Israel strikes Gaza home of Hamas leader, destroys AP office

  • Palestinians attend the funeral of two women and eight children of the Abu Hatab family in Gaza City, who were killed after an Israeli air strike, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    Palestinians attend the funeral of two women and eight children of the Abu Hatab family in Gaza City, who were killed after an Israeli air strike, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • Palestinians look at destruction caused by Israeli air strikes that killed ten members of Abu Hatab Hadidi family in Gaza City, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    Palestinians look at destruction caused by Israeli air strikes that killed ten members of Abu Hatab Hadidi family in Gaza City, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • Palestinians look at destruction caused by Israeli air strikes that killed ten members of the Abu Hatab Hadidi family in Gaza City, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    Palestinians look at destruction caused by Israeli air strikes that killed ten members of the Abu Hatab Hadidi family in Gaza City, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • The building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media in Gaza City collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike Saturday, May 15, 2021. The attack came roughly an hour after the Israeli military warned people to evacuate the building, which also housed Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted.

    The building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media in Gaza City collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike Saturday, May 15, 2021. The attack came roughly an hour after the Israeli military warned people to evacuate the building, which also housed Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. Associated Press

  • A ball of fire erupts from a building housing various international media, including The Associated Press, after an Israeli airstrike on Saturday, May 15, 2021 in Gaza City.   The attack came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building, which also housed Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted.  (Mahmud Hams /Pool Photo via AP)

    A ball of fire erupts from a building housing various international media, including The Associated Press, after an Israeli airstrike on Saturday, May 15, 2021 in Gaza City. The attack came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building, which also housed Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. (Mahmud Hams /Pool Photo via AP) Associated Press

  • A policeman stands on rubble from a building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City that was destroyed after Israeli warplanes demolished it, Saturday, May 15, 2021.  The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted.

    A policeman stands on rubble from a building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City that was destroyed after Israeli warplanes demolished it, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. Associated Press

  • Palestinians gather around a car after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    Palestinians gather around a car after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • A view of a 11-story building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City is seen as Israeli warplanes demolished it, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. The building housed The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments.

    A view of a 11-story building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City is seen as Israeli warplanes demolished it, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. The building housed The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments. Associated Press

  • Israeli medics evacuate a woman from a targeted residential neighborhood where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit the area, in Ramat Gan, central Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    Israeli medics evacuate a woman from a targeted residential neighborhood where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit the area, in Ramat Gan, central Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in the Gaza Strip, at the Israel-Gaza border, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in the Gaza Strip, at the Israel-Gaza border, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • Palestinian mourners cry during the funeral of Husam Asayra, 20 in the West Bank village of Asira al-Qibliya, near Nablus, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The latest outburst of violence began in Jerusalem and has spread across the region, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.

    Palestinian mourners cry during the funeral of Husam Asayra, 20 in the West Bank village of Asira al-Qibliya, near Nablus, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The latest outburst of violence began in Jerusalem and has spread across the region, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people. Associated Press

  • Palestinian mourners carry the body of Malek Hamdan who was killed in clashes with Israeli forces, during his funeral in the village of Salem, near of the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    Palestinian mourners carry the body of Malek Hamdan who was killed in clashes with Israeli forces, during his funeral in the village of Salem, near of the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • Family members who live in the al-Jala tower, a high-rise housing AP and other media offices, flee the building before Israeli airstrikes Saturday, May 15, 2021.  The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa

    Family members who live in the al-Jala tower, a high-rise housing AP and other media offices, flee the building before Israeli airstrikes Saturday, May 15, 2021. The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa Associated Press

  • People take cover in a shelter as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza strip, after their building was hit by a rocket couple of minutes before, in Ramat Gan, central Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    People take cover in a shelter as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza strip, after their building was hit by a rocket couple of minutes before, in Ramat Gan, central Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • A woman surveys the damage in her home after it was struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit),

    A woman surveys the damage in her home after it was struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit), Associated Press

  • Israeli security forces and emergency services work on a site hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ramat Gan, central Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    Israeli security forces and emergency services work on a site hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ramat Gan, central Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • Palestinian mourners carry the body of Husam Asayra, 20 during his funeral in the West Bank village of Asira al-Qibliya, near Nablus, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The latest outburst of violence began in Jerusalem and has spread across the region, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.

    Palestinian mourners carry the body of Husam Asayra, 20 during his funeral in the West Bank village of Asira al-Qibliya, near Nablus, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The latest outburst of violence began in Jerusalem and has spread across the region, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people. Associated Press

  • Damage is seen in a house after it was struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021.

    Damage is seen in a house after it was struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Associated Press

  • Lebanese wave Hezbollah and Palestinian flags, as they stand in front of the Israeli town of Metula, background, on the Lebanese side of the Lebanese-Israeli border in the southern village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon, Saturday, May 15, 2021. On Israel's northern border with Lebanon, Israeli troops opened fire on Friday when a group of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters on the other side cut through the border fence and briefly crossed.

    Lebanese wave Hezbollah and Palestinian flags, as they stand in front of the Israeli town of Metula, background, on the Lebanese side of the Lebanese-Israeli border in the southern village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon, Saturday, May 15, 2021. On Israel's northern border with Lebanon, Israeli troops opened fire on Friday when a group of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters on the other side cut through the border fence and briefly crossed. Associated Press

  • CORRECTS DATE TO MAY 15  A view of a 11-story building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City is seen moments after Israeli warplanes demolished it, Saturday, May 15, 2021.  The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. The building housed The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments.

    CORRECTS DATE TO MAY 15 A view of a 11-story building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City is seen moments after Israeli warplanes demolished it, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. The building housed The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments. Associated Press

  • A view of a 11-story building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City is seen moments after an Israeli airstrike demolished it on Saturday, May 15, 2021 in Gaza City.   The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. The building housed The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments.

    A view of a 11-story building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City is seen moments after an Israeli airstrike demolished it on Saturday, May 15, 2021 in Gaza City. The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted. The building housed The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments. Associated Press

  • Draped with flags of Palestine and others carrying them in hand, hundreds of people demonstrate at the Hauptwache in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The police are on site in a large force as participants have gathered in the city center. The organizations of "Free Palestine" want to draw attention to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Middle East. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)

    Draped with flags of Palestine and others carrying them in hand, hundreds of people demonstrate at the Hauptwache in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The police are on site in a large force as participants have gathered in the city center. The organizations of "Free Palestine" want to draw attention to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Middle East. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP) Associated Press

  • Hezbollah firefighters extinguish fire that set by protesters at the border fence, at the Lebanese side of the Lebanese-Israeli border in the southern village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Earlier Saturday, an Israeli military spokesman warned Lebanese authorities not to allow protesters to breach the border.

    Hezbollah firefighters extinguish fire that set by protesters at the border fence, at the Lebanese side of the Lebanese-Israeli border in the southern village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Earlier Saturday, an Israeli military spokesman warned Lebanese authorities not to allow protesters to breach the border. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/16/2021 12:30 AM

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israel slammed the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, in a dramatic escalation that included bombing the home of a senior Hamas leader, killing a family of 10 in a refugee camp - most of them children - and pulverizing a high-rise that housed The Associated Press and other media.

The Hamas militant group continued a stream of rocket volleys into Israel, including a late-night barrage on Tel Aviv. One man was killed Saturday when a rocket hit his home in a suburb of the seaside metropolis.

 

With a U.S. envoy on the ground, calls increased for a cease-fire after five days of mayhem that have left at least 145 Palestinians dead in Gaza - including 41 children and 23 women - and eight dead on the Israeli side, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old. President Joe Biden, who has called for a de-escalation but has backed Israel's campaign, spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Still, Israel stepped up its assault, vowing to shatter the capabilities of Gaza's Hamas rulers. The week of deadly violence, set off by a Hamas rocket Monday, came after weeks of mounting tensions and heavy-handed Israeli measures in contested Jerusalem.

Early Sunday, Israeli warplanes struck several buildings and roads in a vital part of Gaza City. Photos circulated by residents and journalists showed the airstrikes created a crater that blocked one of the main roads leading to Shifa, the largest hospital in the strip.

The Health Ministry said the latest airstrikes left at least two dead and 25 wounded, including children and women. There has been no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

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On Saturday, Israel bombed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas' political branch, saying the building served as part of the group's 'úterrorist infrastructure.'Ě There was no immediate report on al-Hayeh's fate or on any casualties.

The bombing of al-Hayeh's home showed Israel was expanding its campaign beyond just the group's military commanders. Israel says it has killed dozens in Hamas' military branch, though Hamas and the smaller group Islamic Jihad have only acknowledged 20 dead members.

Since the conflict began, Israel has leveled a number of Gaza City's tallest office and residential buildings, alleging they house elements of the Hamas military infrastructure. On Saturday, it turned to the 12-story al-Jalaa Building, where the offices of the AP, the TV network Al-Jazeera and other media outlets are located, along with several floors of apartments.

'úThe campaign will continue as long as it is required,'Ě Netanyahu said in a televised speech on Saturday evening. He alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building. Israel routinely cites a Hamas presence as a reason for targeting certain locations in airstrikes, including residential buildings. The military also has accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields, but provided no evidence to back up the claims.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The AP has operated from the building for 15 years, including through three previous wars between Israel and Hamas, without being targeted directly. During those conflicts as well as the current one, the news agency's cameras from its top floor office and roof terrace offered 24-hour live shots as militants' rockets arched toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the city and its surroundings.

'úWe have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,'Ě AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. 'úThis is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.'Ě

In the afternoon, the military called the building's owner and warned a strike would come within an hour. AP staffers and other occupants evacuated safely .

Soon after, three missiles hit the building and destroyed it, bringing it crashing down in a giant cloud of dust.

'úThe world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,'Ě Pruitt said. 'úWe are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP's bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.'Ě

'úThis is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,'Ě he said, adding that the AP was seeking information from the Israeli government and was engaged with the U.S. State Department to learn more.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken later spoke by phone with Pruitt, offering 'úhis unwavering support for independent journalists and media organizations around the world and noted the indispensability of their reporting in conflict zones,'Ě according to a statement.

Mostefa Souag, acting director-general of Al-Jazeera Media Network, called the strike a 'úwar crime'Ě aiming to 'úsilence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza.'Ě

Later in the day, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that the U.S. had 'úcommunicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.'Ě

In the early hours Saturday, another airstrike hit an apartment building in Gaza City's densely populated Shati refugee camp, killing two women and eight children.

Mohammed Hadidi told reporters that his wife and her brother's wife had gathered at the house with their children to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday ending the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The only survivor was Hadidi's 5-month-old son, Omar.

The blast left the children's bedroom covered in rubble and smashed the salon. Amid the wreckage were children's toys, a Monopoly board game and, sitting on the kitchen counter, unfinished plates of food from the holiday gathering.

'úThere was no warning ... You filmed people eating and then you bombed them?'Ě a neighbor, Jamal Al-Naji, said, referring to Israel's surveillance over the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In his call with Netanyahu, Biden expressed his 'ústrong support'Ě for Israel's campaign but raised concern about civilian casualties and protection of journalists, the White House said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tweeted Saturday that he had spoken again with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself and condemned 'úHamas' deliberate targeting of Israeli citizens.'Ě Austin added: 'úI also expressed my hope that calm can be restored soon.'Ě

The bombings took place a day after U.S. diplomat Hady Amr arrived in Israel as part of Washington's efforts to de-escalate the conflict. Israel turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas rulers had accepted, an Egyptian intelligence official said Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations.

Mediators from Egypt, which works closely with Israel on security issues and shares a border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, appeared to be growing alarmed. The intelligence official said Egypt hopes the U.S. intervention could halt the Israeli assault. The U.N. Security Council was set to meet Sunday.

The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, when Palestinians protested attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.

Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on Gaza. Since then, Hamas has fired more than 2,000 rockets, though most have either fallen short or been intercepted by anti-missile defenses. Israel's warplanes and artillery have struck hundreds of targets around blockaded Gaza, where some 2 million Palestinians live.

The turmoil has also spilled over elsewhere, fueling protests in the occupied West Bank and stoking violence within Israel between its Jewish and Arab citizens, with clashes and vigilante attacks on people and property.

Palestinians on Saturday marked the Day of al-Nakba, or 'úthe Catastrophe,'Ě commemorating the estimated 700,000 people who were expelled from or fled their homes in what was now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. Thousands of Arab Israelis marched in a Nakba rally in the northern Israeli city of Sukhnin, and scattered protests took place in the West Bank.

Palestinian health officials reported the deaths of two Palestinians by Israeli fire in the West Bank on Saturday. One of the shootings occurred when the army said it thwarted an alleged car ramming.

___

Keath reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

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