Israel continues attacks on Gaza

Israel continues attacks on Gaza

Israel continues attacks on Gaza

Two more Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip taking the death toll from the offensive to 221, the Palestinian Health Ministry said May 19.

The fatalities include 63 children and 36 women.

Two more Palestinians were injured taking the total number of casualties to 1,507.

In the attacks, a building in Rafah, where a charity foundation was located, was targeted with missiles.

Israeli forces also targeted infrastructure and Palestinian land in the air strikes and attacked Khan Yunus from the sea.

A house was damaged in attacks carried out by Israeli forces in Beit Hanun.

Israeli warplanes bombed an empty field in the Al-Shati refugee camp in western Gaza and a position of resistance groups in the northern district of Cibaliya.

Biden tells Netanyahu he expects 'significant de-escalation today'    

U.S. President Joe Biden told Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expects "significant de-escalation" on May 19 in the attacks, the White House said.  

"The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire," according to a statement released after what the White House said was the two leaders' fourth call since the crisis began.

Israeli attacks amount to 'war crimes': Amnesty

The "shocking disregard" Israeli forces display for Palestinian lives may amount to war crimes, said Amnesty International.

In a statement on Monday, the rights watchdog said a number of Israeli air strikes have targeted residential buildings and in some cases killed entire families.

It added that the attacks "may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity."

Saleh Higazi, deputy director for Amnesty International in the Middle East and North Africa, said "no prior warning was given to the civilian residents to allow them to escape."

"Under international humanitarian law, all parties must distinguish between military targets and civilian objects and direct their attacks only at military objectives. When carrying out attacks, parties must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians,” he added.

Higazi called on the International Criminal Court to "urgently investigate" Israel's attacks as "war crimes".

The watchdog quoted several Palestinian residents who were affected by Israel's attacks. "There was no warning, so people were inside their home sitting together," said Yousef Yassin, a medic from al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza who was quoted by Amnesty International.

Eleven of over 60 children killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza were enrolled in a psycho-social program to help them deal with trauma, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) announced Tuesday. 

The NRC said in a written statement that the children, aged between five and 15, were killed in their homes in densely populated areas "along with countless other relatives who died or received injuries."

"We are devastated to learn that eleven children we were helping with trauma were bombarded while they were at home and thought they were safe," the group's Secretary-General Jan Egeland said. "We call on Israel to stop this madness: children must be protected. Their homes must not be targets. Schools must not be targets. Spare these children and their families. Stop bombing them now."

Among the children killed by Israeli airstrikes was that of 15-year-old Lina Iyad Shar, who was killed along with both of her parents in the Al Manara neighborhood on May 11, while her two-year-old sister Mina is still in critical condition, according to the NRC statement.

Hala Hussein al-Rifi, 13, was also killed on May 12 by an Israeli airstrike in Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood, while four-year-old Zaid Mohammad Telbani - along with his five-months pregnant mother Rima, was killed in the same attack.

Six children in Gaza's Al Wahda Street were killed along with their families in multiple air raids by Israel, the NRC said. These included Tala Ayman Abu al-Auf, 13, her 17-year-old brother, and her father, Dr. Ayman Abu al-Auf, who was the head of internal medicine at Gaza City's Shifa hospital.

Rula Mohammad al-Kawlak, five, Yara, nine, and Hala, 12 - all sisters - together with their 14-year old cousin Hana and several other relatives, were killed in the same attacks, as were sisters Dima and Mira Rami al-Ifranji, 15 and 11, and their neighbor Dana Riad Hasan Ishkantna, nine.

Rafeef Murshed Abu Dayer, 10, and another child assisted by NRC, were killed in the same area on May 17 after shrapnel hit her together with her two brothers, NRC said in the statement.

Palestine urges ICC to investigate Israel's war crimes

The Palestinian foreign minister sent a letter on Tuesday to the International Criminal Court's (ICC) Prosecutor's Office, calling for an investigation into Israel's "war crimes" in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.

According to a Twitter post by the Palestinian Mission to the Netherlands, Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman delivered the letter by hand from Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, calling for "accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Palestine, including in Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza."

"The State of Palestine continues to consistently provide the Court with information and documentation on the new and ongoing crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the Court in the context of the ongoing investigation in the situation," it added in the statement.

In March 2021, ICC has opened a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories after five years of preliminary inquiries. This was before fresh tensions erupted centered on the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda last week said that the investigation would "cover all sides and all the facts and evidence relevant to an assessment of whether there is individual criminal responsibility under the [ICC] Statute."

Bensouda added that the office would continue to consider developments on the ground.

EU fails to agree on joint statement

EU foreign ministers failed to agree on a joint statement on Tuesday that demands an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Palestine because of a veto by Hungary. 

“The priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a cease-fire, not only to agree to implement the ceasefire,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at a news conference following an extraordinary meeting of EU top diplomats.

He said the group wanted to release a conclusion after a videoconference, explaining the bloc’s common position on the conflict, but 26 of the 27 member states supported the text.

Borrell later confirmed that it was Hungary who blocked the statement.

He said the remaining countries called for an immediate cease-fire with the “purpose to protect civilians and to give full humanitarian access to Gaza.”

Borrell stressed that “the upsurge of violence in the past days has led to a high number of civilian casualties, deaths and injured” and an “unacceptable” high number of children among the victims.

“We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas, a terrorist group on the Israel territory, and we fully support Israel’s right to self-defense,” he said, but “it has to be done in a proportionate manner and respecting international humanitarian law.”

Repeating his previous statements, he said holy sites should be respected and the right to worship upheld.

He said the bloc considered the cease-fire a priority but expected parties to “reopen their political horizon” for negotiations.

“Israel and Palestine require a true political solution because only a true political solution could bring peace,” he said.