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After 6-hour lull, Hamas targets southern Israel with rocket fire

IDF carries out waves of attacks on Gaza * Diplomat: ceasefire ‘close,’ max 2 days away * IDF chief: fighting to last at least two more days

  • Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces carry out strikes on the Palestinian enclave, early on May 18, 2021. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
    Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces carry out strikes on the Palestinian enclave, early on May 18, 2021. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
  • FILE: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi at a press conference after a security cabinet meeting following the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, on November 12, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
    FILE: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi at a press conference after a security cabinet meeting following the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, on November 12, 2019. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Rescue services are seen at a building in the southern port city of Ashdod that was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, May 17, 2021 (Flash90)
    Rescue services are seen at a building in the southern port city of Ashdod that was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, May 17, 2021 (Flash90)
  • Israeli soldiers take cover near the Israeli-Gaza border as the Iron Dome anti-missile system fires interceptor missiles at rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, on May 17, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Israeli soldiers take cover near the Israeli-Gaza border as the Iron Dome anti-missile system fires interceptor missiles at rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, on May 17, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Israeli soldiers fire an artillery piece toward the Gaza Strip from their position along the border with the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave, on May 17, 2021. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
    Israeli soldiers fire an artillery piece toward the Gaza Strip from their position along the border with the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave, on May 17, 2021. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
  • Smoke billows from the the area around the port of Gaza City following an Israeli bombardment from the Mediterranean Sea on May 17, 2021, amid fighting between the Israel Defense Forces and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
    Smoke billows from the the area around the port of Gaza City following an Israeli bombardment from the Mediterranean Sea on May 17, 2021, amid fighting between the Israel Defense Forces and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
  • Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, by the border with the Palestinian enclave on May 17, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
    Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, by the border with the Palestinian enclave on May 17, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
  • Israeli rescue forces at a home in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon that was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Edi Israel/Flash90)
    Israeli rescue forces at a home in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon that was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Edi Israel/Flash90)
  • Palestinian firefighters douse a huge fire at the Foamco mattress factory east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, on May 17, 2021. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
    Palestinian firefighters douse a huge fire at the Foamco mattress factory east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, on May 17, 2021. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
  • A ball of fire erupts from a building in Gaza City's al-Rima neighborhood on May 16, 2021, during a massive Israeli bombardment on the Hamas-controlled enclave. (Bashar Taleb/AFP)
    A ball of fire erupts from a building in Gaza City's al-Rima neighborhood on May 16, 2021, during a massive Israeli bombardment on the Hamas-controlled enclave. (Bashar Taleb/AFP)
  • Rescue forces inspect the damage inside an apartment that was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip on May 17, 2021 in the southern city of Ashdod (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
    Rescue forces inspect the damage inside an apartment that was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip on May 17, 2021 in the southern city of Ashdod (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Following is a recap of Monday’s events as they unfolded. For The Times of Israel’s Tuesday liveblog, click here.

IDF says it struck homes of nine Hamas commanders throughout Gaza

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

The IDF says it has targeted the homes of nine Hamas commanders throughout the Gaza Strip during its strikes over the last several hours.

“The houses attacked were used as terrorist infrastructure and in some of the houses, weapons depots were even found,” the army says.

Among the houses attacked were the homes of the Beit Hanoun brigade commander, the Beit Haonun company commander, the Gaza City company commander and the Al-Shati brigade company commander, the IDF says.

A home in Shejaiya used by Hamas military intelligence was also targeted, the army adds.

Nets star Kyrie Irving says he’s more focused on Israel-Gaza conflict than basketball

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving reacts against the Chicago Bulls during the second half of an NBA basketball game on May 15, 2021, in New York. (AP /Adam Hunger)
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving reacts against the Chicago Bulls during the second half of an NBA basketball game on May 15, 2021, in New York. (AP /Adam Hunger)

The Brooklyn Nets are about to embark on a playoff run that their fans hope can bring the team its first championship trophy in over 40 years.

But one of their key star players says his focus is elsewhere: the Israeli-Palestinian violence that is raging right now.

“I’m not going to lie to you guys, a lot of stuff is going on in this world, and basketball is just not the most important thing to me right now,” Kyrie Irving said at a postgame press conference on Saturday.

“I focus on this most of the time, 24/7, but it’s just too much going on in this world not to address. It’s just sad to see this s— going on. It’s not just in Palestine, not just in Israel. It’s all over the world, and I feel it. I’m very compassionate to it — to all races, all cultures and to see it, to see a lot of people being discriminated against, based on their religion, color of their skin, what they believe in. It’s just sad.”

Irving did play a role in a stellar dunk sequence though earlier this evening.

The elite point guard, who is averaging over 27 points a game this season, revealed in April that he had recently committed to Islam. He has intensified his social media posting about political issues in recent months and fasted during the month of Ramadan this year.

“I don’t care which way you stand on — either side,” Irving added. “If you’re a human being, then you support the anti-war effort. There’s a lot of people losing their lives — children, a lot of babies, and that’s just what I’m focused on.”

The Nets have their highest championship hopes in decades, thanks to a trio of Irving and fellow star scorers Kevin Durant and James Harden.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

WATCH: IDF says it struck Hamas-dug tunnel shaft located near kindergarten and mosque

The IDF says its aircrafts targeted a Hamas-dug tunnel shaft located near a kindergarten and mosque in the southern Gaza Strip.

The location of the site “proves once again how the Hamas terror organization deliberately places its military assets in the heart of civilian populations,” the army says.

“The IDF takes as many precautionary measures as possible to reduce possible harm to civilians during its military activities,” it adds.

Rocket sirens sound in Gaza border town of Kerem Shalom after 3 hour lull

Fresh rocket siren have been set off in the Gaza border town of Kerem Shalom after a three-hour lull.

Canada’s Trudeau condemns Montreal clashes between pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian protesters

MONTREAL — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemns the violence and “despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in Montreal.

The worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging in Gaza between the Jewish state and Islamist terrorists.

Speaking after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemns what he said is “despicable rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend.”

While insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely in Canada,” Trudeau stresses in a tweet that there is no tolerance for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind.”

Earlier, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

Although the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city center.

Following the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante says on Twitter that “protesting is a right,” but that “intolerance, violence and antisemitism have no place here.”

“Montreal is a city of peace,” she says.

IDF says it bombed 15 kilometers of Hamas tunnels overnight

In overnight strikes, the Israel Defense Forces says it hit the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group’s subterranean tunnel system in the northern Gaza Strip.

The IDF has dubbed Hamas’s series of underground tunnels “the metro.” It describes the passages hit over night as the “C” line.

“As part of the attack, some 35 terror targets were attacked in a time period of around 20 minutes,” a statement from the military says.

It also says the attack included 54 fighter planes that dropped some 110 precision munitions, striking 15 kilometers (over 9 miles) of tunnels.

“This attack was part of a broad operation by the IDF to significantly damage the underground system of terror organizations in Gaza,” the IDF says.

Fire service says 32 brushfires in West Bank caused by arson

Israeli firefighters have put out 97 brushfires in the West Bank since yesterday, just under a third of which are suspected of having been caused by arson.

The Israel Fire and Rescue Services says 32 blazes were sparked by Molotov cocktails, tire-burning, rioting and “intentional arson” and that in some cases firefighters spotted those starting the blazes.

Most of the fires were sparked on roads near settlements and military bases, according to the fire service.

The fire service also says a religious study hall in the Emmanuel settlement was damaged overnight in a blaze that an initial probe indicated was sparked by a candle left unattended in a storage room.

IDF: Gaza terrorists have fired some 60 rockets at Israel since Sunday night

The Israel Defense Forces says some 60 rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza between 7 p.m. last night and 7 a.m. this morning.

Around 10 of those rockets failed to clear the border and landed in the Strip, according to the IDF.

The military also says many of the rockets were intercepted, without specifying the number.

Rocket sirens in kibbutzim near Gaza border

Rocket warning sirens are heard in Holit and Sufa, a pair of kibbutzim near the Gaza border.

The alerts are the first sirens to sound in some 2.5 hours.

Assailant tries to ram troops in northern West Bank, is ‘neutralized’ — IDF

The Israel Defense Forces says it has received reports of an attempted car-ramming attack on troops at Hawara in the northern West Bank.

No troops were injured and the assailant was “neutralized,” according to IDF.

17-year-old missing since deadly bleacher collapse at Givat Ze’ev synagogue

Shmulik Bornstein, a 17-year-old from the Beitar Illit settlement, has been missing since the deadly collapse of a bleacher during Shavuot celebrations at a synagogue in Givat Ze’ev last night.

Bornstein’s family has been unsuccessfully trying to reach him, according to Channel 12 news, and he was not at a hospital or the state forensic institute.

The network says Bornstein’s family okayed the publication of his name and photo despite Sukkot, when observant Jews refrain from using electronics and other activities prohibited on Jewish holidays.

Two people were killed in the incident and over 150 injured at the synagogue, which is still under construction and hasn’t been approved for use, according to police and the Givat Ze’ev municipality.

IDF: Over 1,180 strikes in Gaza since fighting began, 3,150 rockets fired at Israel

Since the start of fighting in Gaza last week between the Israeli military and Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces says it has struck over 1,180 targets linked to Palestinian terror groups.

Some 3,150 rockets have been fired toward Israel since last Monday, 460 of which failed to clear the border and landed in the Strip, according to the IDF.

It also says the Iron Dome missile defense system has an interception rate of around 90 percent. Terrorists have been firing large barrages of rockets in an apparent bid to overwhelm the system.

IDF clarifies suspect in attempted West Bank ramming was arrested

The Israel Defense Forces clarifies that the suspect in an attempted car-ramming on troops at Huwara was arrested by forces at the scene, after saying he was “neutralized” during the incident.

The assailant accelerated his vehicle toward troops at a checkpoint, collided with a military patrol vehicle and was then arrested after soldiers fired in the air, according to the IDF.

The suspect has been taken for questioning. The IDF says there were no injuries.

Gazans say overnight Israeli bombardment was the heaviest since fighting began

Residents of Gaza are describing an overnight Israel barrage as the heaviest since the fighting in the Hamas-ruled enclave began a week ago.

There is no immediate word on the casualties from the latest strikes. A three-story building in Gaza City was heavily damaged, but residents say the military warned them 10 minutes before the strike and everyone cleared out. They say many of the airstrikes hit nearby farmland.

The Israel Defense Forces has said the massive strikes hit 15 kilometers of the Hamas terror group’s underground tunnel system in northern Gaza, among other targets.

Border Cops arrest 7 in Lod over recent ethnic riots

Border Police arrest seven people in Lod for their suspected involvement in recent ethnic riots that have rocked the mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel.

Police say one of those arrested is suspected of having a gun at a riot.

Rocket warning sirens sound in Gaza border communities

Rocket warning sirens sound in numerous communities near the border with Gaza Strip.

TV: Despite police statement, teen still missing after bleacher collapse

Despite police saying a teen missing since the deadly collapse of a bleacher at a synagogue in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev was found at a Jerusalem hospital, Channel 12 news reports that 17-year-old Shmulik Bornstein of Beitar Illit has not been found.

Residents of border region told to enter bomb shelters until further notice

Residents of the Eshkol Regional Council bordering Gaza are instructed to immediately enter bomb shelters until instructed otherwise, after warning sirens sounded at numerous communities in the area.

Fresh rocket warning sirens in pair of communities near Gaza

Rocket warning sirens are heard in the communities of Kisufim and Ein Hashlosha near the Gaza Strip.

Gaza rocket hits chicken coop in southern Israel, sparking fire

The Israel Fire and Rescue Services reports a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza directly hit a chicken coop in the southern Eshkol Regional Council.

It says firefighters are working to douse a blaze that broke out in the coop.

Rocket sirens in Ashkelon, several communities near Gaza

Rocket warning sirens ring out in Ashkelon and several southern Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip.

Turkey’s Erdogan to pope: Israel should be sanctioned over Gaza ‘massacre’

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urges Pope Francis to help end what he called Israel’s “massacre” of Palestinians, which should be punished with sanctions, his office says.

Erdogan tells the pope in a call that “Palestinians will continue to be subjected to a massacre unless the international community punishes Israel… with sanctions,” adding that the pope’s messages were of “great importance to mobilize the Christian world and the international community.”

Senior Islamic Jihad commander killed in Israeli strike — reports

Initial reports in Gaza media say a senior Islamic Jihad commander was killed in an Israeli airstrike at his home in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Hussam Abu Harbeed directs the terror group’s operations in northern Gaza, according to the reports.

There is no immediate confirmation from Islamic Jihad or its armed wing, the al-Quds Brigades.

Rocket sirens heard in numerous southern communities, including Ofakim

Rocket warning sirens sound in numerous southern Israeli communities, including the city of Ofakim.

London to up police presence in Jewish areas after video of antisemitic convoy

LONDON — More police will be deployed to the streets of Jewish areas in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan says, after four people were arrested for allegedly shouting antisemitic abuse and threats during a pro-Palestinian protest.

“There are a number of things we are doing to reassure Londoners, particularly those from Jewish communities,” Khan tells ITV, as he announces an “increased police presence.”

Officers are investigating a video circulating on social media, in which “F*** their mothers, rape their daughters” can be heard being shouted from a car in north London yesterday, and have made four arrests.

The car was traveling in a convoy of vehicles decorated with Palestinian flags, one of several protests held across Britain over the weekend in response the worst violence in years between Israel and Palestinian terrorists.

“Whenever there is tension in the Middle East and violence it can spill over into our city,” says Khan.

Hamas health ministry reports another Palestinian fatality in Gaza fighting

The Hamas-run health ministry reports another fatality in the fighting over the past week between Gaza-based terrorists and Israel, raising the Palestinian death toll to 198.

It says the figure includes 58 minors and that some 1,300 others have been injured.

The ministry doesn’t specify how many of those killed were fighters in Hamas or other terror groups.

The update comes after Israel carried out major airstrikes in the Gaza Strip overnight that some residents of the enclave described as the most intense since fighting erupted a week ago.

Rocket sirens ring out in Beersheba

Rocket warning sirens are heard in the southern city of Beersheba.

IDF says it killed Islamic Jihad commander Hussam Abu Harbeed

The Israel Defense Forces says it has assassinated Islamic Jihad commander Hussam Abu Harbeed in an airstrike today in Gaza.

Abu Harbeed, who commanded the terror group’s northern Gaza division, has led attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians for nearly 15 years, the IDF says. He was also allegedly directly responsible for anti-tank missile fire that lightly wounded an Israeli civilian last week.

Islamic Jihad has yet to comment on the strike that targeted Abu Harbeed.

Cops arrest Arab suspect from Jaffa over firebombing that seriously hurt 12-year-old

The Israel Police and Shin Bet security service have arrested an Arab suspect over a  firebombing in Jaffa that left a 12-year-old Arab resident from the ethnically mixed coastal city seriously injured.

Police say the suspect, a Jaffa resident in his 20s, was arrested overnight for his suspected involvement in the incident. He has been handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning.

A judge issues a gag order on publishing further details of the case.

The attack in the Ajami neighborhood on Friday night came amid Arab-Jewish violence that has roiled the country.

Quoting a police source, the Haaretz daily says further arrests are expected .

Rocket warning sirens heard in numerous southern cities

Rocket warning sirens are heard in a number of communities in southern Israel, including the cities of Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Several Israelis said lightly hurt by rocket that hit Ashdod

A rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza strikes a home in the southern port city of Ashdod.

Police say officers are at the scene and say several people were lightly hurt. Hebrew media reports put the number of injured at eight.

Images show damage to the building.

3 lightly hurt by broken glass in Ashdod rocket strike — ambulance service

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says those being treated at the site of a rocket strike in Ashdod include three people lightly hurt by broken glass and five people who suffered anxiety attacks.

Rocket sirens in Netivot, other Israeli communities near Gaza

Rocket warning sirens are heard in the southern city of Netivot and several other communities near the Gaza Strip.

Shrapnel from rocket that hit near highway damages car

Police says shrapnel from a rocket that landed in an open area near Route 25 in southern Israel damaged a car.

There are no current reports of injuries and police say a sapper is on the scene.

IDF says it thwarted apparent Hamas attempt to launch attack from sea

The military says it has thwarted an apparent attempt by Hamas to carry out an attack on Israel from the sea.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, a number of operatives from the Gaza-ruling terror group were spotted today in the north of the Strip with suspected “naval diving weaponry.”

“The vessel was brought down to the beach and was apparently on its way to carry out a hostile sabotage operation toward the State of Israel’s maritime space,” an IDF statement says.

The Hamas operatives and equipment were targeted by Israeli Navy ships and military aircraft, the IDF adds.

Rocket lands on highway in south, halting traffic

Police say a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza struck Route 34 near the southern community of Yakhini, halting traffic in both directions.

Cops urge drivers to find alternative routes.

IDF puts out video of strike on Hamas underwater drone

The Israel Defense Forces releases video of a strike on an autonomous underwater vehicle in northern Gaza, shortly after saying it thwarted an apparent attempt by the Strip’s Hamas rulers to carry out an attack from the sea.

Rocket alarms in Kiryat Malachi, other southern Israeli communities

Fresh rocket warning sirens sound in numerous southern Israeli communities, including the city of Kiryat Malachi.

Blinken: US seeking ‘justification’ from Israel on bombing of Gaza media tower

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is seen during a joint press conference with his Danish counterpart in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 17, 2021. (Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is seen during a joint press conference with his Danish counterpart in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 17, 2021. (Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US has requested “details” and a “justification” from Israel for an airstrike on a high-rise building in Gaza housing international media outlets.

Blinken adds that he hasn’t personally seen any information shared by Israeli authorities and therefore doesn’t want to comment on the legitimacy of the strike.

“Israel has a special responsibility to protect civilians in the course of its self-defense, and that most certainly includes journalists,” Blinken tells a Copenhagen press conference.

Israel alleges the building was used by the military intelligence wing of Hamas, the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Draft Security Council statement being blocked by US doesn’t mention Hamas rockets

NEW YORK — The draft joint Security Council statement currently being blocked by the US makes no explicit mention of Hamas rocket fire in Gaza.

The Times of Israel obtained a copy of the draft statement. It expressed the council’s “grave concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties, and called for de-escalation of the situation, cessation of violence and respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians, especially children.”

“The Members of the Security Council emphasized that civilian and humanitarian facilities, including those of the UN, must be respected and protected, called on all parties to act consistently with this principle and stressed the need for immediate provision of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza,” the statement reads.

In this July 20, 2015, file photo, members of the Security Council vote at United Nations headquarters on the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. (AP/Seth Wenig, File)

“The Members of the Security Council welcomed all efforts to de-escalate and to reach a ceasefire agreement, including from regional states and the Middle East Quartet, and urged all actors to support these efforts,” it continues.

The members express concern regarding recent violence in Jerusalem, calling for maintaining the status quo at holy sites and “the right of Muslim worshipers to pray in peace at Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

They also express serious concern regarding the looming Israeli eviction of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan “and voiced opposition to unilateral actions, which will only escalate the already tense environment.”

The draft statement concludes with members reiterating their support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urging “the intensification and acceleration of diplomatic efforts and support towards this aim.”

The lack of mentioning of Hamas rocket fire from Gaza may offer one of the reasons the US — which has been heavily critical of the matter — has been initially refusing to back it.

US late-night host John Oliver lashes Israel for supposed war crimes in Gaza

Host John Oliver castigates Israel in a "Last Week Tonight" segment, May 16, 2021 (Screenshot)
Host John Oliver castigates Israel in a "Last Week Tonight" segment, May 16, 2021 (Screenshot)

A lengthy segment of last night’s late-night US show “Last Week Tonight,” in which host John Oliver castigates Israel for its military action in the battle against Hamas, is making waves.

Oliver says some of the IDF’s actions in Gaza look like a war crime, and also charges that the Palestinians are “essentially being governed by a form of apartheid.”

“The point is, this isn’t tit-for-tat,” Oliver fumes, of the conflict, now into its eighth day.

“There is a massive imbalance when it comes to the two sides’ weaponry and capabilities. While most of the rockets aimed toward Israeli citizens this week were intercepted, Israel’s airstrikes were not. They hit their targets, including a house in a refugee camp, a building housing The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, and a 13-story office and apartment building. And while Israel insisted that there were military targets in that building and they destroyed it as humanely as possible, even warning people to evacuate it beforehand, destroying a civilian residence sure seems like a war crime, regardless of whether you send a courtesy heads-up text.”

Among many bitter critiques, Oliver lashes the Israeli army for publishing a celebratory “before” and “after” post of the demolition of the Jala tower in Gaza used by numerous media outlets, which Israel says also served as a Hamas military asset.

The host “didn’t mince words,” notes the Daily Beast, in an article headlined: “John Oliver Accuses Israel of ‘War Crimes’ and ‘Apartheid’ Against Palestinians.”

Urging sanctions, Erdogan tells pope: All of humanity should be united against Israel

In this March 24, 2021, file photo,  Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks during his ruling party's congress inside a packed sports hall in Ankara, Turkey. (Turkish Presidency via AP, File)
In this March 24, 2021, file photo, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks during his ruling party's congress inside a packed sports hall in Ankara, Turkey. (Turkish Presidency via AP, File)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urges Pope Francis to help rally the world to adopt sanctions against Israel for its “massacre” of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Erdogan told Pope Francis in a phone call that “Palestinians will continue to be subjected to a massacre unless the international community punishes Israel… with sanctions,” the Turkish presidency says.

The pope’s messages were of “great importance to mobilize the Christian world and the international community,” the Turkish statement adds.

The pope on Sunday said the loss of innocent lives in the violence was “terrible and unacceptable,” warning that the conflict risked “degenerating into a spiral of death and destruction.”

Erdogan, who has vocally championed the Palestinian cause during his 18-year rule, has spoken out repeatedly against Israel’s actions, accusing it of waging “terrorism” last week.

He told the pope on Monday that “all of humanity should be united against” Israel, his office says.

“The savagery caused by Israel threatens regional security,” he added.

The Turkish push for sanctions against Israel included a phone call on Monday between Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his British counterpart Dominic Raab.

Cavusoglu told Raab it was “essential that the international community should give a stronger reaction” to Israel’s aggression, a Turkish foreign ministry source says.

Britain tells Israel to act proportionately, seeks info on attack on Gaza media tower

The British government says Israel must ensure that its military activities against Hamas are “proportionate,” and it is deeply concerned by the destruction of media offices and other civilian targets in Gaza.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, says Britain is “in contact with our US and UN counterparts and urgently seeking more information from the Israeli government” on Saturday’s attack, which destroyed a high-rise building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media organizations. Israel, which warned occupants ahead of the strike, giving them time to leave, said the tower was also used by Hamas as a military asset.

“We are deeply concerned by UN reports that 23 schools and 500 homes, as well as medical facilities and media offices, have been destroyed or damaged in Gaza,” Blain says. He adds that “Israel must make every effort to avoid civilian casualties and military activity must be proportionate.”

Blain also says the UK is concerned about Hamas using civilian areas as cover.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this item.

IDF says it destroyed Gaza mansion hiding tunnel entrance

The Israeli military says earlier today it struck the mansion of a Hamas ally near the Gaza beach, under which was hidden the entrance to a tunnel dug for military purposes.

The military says Abed al-Aziz al-Haldi is a businessman with strong ties to Hamas leadership.

US envoy Hady Amr meets Abbas in Ramallah

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr is in Ramallah today, meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other officials as he tries to encourage a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Merkel stresses ‘solidarity’ with Israel in call with Netanyahu

German Chancellor Angela Merkel voices “solidarity” with Israel in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and calls for a swift end to the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence in years.

“The chancellor again sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert says in a statement after the call. “She reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against the attacks.”

Given the many civilian lives lost on both sides, the statement adds, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, December 16, 2020. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Dutch PM gives Netanyahu ‘unreserved support’ for Israeli defensive action

Netanyahu also speaks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

His office says Rutte expressed his “unreserved support for Israel’s right to defend itself in light of the rocket fire from Gaza.”

Rocket sirens continue to sound in southern Israel

Rocket sirens continue to sound in Israeli communities in southern Israel, including in Ashkelon, Netiv Ha’asara, Ashdod and others.

Fears of possible infiltration near Beit She’an, residents told to stay at home

Security forces are searching the border area with Jordan near Beit She’an, south of the Sea of Galilee, over fears of a possible infiltration.

According to local officials, forces received indication of contact with the security fence and found the tracks of three people in the area of Beit Yosef.

Local residents have been instructed to remain at home.

IDF says it struck Gaza rocket launchers, Hamas cells

The Israel Defense Forces says it struck a number of rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip as well as Hamas cells operating them.

Five Hamas members were struck as they were preparing rockets to launch at Israel, the military says.

Sixteen rocket launchers, including 10 stationed underground, were destroyed throughout the Gaza Strip, the IDF says.

Additionally, the military says it struck the entrance to a Hamas military tunnel in northern Gaza.

EU says will redouble its efforts to end Israeli-Palestinian violence

The European Union says it will redouble its efforts to end the upsurge in violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian terrorists, and seek progress during a special meeting of its foreign ministers tomorrow.

The EU also calls the weekend destruction by Israel of a building housing major international media “extremely worrying” and says safe working conditions for journalists were essential.

Israel asserts the building was also hosting Hamas military offices.

Military sends warning to another Gaza high-rise; Hamas threatens Tel Aviv

The Israeli military has struck a six-story building in Gaza with a “roof-knock” bomb, indicating that Israeli forces intend to demolish the structure.

It is not immediately clear why the structure, al-Muhannad Tower, has been targeted by the Israel Defense Forces. Israel says it targets buildings used by Hamas or other Gaza terror groups.

In a now-familiar ultimatum, Hamas’s armed wing tells Israel not to demolish more residential buildings in Gaza or else expect rocket fire in Israel’s heartland.

The building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media in Gaza City collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

“The criminal Zionist enemy has intensified its bombing of civilian homes and apartments in the last hours. Accordingly, we warn the enemy that if they do not immediately stop bombing civilian homes — we will again bomb Tel Aviv. We will again set it under the range of our rockets,”

UN General Assembly to convene on Gaza-Israel crisis Thursday

The current president of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, says he will convene the GA on Thursday morning to discuss the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza.

IDF says it struck headquarters of Hamas Internal Security in northern Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces says it struck the headquarters of Hamas’s Internal Security in northern Gaza.

The building, located in the upscale al-Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City, was used by the terror group’s military intelligence operatives, the military says.

Dutch PM says Israel has right to self-defense, but must act proportionately

After Netanyahu’s office announces Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s “unreserved support” for Israel’s right to defend itself in a phone call, Dutch diplomats stress the conversation included other comments.

“I expressed my sympathy to both leaders for the victims on both sides. I condemned the rocket attacks on Israel,” Rutte says. “Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks, but precisely because it is a strong country, it also has a responsibility to act proportionately within the bounds of international law.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte gives a press conference about COVID-19 measures in The Netherlands, in The Hague, on January 12, 2021. (Bart Maat / ANP / AFP)

US blocks third draft UN statement on Mideast violence — diplomats

The United States blocks — for the third time in a week — the adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for a halt to Israeli-Palestinian violence and the protection of civilians, diplomats say.

The text drafted by China, Tunisia and Norway and calling for the “cessation of violence and respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians, especially children,” was submitted late Sunday for approval today by the Council’s 15 members.

The United States indicates that it “could not currently support an expression” by the Security Council, one diplomat tells AFP.

The draft resolution did not include an explicit condemnation of Hamas for firing rockets at Israeli civilians.

Some 190 rockets fired in past 12 hours, army says

The Israeli military says some 190 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel over the past 12 hours.

About 25 of those fell inside Gaza territory, it says. Dozens were shot down by Iron Dome.

Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defence system is launched to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip, above the southern city of Ashkelon, on May 17, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)

Blinken signals US not insisting on ceasefire right away, day after calling for immediate end to violence

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is seen during a joint press conference with his Danish counterpart in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 17, 2021. (Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is seen during a joint press conference with his Danish counterpart in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 17, 2021. (Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken signals the US still is not joining calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Blinken’s stand comes despite growing pressure from the United States’ UN Security Council partners, some Democrats and others from President Joe Biden’s administration and other international leaders to wade more deeply into diplomacy to end the worst Israel-Palestinian violence in years.

Israel’s leaders have indicated that they are not seeking a ceasefire at this stage, preferring to give the IDF additional time to proceed with what IDF chief Aviv Kohavi on Sunday called a pre-prepared “phased plan” to weaken Hamas that it began implementing after Hamas initiated the conflict when firing at Jerusalem last Monday.

Speaking in Copenhagen, where Blinken is making an unrelated tour of Nordic countries this week, Blinken ticked off US outreach so far to try to de-escalate hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel, and said he would be making more calls Monday.

“In all of these engagements we have made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices to the parties should they seek a ceasefire,” Blinken said.

He said he welcomed efforts by the UN — where the United States has so far blocked a proposed Security Council statement on the fighting — and other nations working for a ceasefire.

“Any diplomatic initiative that advances that prospect is something that we’ll support,” he said. “And we are again willing and ready to do that. But ultimately it is up to the parties to make clear that they want to pursue a ceasefire.”

Blinken also tweeted after talks with Jordan’s foreign minister about the “urgency of working towards a sustainable calm.”

On Sunday, Blinken had tweeted that “all parties need to deescalate tensions – the violence must end immediately.”

AP, ToI staff

TV: Hamas trying to encourage terror attacks from West Bank

Hamas is doing its utmost to encourage terrorist attacks from the West Bank on targets in Israel, Channel 12 reports, and failing that on settlements or military targets in the West Bank.

It has also been distributing leaflets in the West Bank, notably in refugee camps, asserting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has approved violent confrontations with IDF forces tomorrow, when the PA has called a general strike in the West Bank, the report says.

Abbas, who met earlier today with US emissary Hady Amr, has told the PA’s security forces that this is not the case, and that they are to seek to prevent such confrontations.

IDF says it struck Gaza homes of five senior Hamas commanders

The Israel Defense Forces says it struck the homes of five senior Hamas commanders in the Gaza Strip.

The military says the homes were used as infrastructure for the terror group. Some were also weapon depots.

TV: Defense chiefs urging politicians not to end Gaza op, citing ‘opportunities’

Israeli security officials are urging political leaders not to end the fighting in Gaza yet, Channel 12 reports.

According to the network, officials are telling leadership that there are at the moment “opportunities” to hit Gaza’s terror infrastructure that should not be missed.

A senior official tells the network that Israel “does not want a ceasefire at this time” as it wants to solidify its gains over Hamas.

Channel 12 also says Defense Minister Benny Gantz has told security chiefs there are at least several more days of combat left.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF chief Aviv Kohavi at an Israel Air Force command center as the IAF bombs Hamas’s Gaza tunnel network overnight Thursday-Friday May 13-14, 2021 (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Soldier wounded by Gaza mortar fire earlier today

A 23-year-old Israel Defense Forces soldier was wounded from mortar fire on the Gaza border today.

He was taken to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, and is suffering light-to-moderate injuries, a hospital spokesperson says.

Police arrest 2 further suspects in Bat Yam mob attack on Arab man

Police say they have arrested two suspects in their 20s for alleged involvement in a mob assault on an Arab man on the Bat Yam promenade last week.

The two are residents of the city. A third suspect is already under arrest.

The two will be brought before a judge for an extension of their remand.

TV says Netanyahu and Gantz talking of coalition partnership; both deny it

Representatives of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are discussing a possible coalition partnership, to take shape after the conflict is over, and when Yesh Atid Yair Lapid’s mandate to form a government ends on June 2, Channel 12 claims.

The two, whose coalition collapsed last December, prompting March 23’s inconclusive election, have been overseeing the IDF battle against Hamas this past week.

Netanyahu is interested in pursuing this option only if he cannot see a path to retaining power via a bid for direct election of the prime minister.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a consultation amid Hamas rocket fire at Israel and IDF counterstrikes, May 11, 2021 (Amos Ben Gersom / GPO)

The proposal being discussed would see Gantz serving as PM for 18 months, before handing over to Netanyahu. Netanyahu would serve as alternate PM and foreign minister for the first 18 months, and stay at the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, the report claims.

The discussions are complicated by many issues, including Netanyahu’s desire to retain control of key ministries and appointments that could relate to his trial, and Gantz’s demand for ministerial representation far greater than his eight-seat Blue and White would otherwise merit, the report says.

The PMO is quoted rejecting the report as untrue. Blue and White sources tell Channel 12 Gantz won’t partner Netanyahu “even if he promises the moon.”

After blocking Security Council statement, US hints it wouldn’t have supported its ceasefire efforts

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

NEW YORK — After blocking the passage of a UN Security Council joint statement on the escalation in Gaza, an official at the US mission suggests to The Times of Israel that it would not have helped its own efforts to broker a ceasefire.

“As we have communicated consistently to council members over the last week, the US is engaging in intense diplomatic efforts at the highest levels to try to bring an end to this conflict. The US has a role in ensuring any council statement supports these efforts,” the official says.

“We are continuing to focus on crucial diplomatic efforts underway in the region, in Washington and in New York to develop a pathway to de-escalation and remain prepared to lend our support and good offices should the parties seek a ceasefire,” the official adds.

Asked about the matter earlier today, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded, “Will any given action, will any given statement actually, as a practical matter, advance the prospects for ending the violence or not? And that’s the judgment we have to make each time.”

“If we think that there’s something, including at the United Nations, that would effectively advance that, we would be for it. We thought it was very important the other day to have this open discussion where the parties could put forward their views, their concerns, and be heard. And we’ll continue to look for ways to advance the goal that we have, which is ending the violence,” he adds.

The statement blocked by the US, obtained by ToI earlier today, called for an immediate ceasefire, effectively criticized violence on both sides but made no specific mention of Hamas rocket fire

Blinken speaks to Tunisian counterpart on Gaza violence, both agree need for ceasefire ‘urgent’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone earlier today with Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi,” the former’s office says.

“The Secretary and the Foreign Minister expressed their concern about the violence in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza,” the readout adds. “Both agreed on the urgent need to restore calm and end the tragic loss of civilian life. The Secretary highlighted the importance of the strong bilateral partnership with Tunisia.”

IDF spokesman: 100% certain Gaza media tower was Hamas asset, will provide proof

IDF Spokesman Hidai Zilberman insists the army is “100 percent certain” that the Al Jala building demolished by the IDF on Saturday held “military assets” used by Hamas.

The building housed the offices of several media organizations, including the Associated Press, which is demanding an independent investigation into the incident.

In a Channel 12 interview, Zilberman is asked why US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he has still not received promised Israeli evidence to that effect.

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman (Israel Defense Forces)

“In the coming days, we will do everything we’ve been asked in order to make clear that it was appropriate to destroy this building,” he says.

He specifies that Hamas used it for R&D and intel purposes, and that it was used by the Islamic Jihad terror group as well.

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)

Zilberman also says that the IDF’s ongoing bombardment of Hamas’s tunnel infrastructure is forcing key leaders of the terror group above ground, “where they can be targeted.”

Gaza’s main COVID lab ceases operations due to damage from IDF strike

This picture taken on April 22, 2021 shows a general view of nurses and patients at the COVID-19 coronavirus intensive care unit at the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital in Gaza City. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
This picture taken on April 22, 2021 shows a general view of nurses and patients at the COVID-19 coronavirus intensive care unit at the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital in Gaza City. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Gaza’s main coronavirus laboratory has ceased functioning due to damage from an Israeli airstrike that fell across the street, Hamas health minister Yusuf Abu Rish says.

The alleged Israeli airstrike targeted the Faisal al-Shawa building in the al-Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City. The clinic is adjacent to the al-Shawa building, according to Gaza media.

The Israeli military does not respond to a request for comment.

While Israel has largely managed to leave the coronavirus pandemic behind following an extensive inoculation campaign, the vast majority of Gazans have yet to be vaccinated.

Biden: I’ll be talking with Netanyahu in an hour about Gaza

Left: US President Joe Biden speaks about Russia in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik); Right: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers at the Yad LeBanim House on the eve of Memorial Day, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Debbie Hill/Pool Photo via AP)
Left: US President Joe Biden speaks about Russia in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik); Right: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers at the Yad LeBanim House on the eve of Memorial Day, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Debbie Hill/Pool Photo via AP)

US President Joe Biden says he would be talking Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the bloodshed in Israel.

“I will be speaking with the prime minister in an hour and I’ll be able to talk to you after that,” he tells reporters at the White House, when asked whether he would join other international calls for a ceasefire in Israel.

Erdogan says Biden has ‘bloody hands’ for backing Israel

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan says US President Joe Biden had “bloody hands” because of his support for Israel in the raging conflict in the Gaza Strip.

The Turkish president’s comments represent one of his strongest attacks on Biden since his arrival in the White House in January.

Erdogan has spent the past few months trying to mend relations with Washington and reaching out to other Western allies after a year of sharp disputes.

But he lashes out at Biden directly in a furious nationally televised address.

“You are writing history with your bloody hands,” Erdogan says in remarks addressed to the US president.

“You forced us to say this. Because we can not stay silent on this anymore.”

Erdogan has gained support across the Middle East by vocally championing the Palestinian cause during his 18-year rule.

He had accused Israel last week of waging “terrorism” and vowed to rally the world to Gaza’s defense.

“Today we saw Biden’s signature on weapons sales to Israel,” Erdogan says in reference to US media reports of a new arms shipment approved by the Biden administration.

“Palestinian territories are awash with persecution, suffering and blood, like many other territories that lost the peace with the end of the Ottomans. And you are supporting that,” Erdogan tells Biden.

Fresh rocket sirens go off in Gaza border town after 2 hour lull

Fresh rocket sirens go off in the Gaza border town of Kissufim after a roughly two hour lull.

US says it’s held over 60 calls with Middle East leaders aimed at deescalating Gaza violence

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, March 5, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, March 5, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tells reporters at today’s press briefing that US officials have held over 60 calls with Middle East counterparts aimed at de-escalating the latest round of violence between Israel and terror groups in Gaza.

Rocket sirens go off in over a dozen Gaza border towns

Fresh rocket sirens go off in at least seven Gaza border towns, including Tkuma, Havat Izraam, Shokeda, Alumim, Zimrat, Shuva, Be’erri, Kfar Maimon, Tushia, Maagalim, Givolim Melilot, Sharsheret and Netivot

IDF: Shots fired from passing vehicle at IDF soldiers near Hebron; no one injured

The IDF says shots were fired earlier this evening from a passing car at soldiers stationed outside the West Bank city of Hebron. No one was injured in the incident.

UN: 2,500 Gazans homeless due to Israeli strikes, power supply reduced to 6-8 hours a day

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 spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tells reporters at a briefing that the UN has received reports of over 38,000 internally displaced people seeking protection in 48 schools run by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) across the Gaza Strip and over 2,500 people who have been made homeless, due to the destruction of their homes.

Forty-one education facilities — including schools, two kindergartens, an UNRWA vocational center, and a higher education facility — have been damaged, according to our people on the ground, the spokesperson says.

“The power supply across Gaza has been reduced to six to eight hours per day, on average, with a number of feeder lines not functioning. That, in turn, disrupts the provision of healthcare and other basic services, including water, hygiene and sanitation,” the spokesperson says.

Reiterating Israel’s right to defend itself, Blinken criticizes ‘false equivalence’ being made between Israel, Hamas

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, April 5, 2021. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, April 5, 2021. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

In an interview with Norway’s TV2, US Secretary Antony Blinken says there’s a “false equivalence” being drawn between Hamas, a terrorist group indiscriminately attacking Israeli civilians, and Israel, a state defending itself.

He reiterates the US position that, “we believe strongly that Israel has a right to defend itself,” and then continues: “And this false equivalence between a terrorist group – Hamas – that is indiscriminately launching rockets at civilians and Israel, which is responding to those attacks, I think we have to be very, very wary of. That’s – it’s a false equivalence.

“And again, I’ll give you another concrete example. Israel has, I think by last count, launched about 2,000 attacks on terrorist targets in Gaza. There were more than 3,000 rockets launched by Hamas from Gaza into Israel.

“Having said that, I think Israel has an extra burden as a democracy to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, especially to look out for children, and of course to make sure that journalists, medical personnel, are not harmed. And so that’s vital,” he clarifies.

“And we also want to see this de-escalate. We want to see the violence stop. And we want to see the possibility of focusing on improving lives and improving Palestinian lives in a material way. People have to have hope for a better future, and we all need to work on that.”

Asked about efforts being made to help Palestinians, Blinken says the US is working to ensure that as well. “It is very, very difficult if you see no positive prospects. And I think we all have an obligation, a responsibility to do that.”

Iron Dome intercepts all rockets in latest barrage fired from Gaza

Rockets from Gaza, on right, are seen in the night sky fired towards Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, on left, rise to meet them. (Anas Baba/AFP)
Rockets from Gaza, on right, are seen in the night sky fired towards Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, on left, rise to meet them. (Anas Baba/AFP)

Channel 12 reports that the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted all of the rockets fired roughly a half hour ago from Gaza.

Jordan’s parliament calls for expulsion of Israel envoy, recall of ambassador from TLV

Members of Jordan's parliament rise to honor a Palestinian terrorist, March 24, 2019. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Members of Jordan's parliament rise to honor a Palestinian terrorist, March 24, 2019. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Jordanian lawmakers unanimously carry a motion urging the government to expel Israel’s ambassador to Amman in protest against Israeli “crimes” against Palestinians.

Speaker of Parliament Abdul Monem Odat announces the move live on television after a parliamentary session devoted to “the situation in Palestine and the crimes committed against them in Jerusalem and Gaza.”

During a six-hour long session, “the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador” was among the key recommendations carried, Odat says.

Lawmakers also demand the recall of Jordan’s ambassador from Tel Aviv.

“We have sent a memorandum to the government to that effect and it is now with the prime minister,” he adds.

Prime Minister Bishr Khasawneh, who was present in parliament, said the government will examine all the options “and will rise to the challenge.”

Independent MP Khalil Attiyeh tells AFP that all parliament’s 130 deputies had signed the memorandum.

Jordan, which is bound by a peace treaty with neighboring Israel agreed in 1994, has for days seen protests in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Demonstrators have demanded the Israeli ambassador’s expulsion.

Around half of Jordan’s 10 million-strong population is of Palestinian origin, including some 2.2 million refugees registered with the United Nations.

Ashkenazi thanks Blinken for US thwarting of Security Council statement on Gaza

Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi talks to the media during a press conference after a meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of Cyprus, Greece, Israel and United Arab of Emirates in city of Paphos, Cyprus, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou Pool via AP)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi talks to the media during a press conference after a meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of Cyprus, Greece, Israel and United Arab of Emirates in city of Paphos, Cyprus, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou Pool via AP)

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi speaks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, thanking him for the United States’ support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas and for blocking a UN Security Council joint statement that would have called for an immediate ceasefire without condemning the Gaza terror group’s rocket fire, according to an Israeli readout.

Ashkenazi told Blinken that “Israel would continue to act against the Hamas terror organization until peace is restored to the communities in the south and center of the country.”

“The entire international community must condemn Hamas, which uses civilians as human shields,” he adds, according to his office.

“We thank our good friend, the United States, for her steadfast support for our side,” says Ashkenazi.

Netanyahu offers condolences to family of Jewish man killed by Arab mob in Lod

Yigal Yehoshua, 56, died after being struck in the head with a brick while driving home in Lod. (Courtesy)
Yigal Yehoshua, 56, died after being struck in the head with a brick while driving home in Lod. (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers his condolences to the family of Yigal Yehoshua, who succumbed to his wounds after being brutally attacked by an Arab mob in Lod last week.

“We will come to terms with everyone who participated in this murder. No one will escape punishment. May the memory of Yigal be a blessing and be preserved in our hearts always,” Netanyahu says.

Rocket sirens set off in Sderot and neighboring towns

Fresh rocket sirens have been set off in Sderot and neighboring towns near Gaza.

Initial reports of building in Sderot struck by Gaza rocket

Channel 12 receives an initial report of a rocket that struck a home in Gaza. There are no immediate reports of injuries.

Several Channel 12 reporters receive security detail due to threats against them

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives Channel 12 anchor Yonit Levy his "na na na na na" rendition during an interview on February 17 (Channel 12 screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives Channel 12 anchor Yonit Levy his "na na na na na" rendition during an interview on February 17 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Channel 12 reporters Yonit Levy, Guy Peleg, Dana Weiss, and Rina Matsliah have had security details assigned to protect each of them, due to threats they have been receiving, Yedioth reports.

No injuries in latest barrage in Gaza; landing in Sderot strikes empty kindergarten

There were no injuries in the latest barrage of rockets fired toward Sderot, Magen David Adom reports.

Channel 12 says the landing in Sderot struck an empty kindergarten in the town.

18-year-old Palestinian said killed in clashes with IDF near Hebron

According to Palestinian media reports, 18-year-old Obeida Akram Jawabrah was shot and killed by the Israel Defense Forces tonight near al-Aroub Refugee Camp near Hebron.

The circumstances that led to Jawabrah’s death were not immediately clear. But it appeared to be related to an incident where Palestinians allegedly shot at Israeli troops close to a junction near the entrance to the refugee camp.

Some 22 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since hostilities began between Israel and Hamas last Monday. The Israeli army said several were attempting to commit terror attacks, while others were shot by Israeli soldiers during violent clashes.

Italy port workers said holding weapons shipment slated for Israel

In this Aug. 19, 2019 file photo, Open Arms vessel with 107 migrants on board is anchored off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)
In this Aug. 19, 2019 file photo, Open Arms vessel with 107 migrants on board is anchored off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)

Worker unions at ports in Livorno and Naples in Italy are holding up weapons shipments slated for Israel in protest of the IDF’s counterattacks in the Gaza Strip, Channel 12 reports.

Israel is currently working to get the shipments released as soon as possible, the network says, referring to the move by Italy as a form of “economic warfare.”

Another barrage of rockets fired at Sderot and border towns

Fresh rocket sirens have been set off in Sderot and other Gaza border towns.

‘Change bloc’ accuses Likud of leaking false story about Netanyahu-Gantz coalition talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem, prior to Israel's 73rd Independence Day, on April 11, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem, prior to Israel's 73rd Independence Day, on April 11, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Officials in the “Change bloc” seeking to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuse Likud of leaking a false story about coalition talks between the premier and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, which it says is aimed at breaking up their bloc, Channel 12 reports.

The officials say the leak is also aimed at placing pressure on New Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar to join Netanyahu, to avoid the risk of being left in the opposition as a right-wing government is formed.

Change bloc said to hold out hope that Bennett may return to talks due to ‘brave’ Abbas

Ra'am party chief Mansour Abbas meets with Lod Mayor Yair Revivo on Sunday, May 17, 2021 (screenshot: Kan)
Ra'am party chief Mansour Abbas meets with Lod Mayor Yair Revivo on Sunday, May 17, 2021 (screenshot: Kan)

Officials in the “Change bloc” seeking to replace Netanyahu are holding out hope that Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett has not completely closed the door on a government with the “Change bloc,” pointing to “brave” comments made by Ra’am chair Mansour Abbas in recent days, condemning Arab mob-violence on Jews. The Islamist party also visited a synagogue in Lod that was torched by a mob and lambasted the act.

Netanyahu says he’s directed IDF to continue striking terror targets in Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the official state ceremony for Jerusalem Day on Ammunition Hill, May 10, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the official state ceremony for Jerusalem Day on Ammunition Hill, May 10, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has directed the IDF to continue striking terror targets in Gaza.

“I just finished a situational assessment where I approved operational plans [for Gaza] with the defense minister, IDF chief of staff, the head of the National Security Council, the head of the Shin Bet, and the head of the Mossad.

“The directive is to continue to strike at terrorist targets. The IDF is doing well. Today, it eliminated another senior Islamic Jihad commander, hit a Hamas naval unit, and continues to strike at Hamas’s underground tunnel network along with other targets,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

“We will continue to act as necessary to restore peace and security to all residents of Israel,” he adds.

Diplomatic source to ToI: ‘We’re close’ to brokering ceasefire, will need 2 more days max.

Rockets are launched towards Israel from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Rockets are launched towards Israel from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A diplomatic source familiar with Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas tells The Times of Israel, “we’re close” and that it should be reached in “two days maximum.”

Channel 12 reports that Egypt told Hamas this evening that if it wants a ceasefire, it needs to stop firing at Israel. The network speculates that this may be the reason why Hamas has not made good on its promise to fire at Tel Aviv this evening.

Security Council diplomat to ToI: Wording of joint statement was not reason why US opposed

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to reporters during a news conference at United Nations headquarters, March 1, 2021. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to reporters during a news conference at United Nations headquarters, March 1, 2021. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

NEW YORK — A Security Council diplomat tells The Times of Israel that the wording of the joint statement from the top UN body — which called for a ceasefire, but failed to condemn Hamas rocket fire — was not what led to the US mission’s decision to block the measure.

“They told us they could not support an expression from the council at this time,” the diplomat says.

After blocking the passage of a UN Security Council joint statement on the escalation in Gaza, an official at the US mission suggested to The Times of Israel that the UN’s statement would not have helped its own efforts to broker a ceasefire.

“As we have communicated consistently to council members over the last week, the US is engaging in intense diplomatic efforts at the highest levels to try to bring an end to this conflict. The US has a role in ensuring any council statement supports these efforts,” the official said earlier this evening.

“We are continuing to focus on crucial diplomatic efforts underway in the region, in Washington and in New York to develop a pathway to de-escalation and remain prepared to lend our support and good offices should the parties seek a ceasefire,” the official added.

Fresh rocket sirens set off in at least 8 Gaza border towns

Fresh rocket sirens sound in the Gaza border towns of Gavim, Sapir College, Bror Hayil, Kfar Azza, Sderot, Ibim, Mefalsim and Nir Am.

Israel reportedly will allow humanitarian goods into Strip ravaged by IDF strikes

Israel will reportedly allow 24 trucks of fuel, food, and medicine into the Gaza Strip tomorrow through the Kerem Shalom goods crossing, the Kan public broadcaster reports, citing Palestinian sources.

The coastal enclave has been ravaged by IDF strikes that damaged the power-line, leaving Gaza with roughly six to eight hours of electricity a day, according to the UN.

Blinken and UAE counterpart discuss Gaza violence, as top US diplomat’s marathon calls on matter continue

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at a meeting at the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017.  (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at a meeting at the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone earlier today with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the US State Department says.

“The secretary and foreign minister discussed efforts to bring the current violence in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza to an end, and halt the tragic loss of civilian life,” according to the readout.

“The secretary highlighted the importance of the UAE’s contributions towards promoting a more peaceful Middle East,” it adds.

Fresh barrage of rockets fired from Gaza, with sirens sounding in Ashkelon, surrounding towns

A fresh barrage of rockets has been fired from Gaza, with sirens going off in Ashkelon and over a dozen other border towns.

Rocket sirens sound in northern Israel town along Lebanese border; no reports of damage

Incoming rocket sirens sound in the community of Misgav Am in northern Israel, near the Lebanese border.
There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

This appears to be the latest in a number of attacks on northern Israel from Lebanon and Syria in recent days, in addition to the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

New Hope member rips Kahanist ex-MK for urging boycott of Arab-owned pharmacy

Dani Dayan of the New Hope party at his home in Maaleh Shomron, February 8, 2021  (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)
Dani Dayan of the New Hope party at his home in Maaleh Shomron, February 8, 2021 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

New Hope party member Dani Dayan slams ex-MK Michael Ben Ari — a self-described disciple of the extremist rabbi Meir Kahane — for calling on residents of the Karnei Shomron settlement to boycott the Arab-owned pharmacy in their town.

“Due to the relationship between us, I tried to hold back and not respond to the last horrible tweets of Michael Ben Ari, but after this targeting of a dear individual, I could not hold back. I’m a customer of this pharmacy. The call to harm the livelihood (and perhaps other things beyond that) of a person who serves our community is unforgivable,” tweets Dayan, who recently served as Israel’s consul general in New York.

After US blocking of statement, Security Council to meet again on Gaza

The UN Security Council chambers in New York. (Norway Mission to the UN/Twitter)
The UN Security Council chambers in New York. (Norway Mission to the UN/Twitter)

NEW YORK — After the US blocked a joint statement from the Security Council calling for a ceasefire, the top UN body will convene yet again on Tuesday, for its fourth meeting in eight days, Norway’s Mission to the UN announces.

The emergency session will be closed, as the first two were.

IDF says Ashkelon residents receiving fake messages ordering them to evacuate

The Israel Defense Forces says residents of Ashkelon have received fake messages from the military telling them to prepare to evacuate the city.

The military stresses that these messages are false and were not sent out by the IDF Home Front Command.

“Please stay up to date on all developments and all statements released by the IDF, Home Front Command, and local governments,” the military says.

Police said to file 116 indictments of suspects in Arab-Jewish riots; zero against Jews

Police seen on the streets of the central city of Lod, May 12, 2021 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Police seen on the streets of the central city of Lod, May 12, 2021 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Police have filed 116 indictments of suspects involved in the Arab-Jewish rioting in mainly “mixed” towns across the country, but none of them has been against Jews, Haaretz reports.

The violence tearing through the country over the past week-plus has featured Arab mobs attacking Jewish bystanders, but also Jewish mobs targeting Arabs, including the brutal beating of a victim in Bat Yam, which was even caught on camera.

IDF chief: Fighting in Gaza will continue for at least two more days

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 of Staff Aviv Kohavi tells the heads of local governments around the Gaza Strip that the fighting in the enclave will continue for at least the next two days, but will continue “as long as it must.”

“Hamas made a mistake when it conducted that launch eight days ago toward Jerusalem. They didn’t think what happened would happen,” Kohavi says.

“Hamas was surprised by our power and techniques and our achievements. They are being struck very hard. The operation will continue as long as it must,” the army chief says.

An hour ago, a diplomatic source familiar with Egypt’s negotiations to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza told ToI that “we’re close” and that it should be reached in “two days maximum.”

IDF: All 6 rockets fired from Lebanon appear to have fallen short of northern border

United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon vehicles watch as a fire burns following a pro-Palestinian rally by the border with Israel on May 14, 2021. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon vehicles watch as a fire burns following a pro-Palestinian rally by the border with Israel on May 14, 2021. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces says six projectiles were fired toward northern Israel from Lebanon, but apparently landed within Lebanese territory.

No Israeli injuries are reported.

“In response, IDF artillery forces returned fire at the source of the launches,” the military says.

Blinken and Ashkenazi discuss US efforts to end Gaza violence — State Department

The US State Department publishes its readout from Secretary of State Antony Blinken phone call with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

The sides “discussed US efforts to bring an end to the violence, which has claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children,” the readout says.

“The two discussed the path forward, and the Secretary noted that the United States would remain engaged with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other regional stakeholders as part of our diplomacy to ease tensions and put an end to the hostilities,” it adds.

Blinken “also expressed deep concern at the inter-communal violence” in Israel, the readout says.

The Israeli readout published earlier said Ashkenazi thanked Blinken for speaking in support of Israel’s right to defend itself.

J Street calls on Biden to ‘change course,’ call for immediate ceasefire

The dovish Middle East lobby J Street issues a statement calling on the Biden administration to “change course” and demand an “immediate” ceasefire between Israel and terror groups in Gaza.

“To date, the Biden administration has simply not done enough to demand, broker and achieve an immediate end to the violence and destruction,” the group claims.

“While a large number of Congressional Democrats and at least one senior Senate Republican have called on both Israelis and Palestinians to reach an immediate ceasefire, the Biden administration has still not publicly done so.”

“They have also provided near blanket diplomatic cover for the Netanyahu government. This combination of inadequate ‘quiet’ appeals for de-escalation, and otherwise nearly unquestioning public support for and tolerance of the Netanyahu government’s actions, is unhelpful,” it adds, calling for the US to also support the release of a “balanced” Security Council statement on the matter and “appoint a senior-level special envoy to direct and coordinate US policy related to the conflict.”

Biden ‘expresses support’ for ceasefire in call with Netanyahu — White House

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with then US vice president Joe Biden at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with then US vice president Joe Biden at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

US President Joe Biden “expressed his support for a ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas during a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this evening, the White House says.

It was the third call the two leaders have had since the violence in Gaza erupted.

Biden “reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks,” according to the US readout.

The two leaders discussed progress in Israel’s military operations against Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.

Biden encouraged Israel to “make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians,” the readout says.

The president updated Netanyahu on US engagement with Egypt and other partners to broker a ceasefire.

He also welcomed the Israeli government’s ‘efforts to address inter-communal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem,” the White House said.

The two leaders agreed that they and their teams would remain in close touch.

After Bennett cuts talks with ‘change bloc,’ PM said to dampen offer to Yamina significantly

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with then-defense minister and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett during a meeting with the heads of right-wing parties in the Knesset on March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with then-defense minister and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett during a meeting with the heads of right-wing parties in the Knesset on March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett severed talks with the so-called “change bloc” aiming to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Walla news site reports that the premier has toned back his original offer to the right-wing party head significantly.

In their previous round of talks while Netanyahu still had the government-forming mandate, the prime minister’s party offered that Bennett serve first as premier in a rotational agreement in addition to a merger proposal that would reserve eight spots on the Likud list for Yamina and a pledge to pass legislation instituting term limits for the premier post.

Netanyahu has now rescinded that proposal and is now offering “far less” to Yamina after it appeared to have all but burned its bridges with the change bloc, Walla reports.

Molotov cocktail thrown at building in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood; no injuries reported

A Molotov cocktail was hurled near a home in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, bordering the towns of Umm Lissun and Sur Baher, ToI has learned.

Residents managed to put out the fire quickly and no damage or injuries were incurred.

AIPAC urges Congress, White House to ‘unequivocally’ stand by Israel

The AIPAC lobby, which backs the strengthening of the US-Israel relationship, urges “members of Congress and the administration [to] unequivocally stand with our ally Israel as it confronts this terrorist threat.”

“There is no moral equivalence between a democratic ally and a designated terrorist organization,” AIPAC says in a statement. “This isn’t about evictions, annexation, or two states. It’s not about Palestinians or a better future.”

US said to tell Israel its supportive, but wants round of violence to end

An Israeli official tells Axios the Biden administration hasn’t given Jerusalem a deadline to reach a ceasefire but would still like to see an end to the latest round of violence.

“The overall message was that they support us but want this to end,” the official tells Axios.

White House press secretary declines to comment on Israeli domestic politics

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington on April 12, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington on April 12, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki is asked during her daily press briefing whether US President Joe Biden is concerned that domestic Israeli politics are preventing an end to the violence.

“It’s not our role to assess or analyze the politics on the ground in Israel,” Psaki responds. Everybody has their own politics in different regions of the world, and we see that play out in foreign policy all the time.”

Meir Gloiberman, 13, and Mordechai Rubinstein, 23, identified as victims from Givat Ze’ev bleacher collapse

The site where a bleacher crowded with worshipers collapsed in a synagogue in Givat Zeev, near Jerusalem, at the start of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
The site where a bleacher crowded with worshipers collapsed in a synagogue in Givat Zeev, near Jerusalem, at the start of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Meir Gloiberman, 13, and Mordechai Rubinstein, 23, have been identified as two victims from a collapsed bleacher collapse during a religious gathering in Givat Ze’ev.

Top Democrat to weigh delay request for Biden’s $735m weapons package to Israel

US Rep. Gregory Meeks speaks during a news conference outside the USPS Jamaica station, August 18, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
US Rep. Gregory Meeks speaks during a news conference outside the USPS Jamaica station, August 18, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks is considering sending the Biden administration a letter in the coming days requesting that it delay the sale of $735 million worth of precision-guided missiles to Israel in order to give his panel time to review the purchase, a congressional staffer tells The Times of Israel.

Democrats on the committee met earlier today to discuss the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza, and one of the members raised a Washington Post report that broke the story on Biden’s advancing of the weapons sale at the beginning of the month, the staffer says.

The report stated that the White House notified Congress on May 5 of the sale — five days before the Gaza flareup — but several members voiced during the meeting that they had been unaware of the announcement.

Meeks responded that he was weighing a delay request in order to provide adequate time for the panel to discuss the sale, the staffer says, adding that members of the committee were split on the decision.

The chairman, an AIPAC-endorsee, has long been seen to be aligned with more moderate Democrats along with the panel’s Reps. Ted Deutch and Kathy Manning, who rarely criticize Israel. Those backing a delay or blocking of the purchase, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, have been far more critical of the Jewish state.

Lawmakers have 15 days to object to the sale from when the administration officially notified them.

The Post said some Democrats who are critical of unconditional aid to Israel are now pressing for details and may hope to use the sale as potential leverage to broker a ceasefire in Gaza.

“Congress must intervene and stop the sale of these weapons,” tweets Omar.

Report: Hezbollah has dug network of tunnels from Beirut to southern Lebanon

A 200-meter-long tunnel that Hezbollah terrorists built over three years to combat Israeli forces is seen at the Hezbollah memorial landmark in the hilltop bastion of Mleeta, Lebanon, May 22, 2020. (Joseph Eid/AFP)
A 200-meter-long tunnel that Hezbollah terrorists built over three years to combat Israeli forces is seen at the Hezbollah memorial landmark in the hilltop bastion of Mleeta, Lebanon, May 22, 2020. (Joseph Eid/AFP)

The Hezbollah terror group has dug a network of tunnels hundreds of kilometers long from Beirut to southern Lebanon, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The network was dug in parallel to Hezbollah’s six attack tunnels into Israel, which the IDF exposed and destroyed in 2018, Kan says.

The purpose of the additional network was to enable the swift and covert movement of forces during a war against Israel, according to the report.

Command and control headquarters were built inside the tunnel network, it says. The tunnels reach a distance of about three kilometers from the Israeli border.

Compound of Gaza City mayor said targeted in ongoing IDF strikes

The compound belonging to the mayor of Gaza City is currently being targeted in IDF airstrikes, according to the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Information Center.

UNIFIL says calm restored to Israel-Lebanon border after rocket attack

United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldiers stand along the border wall with Israel, in the Lebanese village of Adaiseh, on May 15, 2021. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldiers stand along the border wall with Israel, in the Lebanese village of Adaiseh, on May 15, 2021. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon says that the Israel-Lebanon border is now calm after the Israeli army said that six rockets were fired toward the Jewish state, but failed to cross the border.

“UNIFIL detected firing of rockets from the general area of Rashaya Al Foukhar north of Kfar Chouba in S. Lebanon,” the UN observer force tweets, noting that IDF returned artillery fire at the location from where rockets originated.

“The situation in the area is now calm,” the group says.

PHOTOS: IDF carrying out heavy overnight strikes in Gaza

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

Palestinian media reports that the IDF is currently carrying out heavy strikes throughout the Gaza Strip as Operation Guardian of the Walls enters its second week.

Photos from AFP confirmed the strikes. The IDF has yet to comment.

Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on May 18, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on May 18, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

IDF said striking Hamas naval attack boats on Gaza shore

The IDF is striking Hamas naval attack boats on the shore of the Gaza Strip during its overnight strikes throughout the enclave, according to Palestinian media.

Palestinians say Gaza’s only COVID testing lab hit in IDF strike

The Gaza Strip’s only Covid-19 laboratory is no longer able to carry out testing due to an Israeli airstrike on the clinic housing it, Hamas officials say.

Al-Rimal clinic, in the town of the same name in the Gaza Strip, was partly destroyed, while the territory’s health ministry and the office of Qatar’s Red Crescent were also hit, officials say.

Medical personnel at the ministry were wounded, some critically, the Hamas-run enclave’s deputy health minister Yousef Abu al-Rish tells reporters.

Before the military escalation between Hamas and Israel a week ago, authorities in Gaza tested an average of some 1,600 people per day.

The rate of positive tests was among the highest in the world, at 28 percent, and hospitals have been overwhelmed by patients.

Former Palestinian health minister Jawad al-Tibi receives a shot of the COVID-19 Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, in Gaza City, Febuary 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The enclave of two million residents has so far received 122,000 vaccine doses, more than half of which have not been administered, according to the World Health Organization.

WHO says 103,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Gaza, of whom over 930 have died.

AFP

Biden decision not to explicitly call for ceasefire intentional — US official

US President Joe Biden’s decision to express support for, but not explicitly demand, a cease-fire was intentional, an administration official familiar with the call says.

In a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden “expressed his support for a ceasefire,” according to the White House.

While Biden and top aides are concerned about the mounting bloodshed and loss of innocent life, the decision not to demand an immediate halt to hostilities reflects White House determination to support Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas, the official tells the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.

IDF said launching fresh strikes on Gaza

Palestinian media reports that the IDF has launched a fresh wave of strikes on the Gaza Strip.

There is no immediate comment from the army.

Rocket sirens sound in communities near Gaza

Rocket warning sirens are sounding in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip and in the town of Netivot.

The alarms come after a nearly six-hour lull in rocket attacks.

Hamas claims responsibility for rocket fire on Netivot

Hamas claims responsibility for the rocket barrage on Netivot, saying it was in response to “Zionist aggression,” an apparent reference to overnight IDF strikes on Gaza.

There are no immediate reports of injuries.

The rocket attack on Netivot and surrounding communities came after a rare six-hour break in rocket attacks.

Rocket sirens sound in Sha’ar Hanegev region

Rocket warning sirens are sounding in the Sha’ar Hanegev region and in Nahal Oz near the Gaza Strip.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

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