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Israel targets militant commanders, Gaza tunnel network

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Israel’s military said on Monday it had targeted militant commanders and the tunnel network in the Gaza Strip, as Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets towards Israel.

In spite of  international calls for a ceasefire, the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the ruling authority in Gaza  is entering its second week with no sign of letting up.

Israel’s army said it had shelled the homes of nine senior commanders from the Islamist Hamas movement overnight.

Some were used as weapons caches, according to the Israeli military.

Another target, a commander of the Islamic Jihad militant group in the northern Gaza Strip was killed in a separate attack, Israel said.

Hasem Harbid apparently led an Islamic Jihad unit in the north of the strip.

More than 1,500 targets had been attacked in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Netanyahu said the operation would continue at full force.

At night, 54 fighter jets were deployed to attack the underground tunnel network in Gaza, the army said.

It said that some 15 kilometres of tunnels were destroyed.

The Palestinian side said the airstrikes were the heaviest yet in densely populated Gaza and the rocket fire from Gaza had been equally intense.

Some 3,150 rockets have been fired at Israel since last Monday, according to the Israeli military.

About 460 of the rockets never made it across the border and went down in Gaza territory, it added.

The Iron Dome missile defence system had an interception rate of about 90 per cent, it said.

By comparison, a total of 4,481 rockets were fired at Israel during the entire 51-day Gaza war in 2014.

At least 192 people have been killed in Gaza, including 58 children, according to the coastal territory’s health ministry.

On May 15, during the night, 42 Palestinians were killed in Israeli army attacks on homes in Gaza, the ministry said.

In Israel, rocket fire has killed 10 people since last Monday, according to rescuers.

Israel blames Hamas, the Islamist militants in control of the Gaza Strip for any attacks from there.

The group is classified as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.

International diplomatic efforts to calm tensions have had little apparent effect so far.

In an unusual intervention, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Pope Francis that Palestinians would continue to be massacred, if the international community did not sanction Israel.

“The pope’s messages about and reactions to this issue are of great importance in terms of mobilising the Christian world and the international community,’’ Erdogan said in a phone call with Francis.

Around 42,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have fled their homes because of Israel’s air attacks on the coastal territory.

They have sought shelter in 50 schools run by the UN Palestinian Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip, a spokesperson for the organisation said.

More than 2,500 people have been left homeless after their homes were destroyed.

Israel says it is only targeting militant positions, but some of those are in the middle of highly crowded residential areas.

(dpa/ NAN)

 

David Abakpa

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