Netanyahu says Israel could 'conquer' Hamas

Netanyahu says Israel could ‘conquer’ Hamas: PM vows to fight on and sets NO timeline for end of bombing as Russia joins Biden in calling for ceasefire and calls Gaza casualties ‘unacceptable’

  • Israeli commanders say they want more time to keep hunting for Hamas leaders as calls for ceasefire grow
  • Israel dropped 122 bombs on Gaza overnight in 25-minute salvo that destroyed seven miles of Hamas tunnels
  • 219 Palestinians have been killed including 68 children while 12 people, including two kids, killed in Israel
  • Kremlin official warned Israel’s ambassador today that any actions leading to further casualties unacceptable
  • France last night circulated a draft resolution at the UN security council following negotiations with Egypt and Jordan. The move is said to have taken the US by surprise
  • Israeli official told Haaretz that Netanyahu is reluctant to stop the fighting without a ‘clear victory’

Benjamin Netanyahu has promised Israel will ‘conquer’ Hamas and vowed to fight on during a meeting with foreign ambassadors today despite Russia joining the US in calling for a ceasefire. 

‘There are only two ways that you can deal with them (Hamas): You can either conquer them, and that’s always an open possibility, or you can deter them, and we are engaged right now in forceful deterrence, but I have to say we don’t rule out anything,’ Netanyahu told foreign ambassadors in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. 

Israel continued its ferocious bombardments in the Gaza Strip last night, with 122 bombs dropped by 52 jets in 25 minutes, destroying seven miles of Hamas tunnels.

So far the violence has claimed at least 227 lives – 215 Palestinians including almost 100 women and children, and 12 people in Israel, including two children. 

But despite the civilian death toll Netanyahu told the ambassadors: ‘We’re not standing with a stopwatch. We want to achieve the goals of the operation. Previous operations lasted a long time so it is not possible to set a timeframe.’ 

A senior Russian official warned Israel’s ambassador today that any actions leading to a further increase in casualties were unacceptable, the Kremlin said.    

France last night circulated a draft resolution at the UN security council following negotiations with Egypt and Jordan. 

The move is said to have taken the US – which has three times blocked a joint statement condemning the violence – by surprise.

A resolution is a stronger step than a joint statement, and if all other members backed it then the US would have to issue a veto to stop it, something Joe Biden is thought to be reluctant to do.

A senior Israeli official also told news site Haaretz that Netanyahu is reluctant to stop the fighting without a ‘clear victory’, despite pressure from within the government to do so. 

Elsewhere, Haaretz reported that ‘if there is no surprise turn of events’ then a ceasefire would be declared on Thursday – with similar reports also emerging in Egyptian media.

But Israel and Hamas were quick to deny the reports, with Israeli site Ynet reporting that while both sides agree on ending the conflict soon, each wants the other to stop shooting first.  

Meanwhile Israel is braced for more violence in the West Bank today after violent protests near the town of Ramallah and Nablus on Tuesday, during which two IDF soldiers and three Palestinians were hurt in shootings.

Violent clashes also broke out around holy sites including Damascus Gate and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem after a call for ‘a day of rage’ in solidarity with those in Gaza, Ynet reported. 

The Israeli Defence Forces earlier revealed that they would like more time to complete their operation as it was revealed they had tried to kill Hamas’s top commander last week but he survived both of the attacks.  

The sister (right) and relatives of Palestinian Mahmoud Shtawi, 19, cry during his funeral on Wenesday in Gaza City after he was killed in an Israeli air strike

The IDF twice targeted Mohammed Deif (left), Hamas’s most-senior military commander, in raids last week but he survived both. Also targeted was the home of Yahya Sinwar (right), dubbed the butcher of Khan Younis, though he was not home

The IDF began releasing details of its ‘hit list’ as commanders called for more time to continuing hunting Hamas leaders, despite growing calls for a ceasefire. Fighting has now entered its ninth day, with attacks continuing from both sides

Relatives of Journaliste Yousef Abu Hussein, a Palestinian, weep after he was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City today

Palestinians attend the funeral of Mahmoud Shtawi who was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City on Wednesday

A Palestinian man stands by the body of a three year old girl killed in an airstrike on Gaza City on Wednesday 

Mohammed Deif, 55, commander of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades which have carried out terror attacks including bus bombings in Israel, was targeted during strikes in Gaza last Monday but escaped unscathed, the IDF says. 

It is hardly the first time the IDF has tried to kill Deif. Strikes in 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2014 left him without an eye, cost him both legs and an arm, and killed his wife and two children, according to Israeli security sources. 

Seven other senior Hamas commanders were also targeted in strikes, a military spokesman added, saying that some were injured but all survived. 

Among the targets was the home of Yahya Sinwar, dubbed the ‘butcher of Khan Younis’ – Hamas’s leader in Gaza and creator of the brigade which Deif leads. 

His home was destroyed, though he is not thought to have been in it at the time. 

The IDF began giving away details of its ‘hit list’ as commanders called for more time to continue the hunt amid growing pressure for a ceasefire.

Eliezer Toledano, head of IDF’s southern command, told Channel 12 that the more time the military is given to destroy its targets ‘the better’ – picking out Deif and Sinwar as being ‘in Israel’s sights’. 

Hamas has since denied that Deif was targeted twice last week, saying the reports are designed as ‘psychological warfare’. 

Deif ‘is continuing to direct the fighting with complete control’, according to sources close to Hamas’s military leadership. 

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is in Paris for summits on Africa, agreed on the UN resolution Tuesday during in a video conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

‘The three countries agreed on three simple elements: The shooting must stop, the time has come for a ceasefire and the UN Security Council must take up the issue,’ the Elysee Palace said.

France, which has been calling for a rapid ceasefire for several days, said it supports mediation led by Egypt.

Palestinians gather around the damage in the aftermath of an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza City

A Palestinian man inspects a damaged vehicle in the aftermath of an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza City

A man carrying a child passes by damaged site after Israeli army carried out airstrike over a building in the Sheikh Ridvan neighbourhood in Gaza City

People inspect a damaged vehicle after Israeli army struck a building in the Sheikh Ridvan neighbourhood in Gaza City

Rockets are launched from Gaza City, towards Israel early on Wednesday as fighting between the two sides continues

Rockets are launched towards Israel from Gaza City overnight, as Israeli bombing raids on the strip continued

Macron had on Monday underlined the importance of Egyptian mediation after talks in Paris with Sisi, a key ally and defence client of France despite activists’ concerns over Cairo’s rights record.

The UN Security Council has failed to adopt a simple declaration on the conflict, with the United States, a staunch Israel ally, having rejected three prior statement drafts proposed by China, Norway and Tunisia which called for an end to the fighting.

China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun said that during a closed-door meeting, members ‘heard the proposal made by our French colleague in the Council and for China, definitely, we are supportive to all effort facilitating the ending of the crisis and the coming back of peace in the Middle East.’

Speaking at an air force base in southern Israel on Tuesday, Netanyahu said Hamas and Gaza’s second biggest armed group, Islamic Jihad, had ‘received blows they didn’t expect’.

‘We’ll continue as long as necessary to bring… quiet back to the citizens of Israel,’ he added.

Hamas has launched nearly 3,700 rockets at Israel since May 10, prompting many people living in communities near the border to remain in bomb shelters virtually around the clock.

Israel’s bombing campaign has left Gaza’s two million population desperate for relief.

Some 72,000 civilians have fled their homes, seeking refuge in UN-run schools and other public buildings, the United Nations says.

An international relief convoy that started rolling into Gaza from Israel Tuesday, was halted when Israel swiftly ended its reopening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing, citing a mortar attack on the area. 

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces at the Hawara checkpoint, south of the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday

A Palestinian uses a slingshot during an anti-Israel protest over a cross-border violence between Palestinian militants in Gaza and the Israeli military, near Hawara checkpoint near Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 18

A Palestinian holds a slingshot next to burning tires during an anti-Israel protest near Hawara checkpoint, Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 18

A Palestinian demonstrator throws teargas canisters back at Israeli forces during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Beit El near Ramallah, West Bank, on May 17

Israel says its fighter jets have targeted Hamas’s underground tunnel network, which it has previously acknowledged run in part through civilian areas.

An air raid Monday knocked out Gaza’s only Covid-19 testing laboratory, the health ministry said, and the Qatari Red Crescent said a strike damaged one of its offices.

Hospitals in the territory, which has been under Israeli blockade for almost 15 years, have been overwhelmed by patients and there are frequent blackouts.

The healthcare system was already facing severe strain from the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 1,530 people have been wounded, according to health ministry figures. 

On Tuesday, Israeli forces and protesters clashed in annexed east Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank, as Palestinians rallied in solidarity with their embattled compatriots in Gaza.

The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot dead four Palestinians, including one the Israeli army said had attempted to attack soldiers, bringing to 24 the number of Palestinians killed in the territory since May 10.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said its teams had treated more than 150 people in Jerusalem and the West Bank, including 35 with bullet wounds.

The Israeli army said troops came under fire north of Ramallah, and two of its soldiers were wounded.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement had called for a ‘day of anger’ Tuesday, a call echoed in Arab and ethnically mixed towns inside Israel.

‘We are here to raise our voice and stand with the people in Gaza who are being bombed,’ Ramallah protester Aya Dabour told AFP.

In east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, Palestinian protesters faced off against police, who used stun grenades and ‘skunk water’ cannon to disperse protesters.

The latest escalation was sparked after clashes broke out at east Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, one of Islam’s holiest sites, following clashed over planned evictions of Palestinian families from homes in Sheikh Jarrah.

Israeli airstrikes killed at least six people across the Gaza Strip and destroyed the home of a large extended family early on Wednesday. 

The military said it widened its strikes on militant targets to the south amid continuing rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled territory.

Residents surveyed the piles of bricks, concrete and other debris that had once been the home of 40 members of al-Astal family. They said a warning missile struck the building in the southern town of Khan Younis five minutes before the airstrike, allowing everyone to escape.

The Israeli military said it struck militant targets around the towns of Khan Younis and Rafah, with 52 aircraft hitting 40 underground targets over a period of 25 minutes. 

Gaza’s Health Ministry said a woman was killed and eight people were wounded in those strikes.

Hamas-run Al-Aqsa radio said one of its reporters was killed in an airstrike in Gaza City. Doctors at the Shifa hospital said his was among five bodies brought in early Wednesday. 

The fatalities included two people killed when warning missiles crashed into their apartment.

The latest strikes came as diplomatic efforts aimed at a cease-fire gathered strength and Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, rapidly deteriorated. 

The Palestinian territory is ruled by Hamas, an Islamic militant group.

U.S. officials said the Biden administration is privately encouraging Israel to wind down its bombardment of Gaza.  

Palestinians search for victims under the rubble of a destroyed building in the residential Al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City on Monday this week following an Israeli bombing raid

Palestinian firefighters inspect the remains of a destroyed residential building targeted by Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday

A Palestinian woman stands next to an unexploded bomb dropped by an Israeli F-16 warplane on Gaza City’s Rimal neighbourhood

Explosions light-up the night sky above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli forces shell the Palestinian enclave, early on May 18

Egyptian negotiators also were working to halt the fighting, and while they have not made progress with Israel, they were optimistic international pressure would force it to the table, according to an Egyptian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing diplomatic efforts.

The fighting began May 10 when Hamas 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 219 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes, including 63 children and 36 women, with 1,530 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.. 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad say 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, have been killed in rocket attacks so far. A rocket attack on Tuesday near Gaza killed two Thai workers and wounded another seven. 

The Israeli military said rockets also were fired at the Erez pedestrian crossing and at the Kerem Shalom crossing, where humanitarian aid was being brought into Gaza, forcing both to close. It said a soldier was slightly wounded at Erez.

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