By Associated Press, published by New Indian Express
Gaza City – A strike launched from Gaza today (May 18) killed two Thai workers inside a packaging plant in southern Israel, police said, as Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers continued to trade attacks throughout the day.
The Magen David Adom rescue service said it transported another seven wounded people to the hospital after the projectile attack this afternoon in southern Israel. It came as Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories went on strike in a rare collective action against Israel’s policies.
With the war in Gaza showing no sign of abating and truce efforts apparently stalled, the general strike and expected protests could again widen the conflict after a spasm of communal violence in Israel and protests across the occupied West Bank last week.
Israel’s airstrikes toppled a six-story building that housed bookstores and educational centres used by the Islamic University and other colleges, leaving behind a massive mound of rebar and concrete slabs. Desks, office chairs, books and computer wires could be seen in the debris. Residents sifted through the rubble, searching for their belongings.
Israel warned the building’s residents ahead of time, sending them fleeing into the predawn darkness, and there were no reports of casualties. Israel said it was targeting militants, their tunnels and rocket launchers across the territory.
“The whole street started running, then destruction, an earthquake,” said Jamal Herzallah, a resident of the area. “This whole area was shaking.”
Heavy fighting broke out May 10 when Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel’s heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
At least 213 Palestinians have been killed in heavy airstrikes since, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,440 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. As the fighting drags on, medical supplies, fuel and water are running low in Gaza. Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.
The fighting is the most intense since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, but efforts to halt it have so far stalled. Egyptian mediators are trying to negotiate a cease-fire, but the US has stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the hostilities and Israel has so far vowed to press on.
With no end in sight to the fighting, Palestinians in Israel, east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank observed a general strike today. It was a rare show of unity among Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20% of its population, and those in the territories Israel seized in 1967 that the Palestinians have long sought for a future state of their own. Life had already ground to a halt in Gaza when the fighting began.
The strike was intended to protest the Gaza war and Israeli policies that many activists and some rights groups say constitute an overarching system of apartheid that denies Palestinians the rights afforded to Jews. Israel rejects that characterization, saying its citizens have equal rights. It blames the war on Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, and accuses it of inciting violence across the region.
Leaders of the Palestinian community in Israel called the strike, which was embraced by the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, where ministries and schools were closed. Most businesses appeared to be observing the strike, and protests were expected.
Muhammad Barakeh, one of the organizers of the strike, said Palestinians are expressing a “collective position” against Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza and Jerusalem, as well as the “brutal repression” by police across Israel.
The war has also seen an unusual outbreak of violence in Israel, with groups of Jewish and Palestinian citizens fighting in the streets and torching vehicles and buildings. In both Israel and the West Bank, Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli forces.
Top: Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a building in Gaza City. Photo: AP and published by New Indian Express
Home Page: A Palestinian man inspects the damage of a six-story building which was destroyed by an early morning Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City. Photo: AP and published by New Indian Express