Israel-Gaza: Fears Of War As Violence Escalates
The deadly exchange of fire between Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli military has escalated significantly, with the UN fearing a “full-scale war”.
More than 1,000 rockets have been fired by Palestinian militants, Israel says.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, destroying three tower blocks and killing senior Hamas officials.
At least 53 Palestinians and six Israelis have been killed since Monday.
That includes 14 Palestinian children caught up in the conflict.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” by the ongoing violence.
In a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken condemned Hamas rocket attacks but said Israel had an obligation to avoid civilian casualties.
He said he had sent Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr to meet both sides.
The fighting erupted on Monday night after weeks of rising Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem which culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by Muslims and Jews.
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Violent unrest in towns in Israel with mixed Jewish and Arab populations has led to hundreds of arrests. Lod near Tel Aviv is under a state of emergency.
Mr Netanyahu said the government would use all its strength to protect Israel from enemies on the outside and rioters on the inside.
But the Palestinian Authority condemned Israel’s “military aggression” in a tweet, saying it was “traumatizing an already beleaguered population of 2 million people”.
What is happening in Gaza?
Militants in Gaza began firing rockets into Israel on Monday night, and Israel responded by hitting targets in the territory.
On Wednesday Israel said it had killed senior officials of the Hamas group in Gaza, and was also targeting missile launching sites.
“This was only the beginning. We will inflict blows on them that they have never dreamed of,” said the Israeli prime minister.
Hamas – which runs Gaza – confirmed the death of its commander in Gaza City and other “warriors”.
“Thousands of leaders and soldiers will follow in their footsteps,” Hamas said in a statement reported by Reuters news agency.
But the Russian foreign ministry in a statement quoted a Hamas spokesman as saying the movement was ready for a ceasefire if Israel stopped “violent acts” in East Jerusalem and “illegal measures in respect of its native Arab residents”.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that more than 300 people have been injured there since the conflict began, as well as the 53 who have died.
A Palestinian man reacts at the scene where a house was hit by an Israeli air strike, amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in the southern Gaza Strip May 12, 2021.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said on Wednesday that their strikes on Gaza were the largest since the conflict in 2014.
On Wednesday a third high-rise building in Gaza was destroyed.
Hamas said it was incensed by “the enemy’s targeting of residential towers”.
Residents had been warned to evacuate the buildings before fighter jets attacked; however health officials said there were still civilian deaths.
Five members of one family were killed in an air strike on Tuesday, including two young brothers, according to AFP news agency.
An 11-year-old resident of Gaza, Yasmine, told Save the Children Tuesday had been the worst night of her life.
“I had pain in my stomach from the fear and my parents were trying to comfort me and tell me the bombing was far away but I could feel that it was close,” she told the charity. “Tomorrow is Eid and we won’t be celebrating because of this conflict.”
What is happening in Israel?
Millions of Israelis were heading to bomb shelters on Wednesday evening, according to the IDF, as sirens warning of rockets sounded across the country.
On Wednesday morning an Israeli soldier was killed by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza into Israel, authorities said.
There were conflicting reports on the fate of a six-year-old boy hit in a rocket attack on the town of Sderot, with some saying he had died in the attack.
Two people, a man and his teenage daughter, were killed in Lod when a rocket hit their car. They were both Israeli Arabs.
Israeli police reported what they called violent riots in dozens of areas of the country overnight, with 270 people arrested.
Synagogues and businesses in Lod were set on fire.
Mr Netanyahu described the riots as “unbearable” and said they reminded the Jewish people of their past.
Israeli police said that Lod would be placed under curfew from 20:00 local time on Wednesday until 04:00 on Thursday to preserve the safety and property of residents.
What has caused the violence?
The fighting between Israel and Hamas was triggered by days of escalating clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at a holy hilltop compound in East Jerusalem.
The site is revered by both Muslims, who call it the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), and Jews, for whom it is known as the Temple Mount. Hamas demanded Israel remove police from there and the nearby predominantly Arab district of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families face eviction by Jewish settlers. Hamas launched rockets when its ultimatum went unheeded.
Palestinian anger had already been stoked by weeks of rising tension in East Jerusalem, inflamed by a series of confrontations with police since the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in mid-April.
What makes Jerusalem so holy?
It was further fuelled by the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers and Israel’s annual celebration of its capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, known as Jerusalem Day.
The fate of the city, with its deep religious and national significance to both sides, lies at the heart of the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict. Israel in effect annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 and considers the entire city its capital, though this is not recognised by the vast majority of other countries.
Palestinians claim the eastern half of Jerusalem as the capital of a hoped-for state of their own.
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Police Fine British Prime Minister For Not Wearing Seatbelt In Car
The British Police have fined Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for not wearing a seatbelt in the back of a moving car while on a trip to northern England.
Sunak, who recorded an Instagram video on Thursday, was seen turning in his seat to talk to the camera without a seatbelt on, a video that has now been deleted from the social media site.
The PM’s office at Downing Street said the incident was a “brief error of judgment”, but Lancashire constabulary announced they were fining Sunak for the infraction, The Guardian UK says.
The force said: “You will be aware that a video has been circulating on social media showing an individual failing to wear a seatbelt while a passenger in a moving car in Lancashire.
“After looking into this matter, we have today issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of fixed penalty.”
Reacting, a spokesperson for Sunak said: “The prime minister fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologised. He will of course comply with the fixed penalty.”
A fixed penalty means Sunak can pay a fine to avoid a court hearing.
The police did not disclose how much they had fined the prime minister, but according to the government’s safety campaign, any driver or passenger not wearing a seatbelt is breaking the law and is liable to be fined up to £500 if the case goes to court, according to The Guardian UK.
Sunak’s transportation habits were already a talking point in the United Kingdom before the incident, a report by AFP says.
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His political rivals have taken aim at his use of a private jet to make multiple short flights in recent days.
This is not the first time Sunak has been slapped with a police fine.
He was fined while serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer for attending a Downing Street party in June 2020 that violated the government’s rules on social distancing, according to an AFP report.
The latest fine makes Sunak the second Conservative prime minister to receive a police fine in less than 12 months. The Metropolitan police, in 2020, issued a fixed-penalty notice to Boris Johnson for attending a party during lockdown. Sunak was fined for attending the same event as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
World’s Oldest Nun Dies At 118
French nun Sister André who was the world’s oldest known person died at age 118 in the southern French city of Toulon, the city’s mayor Hubert Falco said on Wednesday.
Born in the southern French town of Ales on Feb. 11, 1904, as Lucile Randon, Sister André was listed as the oldest person alive by the Gerontology Research Group in April 2022.
The Frenchwoman worked as a home teacher in her youth and did not enter a religious community until she was in her early 40s.
Most recently, Sister André was confined to a wheelchair, and for several years she could no longer see properly.
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She was an honorary citizen of Toulon, where she lived in a retirement home for several years.
Falco praised her as incredibly modern and a nun with a big heart.
Guinness World Records said Lucile, who took the name of Sister André in 1944, was the second-oldest French person and the second-oldest European person ever recorded.
More recently, Sister André received the record for the oldest COVID-19 survivor after an infection in 2021.
“It’s difficult to fathom that someone born before the patenting of plastic, zips or even bras were alive well into the 21st century, and robust enough to beat COVID-19’’, the Guinness World Records editor, Craig Glenday said in a statement.
“It’s been an honour to record her story in the pages of the Guinness World Records book, and she will live on in history as the fourth oldest person ever authenticated.’’
With her death, Maria Branyas Morera, who lived in Spain, assumed the title of the world’s oldest person at age 115.
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Eight Shot At Crowded Martin Luther King Day Block Party
Eight people were shot at a block party packed with more than 1,000 people celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fort Pierce, Florida, Monday, police said.
All eight of those shot were adults and they were ferried to the hospital for treatment, including one person in critical condition, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Hester said during a news conference.
Six people, including a baby, were killed in a ‘massacre’ that is likely gang-related, California sheriff’s office says.
At least four others were injured as people ran for safety, the sheriff’s office said. One of those injured was a juvenile who was hurt as people rushed to flee the park where the event was being held, Hester said.
“As the shots rang out, people were just running in all directions,” Hester said. “There were people laying behind cars, laying behind anything they could lay behind. It was kind of hard to tell who was a victim and who was just hiding at that point.”
The shooting began at around 5:20 p.m. in Ilous Ellis Park, he said, where the community had gathered for an afternoon car show, dance performances, live DJ and kids activities to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an event flyer shows.
In a video taken by a witness, attendees are seen dancing by their cars and enjoying the music when what sounds like gunfire begins to resonate over the song. People in the crowd start to rush away from the noise, some ducking behind cars or grabbing children’s hands and running across the street.
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The incident marks the 30th mass shooting in the country this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
So far this year, the US is averaging about two mass shootings per day.
Two sheriff’s deputies who were stationed in the park ran toward the scene and provided aid to those injured, Hester said. Several witnesses also helped to render aid and drive people to the hospital, he added.
The sheriff’s office has not named any suspects in the shooting, but investigators were following up on several leads from witnesses and community members Monday night.
Investigators preliminarily believe the gunfire involved multiple shooters and resulted from “a disagreement of some sort between two parties,” Hester said.
“So many innocent people that were injured or hurt were not part of the disagreement,” he added.
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“It’s really unfortunate and it’s sad that during a celebration of someone who represented peace and equality, a disagreement results in a use of guns and violence,” Hester said.
He estimated as many as 40 sheriff’s office personnel were working the case Monday night as they processed the scene, spoke to victims at the hospital and followed up on leads.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact authorities or submit anonymous tips through CrimeStoppers. The sheriff’s department is handling the case because the Ilous Ellis Park is a St. Lucie County park.
Fort Pierce is a coastal city about an hour’s drive north of West Palm Beach.
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