Israeli Airstrikes Continue to Pound Gaza

Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip have continued for a seventh day, despite calls for a truce, with the overall death toll reaching 111, according to medical sources.

A media centre was targeted for a second time on Monday when Israeli fighter jets hit the Shuruq tower in Gaza City. The building houses Palestinian and international media outlets, including Britain’s Sky News, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya and the official Hamas broadcaster, Al Aqsa TV.

One person was killed in the building. The Islamic Jihad group identified the victim as Ramez Harb and said he was a senior commander in its armed wing, the al-Quds Brigades.

On Sunday, the health ministry said eight journalists were injured when the Shuruq tower and another media building, used by local al-Quds TV, were hit.

Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesperson, says Israel is not targeting journalists in Gaza

Instead, he told Al Jazeera, the targets of the attacks on media centres were “Hamas communications equipment”.

“Hamas used communication facilities on buildings where journalists were,” he said, describing Al Aqsa TV as a “Hamas command and control facility”.

“Just as in other totalitarian regimes, the media is used by the regime for command and control and also for security purposes. From our point of view, that’s not a legitimate journalist.”

Israel had warned foreign journalists to leave the building.

In the latest Israeli airstrike early on Tuesday morning, at least four people were injured when F-16 fighter jets hit the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City, which is located in a residential area.

In other violence on Monday, two boys, aged two and four, and their parents were killed in Jabaliya refugee camp late in the evening. More than a dozen people were injured, mostly women and children.

During the afternoon, one person was killed and another two wounded when a missile struck a car just north of Gaza City.

Elsewhere, a missile hit a motorcycle east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, killing two men and critically wounding a child who was with them, Gaza’s ambulance service said.

Earlier in the day, two women and a child were among four killed in a raid on Gaza City’s eastern Zeitun neighbourhood.

Ceasefire Efforts

The Israeli military has struck more than 1,350 targets in Gaza since attacks began on Wednesday, Israel says it launched the operation to deter Palestinian fighters from launching rockets into its territory.

Since then, 640 rockets have hit Israel while more than 300 others have been intercepted by Israel’s anti-missile system, the Iron Dome, according to the Israeli army. Three Israeli civilians died on Thursday in a rocket strike.

The Israeli military said that 67 rockets had been fired at the country on Monday, and that three Israelis had been wounded.

Many residents of southern Israel have left the area and schools have been closed since the start of the crisis.

More than 30 people were killed in Gaza on Monday.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza City, said most of the dead were civilians.

“The aerial bombardment goes on as does the assault from sea,” she said, adding that strikes could happen anywhere in the densely populated enclave.

“There isn’t anywhere safe in the Gaza Strip,” she said. “There aren’t underground bunkers, no sirens, no warning when an air strike is about to hit, or a round of shelling from the coast. So people are essentially trapped here.”

Egypt-brokered ceasefire talks in Cairo have so far failed to reach a deal.

Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, said on Monday his group was committed to efforts to secure a truce, but insisted that Israel must lift its six-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“We are not against a calming, but we want our demands … to end the thuggery, to end the aggression and to lift the blockade,” he said, adding that Hamas would reject any Israeli preconditions for a ceasefire because “they started the aggression”.

‘Stopping All Fire’

Israel has showed little sign of being ready to call off its campaign, with Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, insisting “the first and absolute condition for a truce is stopping all fire from Gaza”.

A string of international leaders have visited the region in recent days in a bid to end the bloodshed, with Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, arriving on Tuesday for two-days of talks with Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other officials.

Tony Blair, envoy of the international Quartet on the Middle East, expressed hope a ceasefire would firm up in the coming days, in a statement after meeting Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Talking to Al Jazeera from Tel Aviv, he said he was “appalled” by the killing of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians and that the Quartet – UN, Russia, EU and US – fully supports Egypt’s efforts to broker a truce.

In Brussels, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO secretary-general, expressed concern about the escalation in violence and urged Israel to show restraint in its defence against attacks from Gaza.

“Of course Israel has the right to self-defence, and attacks against Israel must end. But the international community would also expect Israel to show restraint,” Rasmussen said.

Although 84 per cent of Israelis supported the current Gaza assault, according to a poll by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, only 30 per cent wanted an invasion, while 19 per cent wanted their government to work on securing a truce soon.

(Al Jazeera and Agencies)

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