Why Israeli fighter jets are targeting buildings in Gaza

 | Updated: May 18, 2021, 06:38 PM IST

Israel's army said it had hit the homes of nine 'high-ranking' Hamas commanders overnight, a day after bombing the house of Yahya Sinwar

Israel hits Gaza Strip with balls of fire

As the Israel-Palestine conflict drags into the second week, Israel carried out a wave of airstrikes in Gaza leveling a six-story building.

Airstrikes continued to pound the Gaza Strip with balls of fire and plumes of smoke rising from several buildings. Explosions lit up the night sky over Gaza city with over 30 Israeli air attacks overnight and into dawn.

The strikes in the enclave toppled the Kahil building which contains libraries and educational centers belonging to the Islamic university.

According to Gaza residents they were given only 5 minutes' notice about the attack.

"Israeli intelligence called us 5 minutes before striking the building saying you have five minutes to evacuate the house and to pass this message to our neighbours, the building beside us (kahil building) will be hit, so we ran with our daughters, sons, some screaming, others running," Jamal Herzallah a Gaza resident said.


Israeli planes target buildings

Gaza resident Roba Abu al-Awf, 20, said she was bracing for a rough night.

"We have nothing to do but sit at home," she said. "Death could come at any moment -- the bombing is crazy and indiscriminate."

Palestinian militants have for their part fired around 3,350 rockets toward Israel since the conflict escalated on May 10 in the heaviest exchange of fire in years, sparked by unrest in east Jerusalem.

The Qatari Red Crescent said an air strike damaged its offices in Gaza while the health ministry said one of its buildings and a clinic housing the enclave's only COVID-19 laboratory was hit.

Israel's army said Monday it had hit the homes of nine "high-ranking" Hamas commanders overnight, a day after bombing the house of Yahya Sinwar, head of the group's political wing. It gave no details of any casualties.


Israeli air strikes on Gaza

Fighter jets also hit what the Israeli army calls the "Metro", its term for Hamas' underground tunnels, which Israel has previously acknowledged run in part through civilian areas.

The strikes come a day after 42 Palestinians in Gaza -- including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry -- were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began.

Local authorities say a total of 212 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 61 children, and more than 1,400 wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas in response to rocket fire.

Israel says 10 people, including one child, have been killed and more than 300 wounded by the rocket fire, which has been the most intense to ever rain down on the Jewish state.

Israeli bombardment of Gaza has displaced 38,000 people and made 2,500 homeless, the United Nations says.


Israeli jets pound Gaza

The Israeli air strikes also battered crucial infrastructure, with the electricity authority warning it only had enough fuel left to provide power for another two to three days.

On Saturday, Israel gave journalists from Al Jazeera and AP news agency an hour to evacuate their offices before launching air strikes, turning their tower block into a pile of smoking rubble.

Netanyahu on Sunday claimed the building also hosted a Palestinian "terrorist" intelligence office.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday he had requested "details" and a "justification" for the strike. 

The violence between Hamas and Israel is the worst since 2014, when Israel launched a military operation on the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of ending rocket fire and destroying tunnels used for smuggling.

That war left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.


Israeli air strikes on Gaza

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

"Here's the intelligence we had," Netanyahu told CBS News. "An intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization (was) housed in that building that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians."

"So it is a perfectly legitimate target. I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure that there were no civilian injuries, in fact, no deaths," Netanyahu told the network's show "Face the Nation."


Israel targets Hamas

The Associated Press said Israel had not yet provided it with evidence of militant activity in the building, which was reduced to rubble by the strike.

"What the AP would like is... an independent investigation into what happened yesterday," AP executive editor Sally Buzbee told CNN.

"We're in a conflict situation. We do not take sides in that conflict. We have heard the Israelis say they have evidence. We don't know what that evidence is."

Within seconds, journalists scrambled to gather as much of their equipment and belongings as they could, then fled, some running down the stairs, others using the cramped lift.

Al Jazeera then broadcast live footage of the air strike that destroyed the building, sending a huge mushroom cloud of dust and debris billowing into the sky.



Israel targets Gaza buildings

Israel has demolished several other towers in Gaza in deadly air strikes since Monday which it says targeted Hamas bomb-making facilities and the homes of senior militant commanders in response to rocket attacks.

But the latest attack triggered a storm of condemnation, with some accusing Israel of trying to "silence" media coverage of Gaza, where dozens of children are among the hundreds killed.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists demanded from the Israeli government a "detailed and documented justification for this military attack".

"This latest attack on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the spectre that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza," said CPJ executive director Joel Simon.

"Journalists have an obligation and duty to cover unfolding events in Gaza and it would be illegal for the IDF to use military means to prevent it."


Israel targets Gaza buildings

Israel's actions have baffled and shocked journalists who had already been trying to come to terms with another bizarre incident that happened just after midnight on Thursday.

The Israeli army sent foreign media correspondents a WhatsApp message saying that its troops had entered Gaza.

AFP, like other media including The New York Times, immediately contacted army spokesman John Conricus to confirm the message.

"Yes, our troops are in Gaza," he replied.

But two hours later the army clarified that its troops had not entered the Gaza Strip, blaming an "internal communication" problem for the confusion.

Was it "manipulation"? Did the Israeli army deliberately mislead the media?

The last major Israeli ground operation in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, home to two million inhabitants, took place in 2014.


Israel targets Gaza buildings

Since then, Hamas has built a network of underground tunnels to allow its fighters to move across Gaza unhindered and unseen by Israeli surveillance cameras and spy aircraft.

Overnight Wednesday to Thursday, Israeli drones and aircraft flew over Gaza to strike those tunnels.

The next day, local media reported that the army's reported ground offensive had been a ploy aimed at allowing Israeli jets to hit the tunnels and kill fighters who sought cover inside them.

"According to reports, due to the deployment along the border and the news coming out in the foreign media of a ground incursion, Hamas and Islamic Jihad sent their first line of defence into the tunnels to start taking up positions," wrote the Jerusalem Post.

"These were the anti-tank missile teams and mortar squads meant to strike at incoming Israeli ground forces," it added.