Israel’s bombardment of the occupied Gaza Strip entered its third day on Sunday.
By late evening on Sunday, Israeli strikes had killed 19 Palestinians that day, bringing the toll to at least 27 Palestinians slain since Israel escalated its lethal attacks on the territory on Friday.
Health officials in Gaza continued to announce new deaths on an almost hourly basis, including late Sunday night Amani al-Madhoun, a 33-year-old woman who was pregnant.
She is the second pregnant woman to die in the context of the current escalation.
Also Sunday evening, the health ministry in Gaza announced that three people had been killed in an Israeli airstrike in the north, including a baby, though few details were immediately available.
In Israel, four people have been killed as Palestinian resistance fighters returned fire with barrages of rockets reaching dozens of kilometers into Israel.
Israeli warplanes and artillery have struck more than 100 sites across the besieged territory, totally destroying seven large residential and commercial buildings, at least 14 homes, as well as offices, according to the Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan.
Dozens more homes in areas surrounding targeted buildings sustained damage.
“The raids have caused fear and panic among civilians,” especially children, who are half of Gaza’s two million population.
In one such attack late Saturday night, an Israeli airstrike completely destroyed a building in Jabaliya in northern Gaza, belonging to Ahmad Abu Zaida. The three-story building had been the home to 16 people including eight children.
Heavy attacks were continuing into Sunday night, according to Palestinians in Gaza.
Since Saturday, Israel has completely closed access to Gaza’s territorial waters and closed all goods crossings, except for allowing the entrance of fuel for the territory’s only power plant.
On Sunday, Israel further escalated the confrontation by carrying out an extrajudicial killing in Gaza – reportedly the first of its kind in four years – when it fired a missile at the civilian car of Hamed Ahmad Abed al-Khoudari, whom it claims was responsible for transferring money to Gaza from Iran.
Israel’s resort to this tactic may be a sign that it feels that its strategy has so far failed to dictate an end to the confrontation on its own terms – effectively that Palestinians return to a status quo of granting Israel peace and quiet while Gaza remains under an unrelenting blockade that is causing the humanitarian situation in the territory to spiral downwards.
“Efforts by the United Nations and Egypt to broker a ceasefire between Israel and terror groups in the Strip yielded no concrete results as of Sunday afternoon, as neither side appeared interested in returning to the conditions laid out before the outbreak of violence,” The Times of Israel reported, using derogatory terminology Israel uses to describe Palestinian political and military resistance organizations.
The publication added that on Sunday “the Israeli security cabinet held a meeting about the fighting in Gaza and later instructed the military to intensify its attacks in the Strip.”
The current escalation has been blamed by analysts and diplomats on Israel’s refusal to implement understandings to ease the siege on Gaza, reached in order to end the last major confrontation prior to Israel’s 9 April election.
Israeli leaders have been demanding more violence against Palestinians in Gaza.
“We must increase our reaction in Gaza until there is quiet, and to return to targeted assassinations,” Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan said.
But any return to “quiet,” even if a ceasefire is reached, will be short-lived without a fundamental change in Israel’s policy.
“There is no military solution that can usher in long-term quiet,” Gisha stated.
“Ceasefire agreements and ‘gestures’ by Israel to ‘ease’ the closure on Gaza cannot substitute long-term solutions, including an end to the occupation,” the Israeli human rights group added.
Rockets reach further
Israel says that more than 600 rockets have been fired from Gaza, claiming four lives.
On Sunday, rockets fired by Palestinian resistance factions reached as far as Bir al-Saba, called Beersheva by Israelis, some 40 kilometers from Gaza.
Moshe Agadi, 58, died of shrapnel injuries he sustained from a rocket that hit a family home in Ashkelon overnight Saturday. He was pronounced dead at Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon on Sunday.
Zaed al-Hamamda, 50, was killed when a rocket hit a factory in Ashkelon on Sunday afternoon.
He was a resident of a Bedouin community, according to the newspaper Haaretz.
Another person who was not immediately named was killed in that same attack.
A fourth Israeli in the port city of Ashdod was pronounced dead Sunday afternoon after sustaining shrapnel wounds.
On Saturday, the joint operations room of Palestinian resistance organizations had warned that armed groups would extend the range of their targeting if Israel continued its attacks on Palestinian residential buildings.
One resistance faction claimed on Saturday that it had fired a new type of rocket with a more powerful warhead “in response to [Israel’s] targeting of civilians, children and residential buildings.”
Erdan, the Israeli minister, said in response that Eurovision “should not be a consideration of the intensity of the blow” Israel would deal against Palestinians in Gaza.
Israeli schools were canceled across the south on Sunday.
Gaza’s education ministry announced that schools are free to decide whether or not to close.
Gaza has no bomb shelters.
From Electronic Intifada