Israel was still pounding Hamas positions inside the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Monday morning, just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that there was no end in sight to the operations.
Thousands of rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel since 10 May, but most of them have been neutralised by the local iron dome defence system. Israel's response has killed at least 197 Palestinians, including at least 58 children and 34 women, according to Gaza's health ministry, while 10 Israelis have been killed in rocket attacks, including one child.
Netanyahu spoke on the same day Israeli fighter jets levelled three buildings and killed at least 42 people, the deadliest attack in the latest round of violence between Israel and the fundamentalist Hamas group that rules Gaza.
I hope it won't take long, Netanyahu said on CBS's Face the Nation in the United States. But he indicated that an end to the attacks will not be immediate despite international efforts to broker a ceasefire.
”We were attacked by Hamas (...) unprovoked attacks on Jerusalem, the Israeli capital, Netanyahu said. We will do whatever it takes to restore order and quiet, he added in the television interview. We are trying to degrade the terrorist capability of Hamas and degrade their willingness to do this again.
Netanyahu was speaking after the deadliest strikes since the devastating war in Gaza in 2014. Israeli airstrikes targeted a major downtown street of residential buildings and shop fronts for a five-minute period after midnight, flattening two adjacent buildings and another about 50 metres away.
Early Sunday morning, Israel shelled the home of Yehya Al-Sinwar, the top Hamas leader in Gaza, in the seventh consecutive day of hostilities. It was not immediately clear whether Sinwar was present. An Associated Press report said he was probably in hiding along with the rest of the upper echelon of the group.
Netanyahu defended Saturday's destruction of a 12-story building in Gaza City that housed the offices of the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera news organisations, as well as flats and other offices.
The building's owner received a warning by telephone from the Israeli army an hour before the attack and AP staff and other building occupants immediately evacuated the building. Netanyahu said no one was injured in the attack. Al-Jazeera continued to broadcast the airstrikes as the building collapsed.
The Israeli leader said the building, in addition to housing media offices, was home to the intelligence office of the Palestinian terrorist organisation. It is, therefore a legitimate target, he said.
Meanwhile, international efforts to stop the carnage continue. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held telephone talks with Middle Eastern officials and France to stop the conflict in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza”.
The UN Security Council met on Sunday to try to figure out how to quell the violence and the US sent a diplomat to the region to try to broker a ceasefire.
US President Joseph Biden called Netanyahu on Saturday and said he condemned Hamas rocket attacks and reaffirmed his support for Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas and other terrorist groups. The US leader also expressed concern about the safety of journalists and the need to ensure their protection. He also spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in what was their first conversation since Biden took office in January.