UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday pleaded for an immediate end to deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence, warning a Security Council meeting that the fighting could plunge the region into an "uncontainable" crisis.

"Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately," Mr Guterres said as he opened a Security Council session delayed by Israel's ally the United States, calling the violence that has killed nearly 200 people over the past week "utterly appalling."

"It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole," he said.

Mr Guterres condemned the fresh violence on Sunday which killed 40 Palestinians, the worst death toll since the unrest broke out.

"This senseless cycle of bloodshed, terror and destruction must stop immediately," Mr Guterres said.

He also renewed criticism of an Israeli strike on Saturday that destroyed the Gaza offices of two major news outlets, Al-Jazeera and the Associated Press.

"Journalists must be allowed to work free of fear and harassment. The destruction of media offices in Gaza is extremely concerning," Guterres said.

Israel launched its air offensive after Hamas, the Islamist militant movement that controls Gaza, began firing rockets in response to the Jewish state's moves in Jerusalem.

"Rockets and mortars on one side and aerial and artillery bombardments on the other must stop. I appeal to all parties to heed this call," Mr Guterres said.

He also voiced alarm at the rise of extremist Jewish movements whose push to expel Palestinians out of Jerusalem helped trigger the crisis.

"In Israel, violence by vigilante-style groups and mobs has added a further horrendous dimension to an already deteriorating crisis," Mr Guterres said.

"Leaders on all sides have a responsibility to curb inflammatory rhetoric and calm the rising tensions."

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki on Sunday accused Israel of "war crimes" in its nearly week-long offensive as he urged international pressure at a UN Security Council session.

"Some may not want to use these words - war crimes and crimes against humanity - but they know they are true," Mr Maliki told the virtual session on the crisis.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, a car-ramming attack wounded several people including four police officers in the flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on Sunday, police said, adding that the attacker was shot.

After the "vehicle-ramming attack" in the district, the scene of weeks of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, the assailant was "shot by officers", police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said without giving details on the attacker's condition.

It comes as Israeli strikes destroyed the home of Hamas' leader in the Gaza Strip and Hamas launched more than 100 rockets towards Israel on Sunday, in what is the deadliest day in the week-long conflict.

Two Israeli airstrikes in Gaza killed 43 Palestinians, including eight children, according to CNN.

Fifty people, mostly women and children, have been injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The heaviest fighting since 2014, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, saw the rivals again trade heavy fire, with the death toll rising to 181 in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza and 10 in Israel since Monday, according to authorities on either side.

Israel said its "continuing wave of strikes" had in the past 24 hours struck over 90 targets across Gaza, where the destruction of a building housing news media organisations sparked international outcry.

In Gaza, emergency teams worked to pull out bodies from vast piles of smoking rubble and toppled buildings, as relatives wailed in horror and grief.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was "dismayed" by civilian casualties in Gaza and "deeply disturbed" by Israel's strike on the tower housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera bureaus, a spokesman said.

Israel's army said Sunday that about 2,900 rockets had been fired from the coastal strip controlled by Hamas towards Israel, "of which approximately 450 failed launches fell in the Gaza Strip".

Israel's Iron Dome antimissile system had intercepted some 1,150 rockets in almost a week during which Israeli residential buildings have been hit with over 500 people wounded.

The bloodiest military conflict in seven years has also sparked a wave of intercommunal violence and mob attacks between Jews and Arab-Israelis, as well as deadly clashes in the occupied West Bank, where 19 Palestinians have been killed since last Monday.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had targeted the infrastructure of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including by pounding a vast tunnel system with some 100 strikes, and by targeting weapon factories and storage sites.

Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas' political wing in the Gaza Strip, the army said, releasing a video showing plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.

At least 52 children have lost their lives in Gaza, 1,225 people have been reported wounded and entire buildings and city blocks reduced to rubble.

The IDF says it takes all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians and has blamed Hamas for deliberately placing military targets in densely populated areas.

ISRAEL SAYS STRIKE ON MEDIA BUILDING JUSTIFIED

Israel said it shared "smoking gun" evidence with Biden administration officials that Hamas militants were operating out of a building in the Gaza Strip that housed media outlets that was reduced to rubble by Israeli rockets, according to a report on Sunday.

US President Joe Biden spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, a discussion that included the bombing of the building, and Israel showed Mr Biden and other American officials the intelligence behind their decision, the Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.

"We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building," the newspaper reported, citing a source close to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. "I understand they found the explanation satisfactory."

In a readout of the call from the White House, Biden reaffirmed "Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.

It comes as balls of flame thrust into the sky on Saturday as Israel's air force flattened a 13-floor Gaza building housing Qatar-based Al Jazeera and the Associated Press news agency, after giving a warning to evacuate.

The journalists shared the both Hamas figures, according to Israel, which said they were being used as human shields.

"It was not an innocent building," said Netanyahu.

AP president Gary Pruitt said the building occupants were given less than an hour to evacuate and "narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life".

"We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP's bureau and other news organisations in Gaza," said Pruitt.

'THEY ARE STRIKING OUR CHILDREN'

A family of 10 was killed and the Gaza high-rise base of several media outlets destroyed in another day of sustained rocket fire between Israel and Hamas.

Street clashes between Arabs and Jews also continued across the West Bank as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to shrug off pleas for peace from world leaders including US President Joe Biden.

One strike on a three-storey building in the Shati refugee camp killed 10 members of an extended family, two mothers and their four children each. Israel's army claimed the building was used by senior Hamas officials.

 

 

Mohammed al-Hadidi said he had lost most of his family in the strike.

"What did they do to deserve this? We're civilians," said the devastated father, whose five-month-old baby was also wounded in the explosion.

"They are striking our children - children - without prior warning."

Palestinian militants responded with volleys of rockets into Israel, killing a man near Tel Aviv, where Israeli beach goers were filmed running for shelter.

"The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today."

The White House said it had told the Israelis that "the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility".

Israeli air and artillery strikes on Gaza since Monday have killed 145 people including 41 children, and wounded another 1,100, health officials say.

Palestinian armed groups have fired at least 2,300 rockets at Israel, killing 10 people, including a child and a soldier, and wounding over 560 Israelis. Israeli air defences have intercepted many rockets.

Palestinians on Saturday commemorated the Nakba, the "catastrophe" that saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced during Israel's creation in 1947-1948.

A Palestinian security source said the fighting was the "most intense" since the second intifada, or uprising, that began in 2000.

US Secretary for Israel-Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr was to hold talks Sunday with Israeli leaders before meeting Palestinian officials to seek a "sustainable calm", the State Department said.

The UN Security Council was to meet Sunday to discuss the violence. Washington, which blocked a UN Security Council meeting scheduled for Friday, has been criticised for not doing enough to calm the violence.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests across the world, including in Paris where police used water cannon against them.

Israel's northern borders with Lebanon and Syria, with which it remains technically at war, were also tense.

Three rockets were launched from Syria Friday, while Israel's army said it fired "warning shots" towards potential infiltrators.

- With AFP

Originally published as Israeli strikes deliver deadliest day yet



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