Israeli air strikes on Gaza City flatten three buildings and kill at least 42 people on Sunday, in the deadliest single attack in seven days of fighting.
- [CALLING OUT IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: Calling for survivors in a room flattened by rocket fire. And a sign of life, a man calls back.
- [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: This residential building was struck by Israeli rockets in Gaza City.
AHMAD MEQDAD: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
TRANSLATOR: [? Shukri ?] is alive. Our team talked to him and will get him out in a minute. We hope that his sister Zainab is alive as well, and we can get her out too.
LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: Others didn't survive.
- [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: It's delicate work for rescue teams. Pulling survivors out with their hands, ensuring there are no people alive before they inch forward with an excavator.
- [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
TRANSLATOR: The number of people under the rubble is still unknown. As we heard from the families and the neighbors, it's a large number.
LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: For the number of people buried under the rubble, it's clear they didn't have enough warning to flee before the residential buildings were destroyed. Israeli rockets and artillery fire on the Gaza Strip have been the heaviest since the bombardment began a week ago. 21 members of the same family were killed in one explosion.
ISSAM ADWAN: What happened, they targeted for hours, continuous bombardment launched on specific neighborhoods as it happened. And [INAUDIBLE] in the street, whole neighborhoods were bombed for continuous hours. And they did not only bomb those residential buildings and people, innocent civilians. They targeted the roads to those neighborhoods.
LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: A teacher and mother tell Al Jazeera that her children are too scared to close their eyes at night when the bombing is at its heaviest.
RAJAA ABU JASSER: They're not coping, actually. They are terrified all the time. They are just listening carefully. If it's going to be any bombing of any sort, they just are afraid to close their eyes at the night. They don't want to sleep. I struggle every single night to put them in their beds. They don't want to go to sleep, because they know, once they close their eyes, something bad will happen.
LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: During the bombing, many families have been forced to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones from this morgue.
LAURA BURDON-MANLEY: Another father devastated by the loss of his child who never got a chance to grow up. Laura Burdon-Manley, Al Jazeera.
- Well the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, took his message to the American people, speaking on US TV. He said Hamas does not want peace.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: They're doing everything in their power to turn it into a fortified terror camp in order to destroy Israel. And they openly say their goal is to destroy Israel. They're not interested in any kind of coexistence, the kind of peace, the four peace treaties that I've made with Arab countries that are changing the Middle East. They're trying everything in their power to avoid the path of peace and reconciliation. So I think any objective observer understands that Hamas is out to destroy the state of Israel. And they're not a partner.
- Four Israeli police officers have been injured after a car ran into a checkpoint in occupied East Jerusalem. The attack happened in Sheikh Jarrah. That's the neighborhood where Israel is attempting to forcibly expel four Palestinian families who live there. Harry Fawcett joins us now from occupied East Jerusalem in that Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. So Harry, just take us through what happened there.
HARRY FAWCETT: Well, yes. It was a little after 3:00 PM local time this afternoon, so about 5 hours ago. The police checkpoint, the border security forces checkpoint that has been placed here at the entrance to the road, which has been the scene of so many of the protests, and so much of the tension here in occupied East Jerusalem throughout the month of Ramadan.
A car approached it. It seemed to do so at speed. We've had witnesses, two of them at least, telling us that the driver appeared to shout Allahu Akbar, God is great, as he approached the checkpoint. And it rammed, drove straight into where the police were. Six of those officers were injured. The police spokesman says four of them lightly, two of the moderately. But it was a very violent impact, and it looked to be potentially quite serious, to say the least, to the well-being of those police officers.
As for the driver himself, he was shot dead in the moments after the attack. Or at least, the moments after the impact. Sheikh Jarrah has been, as I say, the center of a long-simmering protest which has really gathered pace in the last few weeks, particularly on the basis about four families who faced the imminent threat of forced removal from their homes.
It was part of the wider picture of tension throughout Jerusalem, which exploded on that last Monday. And now we have the violence which has been erupting throughout the area. And on this day, this afternoon, that violence also felt very keenly here.
- And tell us more, Harry. We're getting these reports saying there was trouble at a synagogue.
HARRY FAWCETT: Yes, this is a synagogue in the illegal settlement of Givat Zeev in the occupied West Bank, not far from Jerusalem, northwest of Jerusalem. And it was on the Eve of Shavuot, which is a holy religious festival for Jews signifying the handing of the Torah over. They were 600 ultra-orthodox, it seemed young men, largely, on a very steeply [? raked ?] stand. In scenes that you see very often, jumping up and down, dancing together. And that syncopated sort of rhythm seemed to help collapse a large part of that stand. A large number of those people just simply vanished from view.
The ambulance services are saying 60 people have been injured, 10 of them critically. And it follows very closely on the heels of what took place last month in Mehran, another religious festival, when there was a stampede. A lot of questions about the kind of safety regulations in place. Whether the Israeli government itself feels able to properly police and impose safety regulations on ultra-orthodox areas, which largely try to run themselves and don't take kindly to government intervention.
This is going to renew all those sorts of questions and calls. But most importantly now, of course, there is the treatment of the injured and the investigation into exactly what happened.
- Harry, thanks very much. Harry Fawcett there in Sheikh Jarrah. Let's go to Al Jazeera's Safwat al-Kahlout, who's in Gaza. Safwat, the end of another difficult day. Just get us up to date. What else do we know? What's the latest?
SAFWAT AL-KAHLOUT: Well, it's the end of a difficult day, and hopefully it's not the beginning of a difficult night. As now we can see it's behind us, quite dark. And Al Jazeera TV is the only team deployed in this area. Most of the people, they are back to their homes, we could see only a few ambulances just moving.
Nothing special happened in the last half an hour, let's say. We couldn't hear any explosions from either side, at least so far. Still, I could see the dark everywhere. As I said earlier, the people, they get three to four hours of electricity a day. I think to that the humanitarian difficulties that the people here are facing, now it's seven days they are staying home, because as we mentioned earlier, no shelters in Gaza. So the only shelter is your house, and you are lucky if your house is not hit or damaged by the bombardments.
Also, for the seventh day now, the Israelis are continually shutting down the borders. Mainly the Karam Abu-Salem, a commercial crossing which is the only crossing that provides Gaza with humanitarian material, including food, including medicine, including cooking gas. So I spoke to an economical expert. He said that Gaza will soon be at the edge of humanitarian crisis, especially when they consume the products and the food that they have already saved before. The closure of the borders.
And on the other side, the sea of Gaza is also closed. The fishermen are banned from fishing for almost eight or nine days, even before the escalation, two days before the escalation. The farmers also are not able to reach their farm to collect the harvest and to provide the local market with their harvest. Just today afternoon, we heard that some of the farms across the borders in the South of Gaza City have been burned as the Israeli artillery, or the shells of the Israel artillery, have been landing in the Palestinian farms.
- OK, Safwat. Many thanks. Let's bring in our Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst joining us from Doha. So Marwan, we understand the Secretary of State, Mr. Blinken at Washington, has been having a conversation with the Qatari foreign minister. So the heavy hitters really stepping up and getting involved here now?
MARWAN BISHARA: Yes, I think it's pretty normal for the secretary of state to be calling his counterparts in the Middle East, especially those with influence or leverage over the various parties involved in the conflict. For some of us who have been following this, of course, we know that the ones who have been most involved in the humanitarian efforts in Gaza over the past several years have been the Qataris. They've helped in the electricity and the water and the [? rest ?] in building units, and so on and so forth.
So they do have some leverage, at least, as those who were involved in humanitarian efforts there. And clearly, the United States now needs all the parties it could muster in the region in order to project some sort of an influence.
- Where does all the diplomacy go next?
MARWAN BISHARA: That's a good point. And you know, since you and I talked about President Biden and his effort, or indifference, towards this issue, it just haunted me that there's perhaps not another explanation, but an extra explanation as to why President Biden has not yet interfered. I don't buy into this thing that he's busy with China. You know, Washington is a superpower. There are 30,000 people working at the State Department. Washington does not work on a single issue, it works on the whole world. It is the world's superpower.
So in a sense, I think the delay in dealing with this issue, I think it stems from two paradoxical ideas. One is that Biden and the Biden administration support Israel, and support the so-called Israel right to defend itself. Attacks Hamas for being a terrorist organization, and so on and so forth.
On the other hand, and this is my point, is that President Biden does not want to ask prime Minister Netanyahu for a favor. He does not want to ask nicely Prime Minister Netanyahu, who I suspect he doesn't like at all. Meaning, President Biden supports Israel fully, but doesn't really like Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the treatment he's had, along with President Obama, during eight years. Plus the extra four years of Netanyahu siding with the Republican Party and President Trump.
So here we are today, where Biden is not simply weighing in with the Prime Minister. Because he doesn't want to have that sort of relationship where he needs to, perhaps, invite Netanyahu to Washington. And we all know, and we spoke about that a lot in the last few days, is Netanyahu is resistant to diplomacy because he has political calculus. And that is staying in power, forming another coalition government. Or perhaps, worst case scenario, going to another elections.
Because if he does not stay in power, he could very well go to prison. Because like his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, he is on trial on a number of serious charges, that everyone almost swears that he will probably end up in prison if he doesn't maintain the [? premiership. ?]
- And some very well-respected Israeli political journalistic voices are saying that one of the consequences of what we're seeing playing out into what we're heading in towards day eight tomorrow now, one week and one day since this all kicked off, is that this will, in effect, buy Mr. Netanyahu another six months in the highest political office in the land.
MARWAN BISHARA: Absolutely. And you know, it was, I think, Yair Lapid, the opposition leader who was supposed to be forming the alternative coalition government that said only earlier this morning that it's such a coincidence that whenever Netanyahu is in trouble, violence breaks out. That's a serious charge. That's a very serious charge, considering the many deaths, the huge destruction that's taking place. Even the destruction and the damage to Israel's deterrence. I mean, the fact that Tel Aviv was hit for the first time in any conflict with Gaza.
This is a serious business in Israel. And Israelis, of course, as we all know, are just worried. So the fact that the opposition leader says, this is not a coincidence that every time Netanyahu is in trouble we have violence, it means, indirectly or implicitly, some people even in the high ranking of the political echelon in the country reckon that the cynicism is so high on the part of the prime minister that he's willing to plunge the country into war in order to save his own neck. That's a serious charge.
- And when we listen to all those UN delegates at that third session of the UN virtually, of course, all talking into New York from wherever they are around the world, lots of them repeating the mantra, which is Israel has the right to self-defense. Of course, any country, Marawan, as we've discussed hour after hour here, has that right.
But nobody was talking about another word. Nobody was talking about proportionality. Whether the Israeli reaction was proportionate to what Hamas was doing, or whether, indeed, Hamas, what they are doing is proportionate to what Israel is doing. And watching the pictures of the consequences. Why is there nobody high up in the Israeli military, big, powerful, well staffed, well resourced, incredibly well funded, a nuclear superpower-- let's call it what it is-- if a military that big and that powerful can't, quote, pacify Gaza, nobody is going to pacify Gaza. And yet, the military planners don't seem capable of working that one out.
MARWAN BISHARA: Actually, the most recent report and the Israeli [? Centrist ?] [? Daily ?] [INAUDIBLE] says that there are a lot of worries in the security echelons in Israel that the Netanyahu government does not have a strategy or an endgame for its war in Gaza. Again, see? That's a really worrying sign. That if there is such a perception in the Israeli establishment that the government does not have a strategy or an endgame, it once again takes us to the idea that Netanyahu is primarily preoccupied with his political and personal future, rather than with the security of the country.
Now to your question about proportionality. It is unfortunate that when President Biden was asked about that, he did express, in a sense, that Israel has not yet acted disproportionately to the threat. While, of course, condemning Hamas' missiles. And I think the issue here, and I noticed that especially now that I heard the French politician after we spoke, that like the British, and like the Americans, there's a certain sense, you can tell from the European tone and the American tone, that they want to go beyond this war. They want to go beyond this Israeli offensive. They need to get beyond it in order to talk about the issues that they feel comfortable talking about.
Hence, the Europeans talked about the settlements, the illegal settlements, Israel needs to freeze the settlements. Although this is not exactly the issue today, it is one of the root causes for the continued escalation, for the continued occupation, and so on and so forth. So the Europeans are eager to talk about the two state solution as a necessary political way once the ceasefire is figured out and so on and so forth. Because for this very particular issue of the escalation of war, I don't think any of the parties, aside from expressing regret, and perhaps alarm, as the Secretary General of the United Nations, none of them are throwing their weight, their leverage, notably with the Israelis, in order to stop the war.
- Marwan, thank you very much, Marwan Bishara, our senior political analyst here on Al Jazeera.