Israeli airstrikes kill 8 children, flatten building housing Associated Press, Al Jazeera offices

·3 min read

Israeli warplanes pounded the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least eight children in a refugee camp and flattening a high-rise building housing the offices of international media outlets as Hamas unleashed a new barrage of rockets targeting central Israel.

The bombardments — for a sixth consecutive day — fed fears of a return to all-out war between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

U.S. diplomat Hady Amr arrived Saturday in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv to meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials to push for calm, though sirens blaring throughout the city to alert incoming rocket fire signaled the conflict showed no signs of abating.

One rocket hit a neighbourhood in central Israel's Ramat Gan, where raw footage showed fire and debris in the streets. The Magen David ambulance service said one man died at the scene.

The Hamas rocket fire targeting central Israel came just hours after the Israeli airstrike on the al-Shati refugee camp to the west of Gaza City. In addition to the eight children killed, two adults died in the strike, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry — making it one of the deadliest single incidents since the long-running conflict between Israel and Hamas reignited earlier this week.

Mohammed Hadidi told reporters his wife and five children had gone to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday with relatives, according to the Associated Press. She and three of the children, aged 6 to 14, were killed, while an 11-year-old was missing, he said. Only his 5-month-old son Omar was known to have survived.

Live footage later showed an Israeli airstrike destroying a high-rise building that housed the offices of the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera in the Gaza Strip. The AP said the building was hit about an hour after Israel's military ordered people to evacuate the building, which was also home to other offices and apartments.

The latest chapter in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the militant group governing Gaza, was triggered by unrest in Jerusalem. Since Monday, Hamas has fired more than 2,300 missiles into Israel and Israel's military has pummeled Gaza with airstrikes.

At least 129 Palestinians — including 39 children — have been killed in Gaza. In Israel, nine people have been killed. Hundreds have been wounded on both sides.

Image: PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP - Getty Images)
Image: PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP - Getty Images)

While the clashes were largely restricted to Gaza, they spread to the West Bank on Friday and health officials said 11 people died Friday and more than 250 were injured.

Intercommunal violence, meanwhile, has swept several cities and neighborhoods in Israel. Scenes of vigilante mobs administering beatings and hurling stones have unsettled the nation and sparked appeals for calm, but showed no signs of abating. Police said 15 people were arrested in the city of Lod overnight for involvement in riots, while a number of rioters also were arrested in East Jerusalem.

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Palestinians on Saturday are set to mark Nakba Day, which commemorates the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people during Israel's creation in 1948. Demonstrations in support of their cause are also planned in several cities around the world, including London and Berlin.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned Friday that more attacks would come, saying Hamas "attacked our capital, they sent missiles to our city, they pay a heavy price for it."

The Israeli military has called up 9,000 reservists and massed troops along its border with Gaza. While there was alarm and confusion late Thursday after the Israeli military announced "ground troops" were attacking the area, the military later clarified that its forces where within its country's borders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.