim, Nir Am, Ibim and Mefalsim.

CCTV footage shows moment Netivot rocket lands on city street

CCTV footage from a Netivot gas station shows the moment a Gazan rocket landed in a street in the city.

The cameras shows drivers stopping their cars and running to a nearby wall for protection as the rocket siren sounds. The rocket then hits the street only a few feet away from one of the stopped cars.

And from another angle:

No one directly hurt in the last hour’s rocket barrage, MDA says

The Magen David Adom rescue service says no one was directly hurt in the rocket barrage fired at Israeli cities from Gaza over the last hour.

One woman was lightly hurt while running to a bomb shelter. A man near Ashkelon was treated for anxiety.

Gaza officials say death toll rises to 181, of them 52 are children

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza updates its total count of the dead in the Strip to 181, of them 52 are children and 31 women.

The ministry puts the count of wounded at 1,225.

The ministry’s “emergency response teams are still working to extract trapped people and dead bodies from under the rubble,” it says.

Rocket siren sounds in Ashkelon

A rocket siren is sounding in Ashkelon, following a series of barrages that targeted southern towns over the past two hours.

Report: Hezbollah has ‘no interest’ in Gaza conflict spreading to Lebanon

An unnamed Lebanese official tells the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Hezbollah does not want to expand the Gaza fighting to the Lebanese theater.

“The situation on the border with Israel will remain under control because Hezbollah has no interest to expand the conflict,” the source is quoted as saying.

The official noted Iran also doesn’t want an Israel-Hezbollah war while it tries to win sanctions relief from the US at the nuclear talks in Vienna.

Pope denounces fighting between Israel, Hamas

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

Francis prays 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 says: “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 adds: “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.

Rocket sirens sound in Netivot and Gaza border villages

Sirens are sounding in the southern town of Netivot once more, and in Gaza-border villages including Kissufim, Alumim and Be’eri.

The rocket fire has continued with short stops for much of the past three hours.

Mansour Abbas: We will repair synagogues torched by Arabs

In a Hebrew-language interview with the Kan public broadcaster earlier today, Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas says Arab Israelis will “lead” efforts to repair and rehabilitate synagogues burned down by violent Arab rioters in recent days in the central city of Lod.

“We have to notice that all the violence was against the backdrop of the entry [of Israeli police] to the Al-Aqsa Mosque” on Monday, Abbas tells Kan. “We must keep our distance from the holy places, leave them out of the conflict.”

He adds: “I spoke with Arab residents of Lod themselves. I heard from them that there were certain attacks on a number of synagogues. I’m speaking in their name now. I’m telling you that we will work to rehabilitate the synagogues that were harmed. Of course we condemn all attacks. We will take responsibility for this [repairing the synagogues]. We will lead on this. We have no problem with that. It’s our duty to protect the holy places of Jews and Muslims and Christians.”

Israelis carry Torah scrolls out of a synagogue in the central Israeli city of Lod torched the night before by Arab rioters, on May 12, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Abbas has called for greater Arab-Jewish cooperation and integration over the past few months, including in his party’s bid to join, for the first time, a coalition of Zionist political parties.

Islamic countries castigate Israel at emergency summit on Gaza fighting

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation opens an emergency meeting Sunday over the heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas, the first major move among Mideast nations still grappling with how to address the conflict.

While the Arab League and organizations like the Saudi-based OIC have maintained their view that the Palestinians should have their own independent state, Israel recently has reached recognition deals with several of its members. That, as well as the concerns of some nations over Hamas, has seen a somewhat muted response to the attacks as opposed to the full-throated response of decades past.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki of the Palestinian Authority decries what he called Israel’s “cowardly attacks” at the start of the meeting.

“We need to tell Allah that we will resist to the last day,” he says. “We are facing a long-term occupation. That’s the base of the problem. Crimes are committed against the Palestinians without consequences.”

However, Malki’s Palestinian Authority has no control over Hamas and the Gaza Strip.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu takes a similarly hard line. “Israel alone is responsible for the recent escalation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza,” Cavusoglu says. “Our warnings to Israel last week went unheeded.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Israel of “genocide and crimes against humanity.”

“Make no mistake: Israel only understands the language of resistance and the people of Palestine are fully entitled to their right to defend themselves,” Zarif said.

Across the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf states, reactions to the fighting have been mixed. In Qatar, home to the Al-Jazeera satellite network, hundreds turned out late Saturday night to listen to a speech by Hamas’s top leader Ismail Haniyeh. He now splits his time between Turkey and Qatar, both of which back Hamas, as does Iran.

Shin Bet arrests five Bedouin Israelis for alleged ‘attempted lynching’ of Jews

The Shin Bet security service says it has arrested five Bedouin Israeli residents of the country’s south on suspicion of what the organization describes as an “attempted lynching” of Jewish drivers last Tuesday.

The five allegedly stopped four cars on the Route 6 highway near the town of Lakiya and assaulted the passengers.

Baby lightly hurt in Ashkelon as mother runs to bomb shelter

An eight-month-old baby is lightly injured in the southern city of Ashkelon in his mother’s dash to a bomb shelter under rocket fire.

The baby was rushed to Barzilai Hospital in the city.

Gershon Franco, killed in rocket fire on Ramat Gan yesterday, laid to rest

Gershon Franco, 55, who was killed yesterday by a rocket from Gaza that landed in Ramat Gan, is being buried right now the terror victims’ section of the Yarkon Cemetery in Petah Tikva, the central cemetery of the Tel Aviv area.

Police and rescue personnel at the scene of a rocket strike in Ramat Gan that killed Gershon Franco, 55, on May 15, 2021 (Gili Yaari /Flash90)

IAF says it struck armory inside Gaza home

The Israel Air Force publishes footage of what it says is an airstrike on the home of a Hamas commander that also housed a weapons cache in the central Gaza Strip.

The air force says it also struck a naval armory in the southern Strip.

No discussion of ceasefire in meeting, source says

Several Hebrew media outlets report that a security cabinet meeting did not include any discussion of a ceasefire with Hamas, citing an unnamed “diplomatic source.”

There is no official comment from authorities following the meeting.

Rocket fire resumes after hour break

Rocket sirens ring out as fire resumes in areas near the Gaza border after about an hour’s lull.

Highest pace of rocket fire ever — IDF

Israel has faced the highest ever rate of rocket attacks on its territory during its latest confrontation with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas that controls Gaza, the army says.

Since Monday, armed groups in Gaza have fired about 3,000 rockets toward Israel, surpassing the pace during an escalation of violence in 2019 and during the 2006 war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, says Major General Ori Gordin.

Gordin, commander of Israel’s home front, presents a graphic to reporters with data of rockets fired toward Israel in past years and now.

During an escalation of violence in November 2019 between the army and the Islamic Jihad group, 570 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel over three days.

And in the 2006 war with the Iran-backed Hezbollah, a total of 4,500 rockets were fired at Israel over 19 days, according to the data Gordin shared with reporters.

Asked if the pace since Monday was the highest ever rate of rocket attacks on Israeli territory, Gordin said: “Not only do I agree, this is what I present.”

Rocket damages youth center in Nahal Oz

A rocket has scored a hit on a building in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the Gaza border.

The building, a youth center, was empty at the time, and while it suffered heavy damage, there are no injuries, the regional council says.

Damage to a building hit by a rocket in kibbutz Nahal Oz, May 16, 2021. (Courtesy: Shaar Hanegev Regional Council)

The strike also damages a power line, cutting electricity to part of the kibbutz.

Steady rocket fire is continuing on areas near Gaza with alarms every few minutes.

 

Large barrages target areas outside Gaza

A large rocket barrage targets areas near Sderot and other towns and communities near Gaza.

At least 10 rockets are downed by Iron Dome, Channel 12 news reports, as puffs of white smoke from the interceptions appear in the sky over the western Negev.

A fresh attack with what appears to be several rockets targets Ashdod, Ashkelon and other areas north of the Strip.

Initial reports of rockets hitting buildings in Ashkelon, Ashdod

There are initial reports of a rocket striking a building in Ashkelon. There are also reports of possible impacts in Ashdod.

No other information is immediately available.

 

Rocket strikes car in Ashkelon

Footage from Ashkelon shows black smoke rising into the sky after what appears to be a rocket strike on a car.

At least one ambulance is seen rushing to the scene.

Black smoke following a reported rocket strike in Ashkelon on May 16, 2021. (screen capture: Channel 12)

Rocket sirens ring out in the Beersheba area.

Rocket damages synagogue in Ashkelon

A rocket or fragments of a rocket have struck the Yad Michael synagogue in Ashkelon in the latest barrage from the Gaza Strip.

Photographs from the scene show a large amount of smoke and dust rising from the building, and parts of a rocket in the building.

There are no immediate reports of injuries.

No injuries despite several rocket impacts

No injuries have yet been reported in the latest rocket fire from the Gaza Strip on Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beersheba, including at locations hit by rockets or shrapnel, medics say.

In Ashkelon, a United Hatzalah spokesperson says there are no injuries after a rocket struck a car next to a building in a residential neighborhood, sending shrapnel flying into several apartment buildings.

Footage from the street shows one car on fire and severe damage to several others.

Elsewhere in the city, a home can be seen with a hole in the side after being hit by a rocket.

Two people have been lightly injured while running to bomb shelters since the morning, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

“MDA personnel searching at sites where (impacts) were reported did not find any casualties from the missile fire,” it says.

Two West Bank Palestinians die of wounds from clashes with IDF

Two Palestinians died of their wounds today following clashes with Israeli forces on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, the Palestinian Authority health ministry says.

Neither Palestinian’s name has yet been confirmed by official sources. One was shot in the stomach near Nablus
on Saturday night, while the other was shot on Thursday near Hebron, the health ministry says.

The Israeli army has said that violent Palestinian riots took place on both days. In photos and videos from on social media, Palestinians can be hurling stones and burning tires near Israeli checkpoints.

More than fifteen Palestinians have been reported killed in clashes with Israeli forces since Monday saw the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. The Palestinian Authority has yet to release an official tally.

The Israeli army says that some of those Palestinians were killed while attempting to commit terror attacks against Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

Nertanyahu, Gantz, Kohavi to give statements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF chief Aviv Kohavi are set to give televised statements on the fighting in Gaza.

This comes after a security cabinet meeting in which a ceasefire was reportedly not discussed, though reports indicate that Israel may be cottoning to the idea.

According to Walla news, technocrats believe Israel needs to begin to wrap up the operation as international pressure for a halt in the fighting grows.

Death toll in overnight Gaza airstrike rises to 37 — Hamas

At least 37 people — eight of them minors — are confirmed to have died in the overnight Israeli airstrike in Gaza City’s al-Wehda Street, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says.

The Israel Defense Forces has yet to respond to several requests for comment. The strikes are reported to have taken place early on Sunday morning.

UN set to hold first open meeting on Gaza hostilities

The UN Security Council is set to convene shortly for an emergency session on the ongoing escalation in Israel and Gaza.

This will be third session in a week, but the first one that will be open to the press.

In the previous two meetings, 14 of the 15 member states sought to pass a joint resolution criticizing both sides for the violence and calling for a ceasefire, but the US blocked the effort, saying the timing wasn’t right for such a step, that it would not contribute to deescalating the situation and that it wanted more time for its own diplomatic efforts to play out, according to several diplomats involved.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr arrived in Tel Aviv on Friday and has been holding meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials aimed at reaching a ceasefire.

The US sought to have today’s meeting pushed to Tuesday, but came under immense pressure from other member states to hold it earlier.

There is not expected to be another push for a joint statement at today’s session, two diplomats involved say, though the Norwegian mission may once again decide to go on that path if they notice support for it during the meeting.

All parties at the session are expected to call for an immediate ceasefire, though the US will likely take a more moderate approach and be less critical of Israeli operations in Gaza that have left at least 188 Palestinians dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there. Dozens of the victims have been minors.

Ramming attack in Jerusalem, several injured

There are initial reports of a vehicular ramming attack in East Jerusalem, with several injuries police say.

The incident occurs on Nablus Road in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of the capital.

The driver has been “neutralized,” police say without expanding.

 

Six reported injured in Sheikh Jarrah ramming

Photos from Jerusalem show a car slammed into a police cruiser, with a sun shade jammed between them as border police scramble around the vehicles.

The Magen David Adom rescue service says it is treated six “pedestrians” injured in the suspected attack. The extend of their injuries is not immediately clear, but the service says all six are conscious.

Photos show rocket damage at Ashkelon’s Yad Michael synagogue

Fire service officials outside an Ashkelon synagogue hit by a rocket, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)
Fire service officials outside an Ashkelon synagogue hit by a rocket, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)

The National Fire and Rescue Authority releases photographs of the rocket attack that hit the Yad Michael synagogue in Ashkelon a short time ago in the latest barrage from the Gaza Strip.

An Ashkelon synagogue hit by a rocket from Gaza, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)
A rocket strike on an Ashkelon synagogue, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)

Netanyahu: Operation continuing, it will take time but we have backing

At a press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says “the operation is continuing at full strength,” and adds that “it will take time” for Israel to achieve its goals with the military campaign.

He says over 1,000 targets have been struck in Gaza, exacting a serious toll on Hamas, including their underground assets, which he says have suffered a serious, but not complete, blow.

“No terrorist is immune,” he threatens, noting that the IDF has also taken out “terror towers,” referring to high-rise buildings felled by Israeli airstrikes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a May 16, 2021 press conference (Screenshot)

He adds that the army is doing what it can to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

“This will take time. There is pressure but we are getting serious backing, foremost from the US,” he says. “We have international backing and we are using it.”

He adds that there has been a drop in the amount of violence from the Arab public, following days of fighting in mixed Jewish-Arab cities.

“It will take time to restore quiet. We are acting against those who disturbed the peace. We want to stop the fighting first and then to rehab relations between Jews and Arabs,” he says.

Speaking after Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz tells a press conference that the army is continuing to hit Gazan terrorists, stressing the army’s accomplishments. He says the goal is long-term calm, and the bolstering of moderate forces.

IDF chief: Hamas miscalculated; our forceful response is essential to protect Israel’s citizens

IDF Chief of staff Aviv Kohavi at a May 16, 2021 press conference (Screenshot)
IDF Chief of staff Aviv Kohavi at a May 16, 2021 press conference (Screenshot)

IDF Chief Aviv Kohavi, coming on next, says that “Hamas made a serious mistake and did not calculate us correctly,” noting all the damage that the army has inflicted on the terror group’s capabilities, particularly its underground infrastructure.

He says the IDF has been following a pre-prepared plan, “with several stages, some of which have been completed and some which lie ahead.”

“We have heavily damaged Hamas’s underground capabilities. This was their flagship project,” he says. “They intended to fight from there. And considerable portions have been hit and are unusable. It will take a long time for them to revive it.”

He adds: “We have critically hit their missile production capabilities — factories and people. We have hit many weapons capabilities… many operatives… And we have thwarted innumerable attempted attacks via sea and land.”

Nonetheless, Kohavi acknowledges, “the heavy fire on the homefront continues. We are aware of this… and we are doing everything to make our air defenses more effective. Nonetheless, we are achieving very good results.”

“The Gaza Strip has never previously met this kind of force,” Kohavi says, adding that the offensive is justified given “the scale of the rocket attacks on the homefront.”

Alluding to the deaths and injuries of non-combatants in Gaza, Kohavi says, “every bomb heads to a destination on the basis of intel… Our offensive capability is very accurate and we are doing everything to avoid hitting non-combatants — even though this is often not simple.”

The imperative, he says, is “to thwart the threats to the citizens of Israel.”

Concludes Kohavi: “We intend to continue to act with force for as long as is necessary, and according to the phases we had planned…

“We are acting with the conviction that this is the right and necessary thing to do in order to protect the citizens of Israel.”

Hamas attempted to hit offshore gas rig with missiles

During the past week, the Hamas terror group has fired dozens of rockets toward Israel’s Tamar natural gas rig, which was drained of fuel and temporarily taken offline at the start of the fighting, The Times of Israel has learned.

None of these rockets came close to striking the rig, which is protected by a ship-borne Iron Dome anti-missile battery and other defensive systems. As rockets produced in the Strip are not precision-guided munitions, they are highly unlikely to ever hit the rig, an exceedingly small target to hit from the coast.

Unmanned aerial vehicles carrying explosives, like the ones shot down by an F-16 fighter jet over the sea last week, could more effectively target the rig, requiring the Israeli Navy’s considerable air defenses.

Overall, the navy has successfully prevented all of Hamas’s attempts to use its naval capabilities against Israeli targets at sea and on shore. The IDF has also destroyed most of the terror group’s naval infrastructure and weaponry over the past week, including several autonomous submarines that Hamas has developed in recent years, each capable of carrying 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of explosives and guided by GPS, though the military believes that several more of the weapons may still be in Hamas’s possession.

The head of Hama’s naval and submarine research and development department was also killed in an Israeli strike. Despite certain reports to the contrary in the Hebrew press, the military does not believe that it has killed the head of Hamas’s naval commando unit, though it has noticed that he has not been in contact with other members of the terror group and is officially designated by the IDF to be “missing.”

“The most significant thing, as in all of the IDF, is denying [the enemy] capabilities and establishing strong defense. Therefore, we have attacked bases, vessels, weapons warehouses, infrastructure and operatives. We have acted so that the naval arms of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas would be depressed,” the head of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. Eli Sharvit tells reporters.

Hamas says rocket barrage revenge for Gaza airstrike that killed dozens

Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, says that the recent missile barrage in southern Israel was in response to an Israeli airstrike overnight that was said to kill at least 37 Palestinians in Gaza.

The attack was also in response to alleged police brutality against demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah, a spokesperson for the al-Qassam Brigades says.

“The Al-Qassam Brigades are now launching large missile barrages….in response to the heinous massacre of children, women and civilians in Gaza City, and the attack on the people of Sheikh Jarrah and those in solidarity with them,” the spokesperson says.

Fighting must end, UN chief implores

“The fighting must stop. The fighting must stop immediately,” says UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as he opens today’s emergency Security Council session on the escalation in Israel and Gaza.

He laments casualties to both sides and condemns Hamas rocket fire in addition to Israeli counterstrikes.
Guterres says he is “appalled” by the Israeli strike on a Gaza refugee camp yesterday that left a family of 10 dead and “greatly concerned” by the IDF strike on a tower in the enclave that housed media organizations. Israel says it also housed Hamas operatives.

The secretary general condemns the crackdown by Israeli security forces on Palestinian protesters in the West Bank and East Jerusalem where Palestinian families are facing looming eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

UN special envoy deplores civilians deaths, warns of humanitarian crisis in Gaza

The UN’s Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland gives a run down of the week’s incidents of violence at the UN Security Council session on Israel and Gaza.

He notes that over 100 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives have been killed in the latest round of fighting, according to the IDF. However, “civilian death tolls including children continue to mount,” and have included at least 52 children, 31 women, 1 person with disabilities,” according to Gaza authorities.

Wennesland notes the deaths of Israeli civilians, including a 5-year-old boy in Gaza and a father and daughter outside of Lod, calling such killings by Hamas “unjustified.”

“Hamas and other militants’ firing of rockets indiscriminately” from civilian areas “violates international humanitarian law and must cease immediately,” he says.

He demands that Israeli authorities follow international law requiring the use of proportional force and the exercise of maximum restraint. “Children should not be the the target of violence or be put in harms way.”

Wennesland notes that the West Bank saw the highest number of Palestinian civilian casualties in a single day since the UN started recording such figures in 2008.

The special envoy says a “humanitarian emergency is unfolding” in Gaza where the enclave’s power plant is barely running after the IDF shuttered the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

“I join the urgent call of the secretary general to take immediate and decisive steps to deescalate the situation and prevent the loss of life,” he says.

Wennesland says the ongoing violence is the result of the sides’ failure to address the roots of the conflict and work to promote a two state solution.

“The death toll is already too high,” he laments.

Both sides have the right to safety and security, Wennesland adds.

7 wounded in Sheikh Jarrah car ramming being treated at Jerusalem hospitals

Police at the scene of a car ramming attack in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, on May 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Police at the scene of a car ramming attack in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, on May 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Hadassah Hospital says it is treating one injured person, 24, from the Sheikh Jarrah car-ramming with wounds from being hit by a car and from being shot. The person’s condition is not detailed.

A woman, 19, is also being treated there with minor injuries.

Shaarei Zedek hospital says it is treating five people injured the ramming, four with light injuries and one in moderate condition.

Reports indicate all seven are police officers.

Rocket fire continues, West Bank unrest starts back up

Sporadic rocket fire is continuing to plague southern Israel, with sirens ringing out in some communities near the Strip.

In the West Bank, clashes are being reported between Palestinians and IDF troops near Ramallah.

Death toll in Gaza strike rises to 42 — medics

Gaza medics say the death toll in an overnight strike on a residential area of Gaza has risen to at least 42, up from 37.

The toll includes a number of minors and women, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 55 minors and 33 women, with 1,230 people wounded, according to Gazan authorities.

Rocket volley targets Ashdod, Ashkelon, several said intercepted

Rocket sirens ring out in Ashkelon, Ashdod and other areas of southern Israel as a fresh barrage launches from Gaza.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage and at least some of the rockets are intercepted by the Iron Dome, according to initial accounts.

PA envoy to UN: Israel emboldened by world ‘to kill Palestinians in their sleep’

Addressing the UN Security Council emergency meeting on the escalation in Israel and Gaza, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki blasts Israeli forces for “storming” the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound, the “holiest of sites, on the holiest of months, on the holiest of nights.”

“Did they think they would bear no consequences? Did they expect Palestinians to wait until they seize the next house? Did they expect Palestinians to coexist with… occupation? … There are no people on earth that would accept this reality,” al-Maliki says.

“We’re not two neighbors living side by side in peace. Israel are armed thieves that entered our house and are oppressing our people… and then they claim the right to security that they deny us,” he says.

Al-Maliki says that when Israel hears world leaders defend its right to self-defense, it “emboldens them to kill Palestinians in their sleep.”

“Iron Dome shelters while our people in Gaza are besieged, trapped and with nowhere to go. It is Palestinian civilians who need protection,” he says.

“There are no words to describe the horrors that our people are experiencing,” says al-Maliki, who lists some of the latest round’s youngest victims.

Al-Maliki asks member states what Palestinians are supposed to do to resist Israeli violence in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

The PA foreign minister tears into the former US administration. “Where are they? Those who negotiate agreements between countries who are not at war? Where are they? Those who thought [Middle East agreements could be negotiated at the] Palestinians’ expense. Where are they? Those real estate agents who decided they could sell what they do not own to those who have no rightful claim.”

Al-Maliki says the PA still backs a two-state solution to the conflict based on the pre-1967 borders.

He notes the strong support from nations around the world for the Palestinians.

“These nations are informed by their own history, their own struggle for freedom and they know oppression when they see it,” he says.

Israeli envoy says Hamas launched war for political gains

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan tells the UN Security Council that the latest round of violence was “completely premeditated by Hamas in order to gain political power.”

The envoy says it’s vying to wrestle power in the West Bank away from the Palestinian Authority, which recently postponed the first parliamentary elections in 15 years.

Hamas “looked for another way to seize power. It escalated tensions in Jerusalem as a pretext to launch this war.”

Erdan labels the looming eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, one factor which ostensibly kicked off the fighting, as a “property dispute.”

The families are set to be evicted under a 1970 law that, for all intents and purposes, only allows Jews to reclaim property they lost in East Jerusalem during the 1948 War of Independence. No such law exists for Palestinians.

He says that the Israeli government cannot intervene in court proceedings on the matter, though he acknowledges that the government acted to delay the latest hearing on the evictions in order to prevent a further escalation of violence.

“Do you really believe that this property dispute is what caused Hamas to launch this large-scale spate of attacks on Israel?” Erdan asks.

He says that Hamas also instigated violence at the Temple Mount and used the al-Aqsa mosque as a “stockpile” for weapons. He then shows a picture of the holy site where rocks are stacked up to be thrown at Israeli police.

While hundreds of Palestinians were injured when police burst onto the compound last week, Erdan notes that none were killed.

He also says that hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers were free to pray at the site during Ramadan and continue to visit the compound today.

“Do you really believe these peaceful prayers are what caused Hamas to launch this large-scale attack on the people of Israel?” Erdan asks.

“Israel will continue to uphold the rights of all believers to practice their religion in freedom and security, in the holy city of Jerusalem,” he says.

He opens his speech at the Security Council’s emergency meeting on the latest round of violence in Gaza by holding up a photo of 16-year-old Nadin Awad, who was killed last week by a Hamas rocket.

“She was studying biology and chemistry and she dreamed of changing the world,” Erdan says.

“Over the last week, millions of Israeli children, women and men, have been huddling in bomb shelters, while thousands of Hamas rockets landed all around them,” he says.

Erdan warns that if the UN continues to call on both sides to exercise restraint and not unequivocally condemn Hamas, it will further embolden the terror group and “undermine the Palestinian Authority.”

UK prime minister slams antisemitism after activist calls to ‘F*ck the Jews’

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweets support for the Jewish community after a video appears to show a pro-Palestinian activist calling to “fuck the Jews; rape their daughters.”

“There is no place for antisemitism in our society. Ahead of Shavuot, I stand with Britain’s Jews who should not have to endure the type of shameful racism we have seen today,” Johnson tweets.

The video, which shows a convoy of cars waving Palestinian flags and a person yelling on a loudspeaker out of one of them, is purportedly taken on Finchley Road, a heavily Jewish area of north London.

IDF hits Hamas interior ministry building

The Israel Defense Forces says it struck the interior ministry of Hamas in Gaza, as it continues to bombard the Strip.

It says the building had been used for military means, without expanding.

The army says it also hit an underground rocket launcher belonging to Islamic Jihad, a Hamas post in the northern Strip and a Hamas arms depot in central Gaza.

Netanyahu defends strike on Gaza media tower

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defends the strike on the Gaza tower that housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera bureaus, alleging it also hosted a Palestinian “terrorist” intelligence office.

“An intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization [was] housed in that building that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians,” Netanyahu tells CBS News.

“So it is a perfectly legitimate target. I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure that there were no civilian injuries, in fact, no deaths.”

A thick column of smoke rises from the Jala Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike after the IDF warned the occupants to leave, Gaza City, May 15, 2021 (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

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

Netanyahu gives 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 says.

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.”

UN countries push for statement urging ceasefire

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi tears into the US for twice blocking a joint statement from the Security Council criticizing both Israelis and Palestinians for the ongoing violence and calling for an immediate ceasefire.

“China has been working with relevant countries on a security council press statement. Regrettably, due to the obstruction of one country, the Security Council hasn’t been able to speak as one voice,” Yi says.

“We call upon the US to shoulder its dual responsibilities, take a just position and together with the international community to support the Security Council in easing the situation and building toward a political settlement,” he adds.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide implores members to issue a joint statement following today’s session that addresses the situation in Gaza and Israel.

“It is now vital that the council speak with one voice to address the situation. Norway stands ready to work with all council members to find suitable language to address the situation, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a ceasefire and reconfirming our support for a two-state solution,” she says.

Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who speaks after the Norwegian representative, joins in her call for a joint statement.

Such a statement has twice been blocked by the US in the past week.

Rocket fire continues on areas bordering Gaza

Rocket alarms are continuing to ring out in various parts of southern Israel every few minutes, including a recent volley targeting Ashkelon and other nearby areas.

No damage or injuries are reported.

US envoy tells UN it’s working ‘tirelessly’ to halt Gaza fighting

Addressing the UN Security Council, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield says the US is “working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try and bring an end to this conflict.”

“The human toll of this past week has been devastating. Sadly these numbers are likely to grow by the end of today’s session,” she says.

The envoy expresses concern over the violence between Arabs and Jews in “mixed communities inside Israel.”

“We’ve seen neighbor turn against neighbor,” she says.

Thomas-Greenfield expresses “alarm” over attacks on journalists and calls on all parties to protect civilians, medical clinics, and UN facilities, in an apparent panning of Israeli strikes on those sites.

She says that in its talks with the parties, the US has “made clear that we are prepared to lend our support… should the parties seek a ceasefire… because we believe that Israelis and Palestinians equally have a right to live in safety.”

The envoy calls on Hamas to “immediately halt” its rocket attacks on Israel and says it opposes the looming evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem as well as settlement construction and housing demolitions by Israel.

Video footage shows car ramming into Jerusalem police

Two videos being shared on social media show the apparent car ramming attack in Sheikh Jarrah, in which seven police were injured. The driver was shot and killed.

Viewer discretion advised.

Round of fighting nearing end, unnamed source tells TV

An unnamed security source tells Channel 12 news that Israel is nearing the end of this round of fighting and that the next day “will be critical.”

A source tells the channel that mopping up the operation “will take a few days.”

Bleacher collapse reported at Givat Ze’ev synagogue

There is an initial report of the collapse of a bleacher at a synagogue in the settlement of Givat Ze’ev north of Jerusalem. There are said to be a number of injuries.

Details are not immediately available and the report is not confirmed.

Dozens hurt in synagogue collapse incident

A mass casualty event at a synagogue in Givat Ze'ev, near Jerusalem, May 16, 2021 (Channel 12 screenshot)
A mass casualty event at a synagogue in Givat Ze'ev, near Jerusalem, May 16, 2021 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Magen David Adom reports that there are three people critically injured in Givat Ze’ev. Another 50 to 60 people are said to be more lightly hurt.

A video shows a synagogue packed with people and either a floor or a bleacher collapsing suddenly.

The incident occurs as Israel brings in the holiday of Shavuot. It comes just weeks after 45 people were killed in a similar crush at a shrine on Mount Meron in northern Israel.

Most lightly injured in bleacher collapse

Medics say it appears most of those hurt in the synagogue incident were lightly injured, but crews are still rushing to the scene, as videos show mass chaos outside the building.

At least two people are injured critically, Channel 12 news reports.

Over 600 people were in the Haredi synagogue when the collapse occurred, a police spokesperson says.

Some large Haredi synagogues have bleachers, known as “tribonas,” which are packed with standing or dancing parishioners surrounding a central table where community leaders are seated.

IDF: 190 rockets shot in 12 hours on Sunday

Back to the southern front for a moment, the IDF says that there were 190 rocket launches from Gaza between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday.

“Some 20 of the projectiles fell inside the Gaza Strip,” the military says.

It says dozens of the rockets were downed by the Iron Dome.

Ten people in serious or critical condition following bleacher collapse

Magen David Adom medics say that 10 people are in serious or critical condition following the bleacher collapse in the settlement of Givat Ze’ev just north of Jerusalem, with another 50 having non-life threatening injuries.

There are not known to be people trapped beneath the bleacher.

Police say in a statement that people are being evacuated from the area and an investigation has been opened into the collapse.

A picture sent out by police shows metal beams and wood planks from the collapsed seating structure.

Parts of a collapsed synagogue bleacher in Givat Zeev on May 16, 2021. (Police)

Large mystery explosion heard in Beersheba

Residents of Beersheba are reporting that they heard a large explosion, akin to a rocket attack, though without any warning siren.

There is no immediate explanation. Rocket fire appears to have tapered off over the last hour or so, with sirens going silent.

Five taken to hospital in serious condition after stands collapse

Magen David Adom says 54 people have been evacuated to hospitals, including five in serious condition and four with moderate injuries, after the bleacher collapse in Givat Ze’ev.

Media reports indicate that the synagogue with the collapsed bleacher was a new building belonging to the Karlin Hasidic dynasty.

Some reports indicate that community leaders paid extra attention to safety regulations, particularly following the Meron disaster.

Channel 12 news reports, however, that the building was still not complete and may not have been up to code yet.

 

 

Local leader says he tried to warn about danger at synagogue

Dedi Simchi of the fire and rescue service tells Channel 12 news that the Givat Ze’ev synagogue at which a bleacher collapsed was still under construction and did not have an occupancy permit.

The head of the Givat Ze’ev local council says that officials warned about the dangers, but that police declined to take responsibility.

“We ended up putting up signs that there was danger and that from the council’s view, there could not be any events held there. Unfortunately, we did not get help from the police,” Yossi Avrahami tells the press.

Two dead from synagogue bleacher collapse

Two people have died of injuries in the synagogue bleacher collapse, according to Hebrew media reports.

UN meeting on Gaza fighting ends

The UN Security Council meeting on Gaza has adjourned.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi tells the council that “China, Norway and Tunisia will, based on the discussion, draw up a press statement and we will circulate as soon as possible with the hope that all council members can participate constructively and ensure that the Security Council responds in a timely matter and fulfills its responsibilities.”

IDF says strike reported to kill 42 Gazans was meant to destroy Hamas tunnels

A spokesperson for the Israeli military says that an Israeli airstrike which was said to kill 42 Palestinians in Gaza was intended to destroy underground Hamas military infrastructure.

The Hamas military infrastructure was under civilian homes, the spokesperson confirms.

The spokesperson declines to say if the Israeli army was aware how many civilian casualties such a strike would cause. They decline to answer more questions, saying they lack further details.

Over 130 people injured in Givat Ze’ev — medics

The Magen David Adom rescue service says 132 people have been evacuated to hospitals from the toppled stands in Givat Ze’ev.

Five of them are in serious condition, eight suffered moderate injuries and the rest are lightly injured.

Another two people died in the collapse.

Medics and members of the Israeli security forces evacuate an injured man after the collapse of grandstand seating at a synagogue in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev in the occupied West Bank outside Jerusalem, on May 16, 2021. (Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

Rocket fire appears to renew near Gaza

Rocket sirens ring out in communities near the Gaza Strip after a roughly two-hour hiatus.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Arab Israeli group declares protest strike for Tuesday

The Arab High Follow-Up Committee declares a mass strike in Arab cities and towns around Israel on Tuesday in protest of Israeli policies, including what they deem “continued aggression against Gaza and Jerusalem.”

The committee, a political body that unites Arab Israeli policymakers across the political spectrum, says that it will coordinate “peaceful activities” with the help of local municipalities and activists.

The Follow-Up Committee also condemns Israeli policies in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, as well as mob violence against Arabs in cities and towns across the country. Israel has seen significant civil unrest in recent days, with Jewish and Arab mobs targeting the other ethnic group.

Top general says Hamas leaders may be hit by IDF

GOC Southern Command Eliezer Toledano, who has a significant role in managing the battle against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza, tells Channel 12 news that the more time the army has to carry out its military goals against terror targets in the Strip the better, amid increasing talk of a possible ceasefire.

He says that Hamas leaders Mohammed Dief and Yahya Sinwar could be targeted by Israeli strikes.

Police, local council argued over enforcing synagogue closure before disaster

The Kan media outlet is publishing documents in which the police and Givat Ze’ev regional council tried to get each other to enforce an order banning Shavuot services at the unfinished Karlin synagogue.

Papers show police warning the local council about the danger of allowing services at the building, which was not finished and did not have an occupancy permit.  However, when the local council asked police to step in to enforce the closure, police responded that it is the council’s job.

Some point out that police should have acted to prevent worshipers from actually entering, rather than leaving it to the local council, which has only limited enforcement capabilities.

AP urges probe into Israeli strike on media tower

The Associated Press’ top editor is calling for an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing the AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media, saying the public deserves to know the facts.

Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor, says the Israeli government has yet to provide clear evidence supporting its attack, which leveled the 12-story al-Jala tower.

The Israeli military, which gave AP journalists and other tenants about an hour to evacuate, claimed Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office and weapons development. Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus says Israel is compiling evidence for the US but declines to commit to providing it within the next two days.

“We’re in the middle of fighting,” Conricus says. “That’s in process and I’m sure in due time that information will be presented.”

Buzbee said the AP has had offices in al-Jala tower for 15 years and never was informed or had any indication that Hamas might be in the building. She said the facts must be laid out.

“We are in a conflict situation,” Buzbee said. “We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don’t know what that evidence is.”

“We think it’s appropriate at this point for there to be an independent look at what happened yesterday — an independent investigation,” she adds.

12-year-old boy among two killed in Givat Ze’ev

The Magen David Adom rescue service says a 12-year-old boy is among the two people killed in the Givat Ze’ev synagogue seating collapse incident. The other fatality is a 40-year-old man.

It says 167 people have been evacuated to hospitals with injuries, the vast majority of them non-life threatening. It says five people were in serious condition and 10 more were moderately wounded.

Rocket fire persists in south

Rocket sirens ring out in areas near the Gaza border as a sporadic drizzle of missile fire persists into the night.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Jewish Democratic activist says no party split over Israel/Gaza

The head of a Jewish Democratic group tells The Times of Israel she rejects a growing narrative of a “crisis” in the party regarding how it should respond to the ongoing escalation in Gaza.

“Proud to be a Democrat in this moment when leaders recognize there is no binary choice to be made between Israel’s security & right to self-defense, and Palestinian rights & safety. We can do both at the same time, while rejecting the forced false dichotomy & narrative of divide,” Jewish Democratic Council of America CEO Halie Soifer tweets.

Last week saw two blocs of Democrats give speeches on the House Floor on the topic of Gaza. The first group of more moderate Democrats “unequivocally” condemned Hamas rocket fire while offering “unwavering” support for Israel while the other group of more progressive Democrats were far more critical of the Jewish state and called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Soifer acknowledges to ToI that there is a divide in the party between those calling for leveraging aid to Israel and those who unconditionally support the $3.8 billion US aid package to Israel, with Biden and JDCA being in the latter group.

“But, besides that, there is not a huge divide between what may have been previously considered “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestinian” positions,” she says.

Halie Soifer heads the Jewish Democratic Council of America. (Courtesy of JDCA)

Four arrested in London over antisemitic heckling from cars

Britain’s Metropolitan Police say four people have been arrested following a video in which pro-Palestinian demonstrators were seen calling to “fuck the Jews; rape their daughters” while riding through a Jewish neighborhood of north London.

“This behaviour was utterly shocking and will not be tolerated. I understand that this would have caused considerable concern within the community and we have arranged extra patrols in the St John’s Wood and Golders Green areas this evening,” police superintendent Jo Edwards says in a statement.

The four are being held on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offenses, Scotland Yard says.

US official indicates ceasefire efforts trump UN statement on ending fighting

Responding to a query as to whether the US will back a joint statement from the UN Security Council calling for an end to Gaza hostilities, a US official at the mission indicates that it is more concerned with ceasefire negotiations.

“Right now we are focused on the intensive diplomatic efforts underway, including those Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield discussed at today’s Security meeting,” the official tells The Times of Israel.

Gaza death toll nears 200, hundreds treated in Egypt

Gazan medical sources say the death toll from a week of fighting has reached 197, including 58 minors.

More than 250 wounded Gazans were evacuated to Egypt for treatment on Sunday, medical and border sources say.

Three convoys transporting a total of 263 Palestinians crossed the Rafah border post into Egypt’s restive North Sinai region, the sources say.

Egypt’s Red Crescent in North Sinai says on its Facebook page that medical emergency teams had been dispatched to help transport the casualties.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi instructed authorities to “open up Egyptian hospitals to receive the wounded from the Gaza Strip,” state media reports.

Over 20,000 Gazans seeking shelter in UN schools, group says

The Gisha human rights group says 22,000 Gazans have now been internally displaced by the fighting and are seeking shelter inside UNRWA schools, causing dangerous overcrowding there, especially in light of the coronavirus health crisis.

“The fact that just 1% of the population is vaccinated and virus rates remain high in the Strip, compounds the public health concerns soaring already at the moment. Even before the hostilities began, hospitals were struggling to provide care to coronavirus patients and others,” the group says in a statement.

Gantz: We’ve bankrupted Hamas’s military capaibilities

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, visiting officers in the south for a situational assessment along with IDF chief Aviv Kohavi, says that Hamas has “been bankrupted of its assets, and its subterranean battle doctrine has toppled into the bowels of the earth.”

Aside from the chest-thumping, Gantz tells officers that they should remain alert, with fighting expected to continue, according to a statement from his office.

Cars in Jerusalem reported torched, but much of country quiet

Few disturbances have been reported inside Israel, a sign that ethnic tensions that have wracked the country in recent days may have calmed.

In Jerusalem, however, things remain tense. Channel 12 reports that two Jewish-owned cars in the Abu Tor neighborhood have been torched.

In Shiekh Jarrah, an East Jerusalem neighborhood that has been the center of protests and was the scene of a suspected ramming attack earlier in the day, police have bolstered a checkpoint with large concrete blocks, Kan reports.

Swastika found carved into Utah synagogue

A swastika has been found etched onto the glass door of a Salt Lake City synagogue, according to the rabbi of the Utah Chabad center.

Rabbi Avremi Zippel tells the Salt Lake Tribune that he believes the vandalism is related to the fighting in Gaza.

“Beyond the property damage, which is upsetting, to have that kind of sentiment scratched into glass on a synagogue in 2021 in Salt Lake City, I have to say, it really kind left us really shook,” Zippel tells the daily.

UN envoy said to speak with Israel’s national security adviser about Gaza ceasefire

The Walla news site reports on fresh efforts to broker a halt to the fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

Citing diplomatic sources, the report says UN envoy Tor Wennesland has been holding “intensive” talks over the past day with National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and other Israeli officials and Hamas.

However, an unnamed official denies Israel is holding any talks about a possible ceasefire.

“The operation will continue as long as needed,” the official is quoted as saying.

Rocket sirens heard in Ashkelon, border communities after nearly 2-hour lull

After a lull of close to two hours, fresh rocket warning sirens sound in Ashkelon and other Israeli communities near Gaza.

Reporters Without Borders seeks ICC war crimes probe of Gaza media tower bombing

PARIS — A media watchdog group is asking the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s bombing of buildings housing The Associated Press and other media organizations in Gaza as a possible war crime.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says in a letter to the court’s chief prosecutor that the offices of 23 international and local media organizations have been destroyed over the past six days.

The group says the Israeli military’s “intentional targeting of media organizations and intentional destruction of their equipment” could violate one of the court’s statues. It says the attacks serve “to reduce, if not neutralize, the media’s capacity to inform the public.”

Israel’s military says Hamas was operating inside the building where AP had offices and accused the terror group of using journalists as human shields.

AP journalists and other tenants were safely evacuated after the Israeli military warned of an imminent strike yesterday.

Rocket warning sirens sound in Beersheba, surrounding area

Rocket warning sirens sound in the southern city of Beersheba and several nearby communities.

Two rockets intercepted over Beersheba, two fall in open areas

At least two rockets fired at Beersheba are intercepted by the Iron Dome system, while two more fall in open areas.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Hamas says it fired the rockets.

Biden tells Muslim gathering US working for ‘sustained calm’; Blinken urges immediate end to violence

US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Republican senators in the Oval Office of the White House on May 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Republican senators in the Oval Office of the White House on May 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden says the US is working “toward sustained calm” between Israel and the Palestinians.

In virtual remarks on a pre-taped video played at a White House ceremony to mark Eid al-Fitr at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Biden says: “My administration is going to continue to engage Palestinians and Israelis and other regional partners to work toward sustained calm.”

“We also believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and enjoy equal measure of freedom, prosperity and democracy.”

Earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged all parties to de-escalate. After talks with the Egyptian foreign minister, Blinken tweeted that “the violence must end immediately.”

IDF says it has bombed a Hamas intelligence center

The IDF says warplanes have bombed a Hamas intelligence center.

The army says the strike was a joint operation between the air force and the IDF’s cyber defense unit.

Rocket warning sirens sound in Ashkelon

Rocket warning sirens are sounding in the Ashkelon area.

Sirens also go off in communities surrounding Gaza and in Netivot.

It follows a barrage of rockets fired at Beersheba.

IDF says it is carrying out ‘widespread’ strikes across Gaza

The IDF says warplanes are carrying out ‘widespread’ strikes across the Gaza Strip.

The army says it is targeting “terror sites,” but gives no further details.

Palestinian sources say there have been dozens of strikes and that the bombardments are particularly intense.

Palestinians report more than 100 strikes on Gaza City

Reports from inside Gaza say the IDF has unleashed a fierce bombing raid on Gaza City.

A Reuters correspondent in the city reports more than 100 strikes.

The AP says explosions rocked the city from north to south for 10 minutes, adding that the airstrikes were heavier, on a wider area and lasted longer than a series of air raids 24 hours earlier in which 42 Palestinians were killed.

In a brief statement, the Israel Defense Forces says only that “IDF fighter jets are striking terror targets in the Gaza Strip.”

Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes carry out strikes, early on May 17, 2021. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes carry out strikes, early on May 17, 2021. (Photo by Anas BABA / AFP)
Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes carry out strikes, early on May 17, 2021. (Photo by Anas BABA / AFP)

Majority of Democratic caucus in Senate calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza

Democratic US Senate challenger Jon Ossoff waves after speaking to the media at Dunbar Neighborhood Center during Georgia's Senate runoff elections, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
Democratic US Senate challenger Jon Ossoff waves after speaking to the media at Dunbar Neighborhood Center during Georgia's Senate runoff elections, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

Twenty-eight Democrats have signed onto a letter calling for an “immediate ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas as the civilian casualty count continues to climb on both sides.

“To prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories, we urge an immediate ceasefire,” the senators said in a joint statement led by freshman Sen. Jon Ossoff from Georgia.

The Biden administration has been seen as having given Israel room to respond to Hamas rocket fire in recent days, repeatedly issuing statements backing Israel’s “right to defend itself,” but earlier today has begun calling for both sides to end the violence immediately.

Egypt’s Sissi joins calls for immediate ceasefire; says Cairo working to bring one about

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, not seen at the Elysee palace, in Paris, December 7, 2020. (Michel Euler/AP)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi speaks during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, not seen at the Elysee palace, in Paris, December 7, 2020. (Michel Euler/AP)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi issues a statement “urgently” calling for a “cessation of all violence and hostilities.”

The Egyptian leader, whose government has long been involved in brokering ceasefires between Hamas and Israel, says Cairo is working around the clock to bring one about.

“The hope is always there, and now we must all move to end the current state of violence,” he says.

Relative of Bedouin teen killed by Gaza rocket pans Erdan for exploiting family’s tragedy

Israeli UN envoy Gilad Erdan holding up a picture of Nadin Awad, who was killed by a Hamas rocket, at a UN Security Council virtual meeting on May 16, 2021. (screen capture: UN TV)
Israeli UN envoy Gilad Erdan holding up a picture of Nadin Awad, who was killed by a Hamas rocket, at a UN Security Council virtual meeting on May 16, 2021. (screen capture: UN TV)

A relative of the 16-year-old girl killed last week by Hamas rocket fire criticizes Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan after the envoy highlighted the girl’s story in the opening of his address to the Security Council.

“The use of her photo by government representatives is unfortunate,” Nadine Awad’s uncle Ismail Arafat tells Haaretz, claiming that the government’s neglecting of their hometown town of Dahmash near Lod that was hit by the rocket led to his niece’s death.

Dahmash is an unrecognized Bedouin town that seven years ago the High Court of Justice ordered the state to regulate after failing to provide essential services, including bomb shelters, to the village for decades.

“Erdan held up Awad’s picture as he spoke earlier today at the Security Council, saying “she was studying biology and chemistry and she dreamed of changing the world.”

Arafat, who is Dahmash’s council chairman, told Haaretz that if the government truly cared about what had happened to his niece, it would have sent a representative to the village in addition to sending property tax representatives who have yet to step foot in the town.

Relatives walk out of the damaged home of Nadine, 16, and Khalil Awaad, a father and daughter who were killed by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in their village of Dahmash, May 12, 2021. (AP Photos/Heidi Levine)

“The family is homeless after losing their loved ones and is without a father, a daughter and a home, and has been forced to wander between family homes in the interim,” Arafat says.

“The situation is very difficult and [Edan] is making headlines on the backs of the family, without any reference from the authorities to [when they will be regulating] Dahmash.”

Dahmash is home to about 800 residents and was established just before the founding of Israel. Arafat tells Haaretz his parents received the land from the state in exchange for their previous slate of land near Gedera from which they were ousted. The village has never been regulated and its residents receive only partial services from the Sdot Dan Regional Council, which were granted following a lengthy legal battle.

The High Court gave the state until the end of 2021 to regulate the village in its 2013 ruling, which also required the Interior Ministry to place the town in one of the nearby regional councils. All three have rejected to take on Dahmash.

IDF said to target home in northern Gaza during ongoing airstrikes

The IDF has struck a home in the northern Gaza city of Shejaiya as ongoing airstrikes in the coastal enclave persist, the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Media Center reports.

Rocket sirens go off across southern Israel after 2-hour lull

Rocket sirens go off in Israeli towns near the Gaza border after a two-hour lull during which the IDF had been striking targets in the Gaza Strip.

Police arrest 7 Jewish East Jerusalem residents in shooting of 2 Palestinians

Police have arrested seven Jewish Israelis who it suspects were involved in a shooting earlier this evening that left two Palestinians injured in Beit Hanina.

Shortly before the shooting, Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood had been rioting, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails, police say.

According to Haaretz, two cars pulled up to the scene and the Jewish passengers got out with their weapons cocked. When residents began approaching the armed Israelis, the latter began to fire, striking two Palestinians. But Jewish residents told the news site that the suspects fired after rocks were thrown at them.

Police have arrested the suspects and confiscated their weapons, which it says were legally owned.

In a separate incident in East Jerusalem, two Jewish-owned vehicles were set on fire in the Abu Tor neighborhood.

First bipartisan call for ceasefire issued from Democrat Chris Murphy, Republican Todd Young

US Senators Chris Murphy (L) and Todd Young. (AP/collage)
US Senators Chris Murphy (L) and Todd Young. (AP/collage)

The first bipartisan call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been issued by Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy and Republican Sen. Todd Young.

“Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas’s rocket attacks, in a manner proportionate with the threat its citizens are facing. As a result of Hamas’s rocket attacks and Israel’s response, both sides must recognize that too many lives have been lost and must not escalate the conflict further. We are encouraged by reports that the parties are exploring a ceasefire. We hope that this ceasefire can be reached quickly and that additional steps can be taken to preserve a two-state future,” say Murphy and Young.

Murphy is the chairmea of the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism; Young is its ranking member.

Murphy also joined 27 other Democratic senators, the majority of the party’s caucus in the Senate, in a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire. That statement was shorter and did not mention Israel’s right to defend itself, which appeared to have been a key point in bringing a Republican on board.

Progressive critics of the Biden administration have claimed its insistence in recent days that Israel has a right to defend itself in response to Hamas rockets, has signaled to Jerusalem that it can continue its bombing campaign in the coastal enclave.

As the civilian casualty count rose significantly by several dozen on Sunday, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council that Hamas must cease its rocket fire immediately, but did not highlight Israel’s right to defend itself as US officials had been doing in statements since the rocket fire began.

US for 3rd time blocking Security Council joint statement calling for ceasefire — diplomats tell ToI

US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at UN Headquarters in New York, on March 1, 2021. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)
US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at UN Headquarters in New York, on March 1, 2021. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

NEW YORK — For the third time in a week, the US is blocking a joint statement from the Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, two diplomats involved tell The Times of Israel.

The statement was introduced by Norway, Tunisia and China following today’s emergency session on the escalation in Israel and Gaza and criticized both sides for the ongoing violence.

The US mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter. Member states still have until Monday at noon to mull over statement, and negotiations over the matter are ongoing, two Security Council diplomats told ToI.

During the open meeting, the US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that the US is “working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try and bring an end to this conflict.”

In her remarks to the council, Thomas-Greenfield called on Hamas to immediately stop firing rockets at Israel. Notably, she did not mention Israel’s right to defend itself, as senior US officials have emphasized in their respective statements on the violence this past week. Critics in the progressive wing of the party claimed the statement offered a blank check to Israel to continue its counterstrikes in Gaza, even as the civilian casualty toll grew.

The UN Security Council holds an emergency session on the violence in Israel and Gaza on May 16, 2021. (Screen capture/UN)

Fourteen of the 15 Security Council members sought to issue a joint statement, which requires unanimous approval, after closed emergency meetings on Monday and Wednesday. They were rebuffed by the US, which said it wanted more time for its own diplomatic efforts to play out, according to several Security Council diplomats. The statement would have called for an immediate ceasefire while condemning both sides for the violence.

When council members moved to hold another meeting at the of last week, the US mission blocked the effort for the same reason, saying it preferred to wait until Tuesday. After pressure from multiple missions, the US agreed to move up the meeting to Sunday.

Asked after the meeting if the US planned to back the joint statement being drafted, an official at the US mission told ToI that “right now we are focused on the intensive diplomatic efforts underway, including those Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield discussed at today’s Security meeting.”

Speaking to reporters following the emergency session, Mona Juul from Norway’s foreign ministry said her government “strongly believes that the Security Council should speak with one voice and send a clear message urging an immediate cessation of violence and reconfirming our support to the two-state solution. Norway will continue our dedicated efforts to pursue council action.”

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