Shortly after 42 people were killed in Gaza City on Sunday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a televised address in which he vowed to continue launching airstrikes “full-force.”
Airstrikes on a major downtown street in Gaza City in the early hours of Sunday razed three residential buildings and killed dozens in the space of just five minutes, Palestinian health officials said. Among them were 10 children and 16 women. At least 50 people were wounded, and rescue crews spent the day sifting through the rubble, pulling out some survivors.
It was the single deadliest attack in Gaza since the last major war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers in 2014.
Despite increasing pressure from foreign leaders to negotiate a ceasefire—particularly after the Israeli military destroyed a building that housed international media outlets on Saturday—Netanyahu said the bombings would go on.
With his defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, by his side as a show of unity, Netanyahu said the attacks would continue at “full-force” and will “take time.”
Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” from Hamas, he said.
He reiterated the military’s justification for the Saturday attack on media offices, claiming that the high-rise building that housed the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other outlets also housed Hamas.
It hosted an “intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization” which “plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians,” he said. “So it’s a perfectly legitimate target.”
Israel has offered no evidence to back up that claim, but Netanyahu said on CBS’ Face The Nation that it shared “smoking gun” intelligence with the U.S. that showed Hamas was using the building.
“We are targeting a terrorist organization that is targeting our civilians and hiding behind them, using them as human shields,” Netanyahu said.
Just hours after Netanyahu’s announcement, the pummeling of Gaza intensified, with at least 55 raids on Gaza early Monday morning, according to Al Jazeera, which described the strikes as heavier, longer, and spanning a wider area than Sunday’s attacks.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the IDF said the operation targeted a Hamas intelligence compound, but a local power company said its electrical lines, which supply power to large sections of southern Gaza city, were damaged by the airstrikes. No casualties have been immediately reported.
President Joe Biden said in a call with Netanyahu on Saturday that attacks on the press were concerning. Al Jazeera was more blunt, calling it a “war crime.”
Netanyahu said Israel would do “whatever it takes to restore order and quiet and the security of our people and deterrence... So it’ll take some time. I hope it won't take long, but it’s not immediate.”
In separate strikes in the town of Khan Younis on Sunday, the Israeli military bombed a home that purportedly belonged to a top Hamas leader, Yahiyeh Sinwar.
“Hamas made a serious and grave mistake and didn’t read us properly,” Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, said in the Sunday television address, according to the Associated Press.
The latest bout of violence in the Palestinian Territories broke out a week ago when Palestinians clashed with Israeli cops over heavy-handed tactics during Ramadan, including at the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem.
It has spilled into tit-for-tat air strikes between Israel and Hamas that appear to be getting deadlier by the day.
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women. More than 1,230 people have been wounded.
In Israel, eight people have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy.