Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that an end to seven days of hostilities with Gaza militants was not imminent, despite diplomatic moves to retore calm.
“Our campaign against the terrorist organizations is continuing with full force,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech. “We are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm and quiet to you, Israel’s citizens. It will take time.”
In a televised address, Netanyahu said Sunday evening the attacks were continuing at “full-force” and will “take time.” Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” from the Hamas militant group, he said, flanked by his defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity.
The Israeli air assault early Sunday was the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas nearly a week ago, marking the worst fighting here since their devastating 2014 war in Gaza.
The airstrikes hit a major downtown street of residential buildings and storefronts over the course of five minutes after midnight, destroying two adjacent buildings and one about 50 yards (meters) down the road.
At one point, a rescuer shouted, “Can you hear me?” into a hole in the rubble. “Are you OK?” Minutes later, first responders pulled a survivor out and carried him off on an orange stretcher. The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, with more than 50 people wounded, and rescue efforts are still underway.
Earlier, the Israeli military said it destroyed the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader, Yahiyeh Sinwar, in a separate strike in the southern town of Khan Younis. It was the third such attack in the last two days on the homes of senior Hamas leaders, who have gone underground.
Israel appears to have stepped up strikes in recent days to inflict as much damage as possible on Hamas as international mediators work to end the fighting and stave off an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza. But targeting the group’s leaders could hinder those efforts. A US diplomat is in the region to try to de-escalate tensions, and the U.N. Security Council is meeting Sunday.
In its airstrikes, Israel has leveled a number of Gaza City’s tallest office and residential buildings, alleging they contain Hamas military infrastructure. Among them was the building housing The Associated Press office and those of other media outlets.