Israel on May 13 said it was massing troops along the Gaza frontier and calling up 9,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground invasion, as two sides plunged closer to all-out war. Egyptian mediators rushed to Israel for cease-fire efforts but showed no signs of progress.
Early on May 14, the Israeli military said air and ground troops struck Gaza in what appeared to be the heaviest attacks yet.
Masses of red flames illuminated the skies as the deafening blasts from the outskirts of Gaza City jolted people awake. The strikes were so strong that screams of fear could be heard from people inside the city, several kilometers away.
Israeli attacks on the blockaded Gaza Strip killed three more Palestinians on May 14 taking the death toll to 122, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
The fatalities included 31 children and 20 women, while the number of injured rose to 900, according to a statement from the ministry.
Israel continues to target Gaza with heavy bombardment, which has also caused heavy damage to residential buildings across the enclave.
To date, seven Israelis have been killed in the recent violence – six of them in rocket attacks, in addition to a soldier killed when an anti-tank guided missile struck his jeep.
A father and his three children were killed in airstrikes by Israeli forces on the Gaza Strip early on May 14.
According to civil defense teams, the Israeli army heavily bombarded the northern part of Gaza, including the town of Beit Lahia, where the bodies of the father and his sons were recovered from the rubble of a building that collapsed.
The teams are continuing their rescue efforts among several buildings that collapsed during the attack.
Dozens of Israelis on May 13 attacked Palestinian homes in the central Israeli city of Lid, according to eyewitnesses.
“Dozens of Israelis attacked Palestinian homes in Lid with some loading fuel into canisters to use them in attacks,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency quoted an eyewitness as saying.
Channel 12, a local Israeli media outlet, also reported “clashes between Palestinians and Israelis” breaking out in the city, adding that authorities had imposed a curfew in the city and that the army had been deployed to contain the situation.
The report did not specify when the curfew would end.
Daily Yediot Aharonot reported that police lost control of the city following fierce clashes with Arab youth during a funeral procession for an Arab-Israeli resident killed by an Israeli settler.
Rockets fired from Lebanon land off Israel’s northern coast
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said late on May 13 that three rockets were fired from Lebanon towards northern Israel.
In a statement, the IDF confirmed that the rockets landed in the sea off the coast in the Galilee area.
It added that warning sirens were not activated.
Earlier, Lebanese news website Lebanon 24 cited a Lebanese security source as saying that the rockets were fired from an area in southern Lebanon and landed near the Israeli municipalities of Shlomi and Nahariya.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Andrea Tennet, called on all parties to exercise restraint and cooperate with UNIFIL to avoid an escalation.
“UNIFIL in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces is enhancing security control in the area,” Tennet said.
UNSC to meet on May 16 on Gaza, Israel
The U.N. Security Council will meet this weekend to discuss the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip, the U.S. announced on May 13.
In announcing the May 16 meeting, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S.’s U.N. envoy, said the Biden administration “will continue to actively engage in diplomacy at the highest levels to try to de-escalate tensions.”
Her Twitter post did not specify whether the meeting would be held in an open or closed format, nor did the US mission immediately have a statement with additional details.
Diplomats earlier told Anadolu Agency that the U.S. blocked a public virtual meeting of the U.N. Security Council to address the escalating conflict. The nixed May 14 meeting was requested by China, Norway and Tunisia.
But the U.S. said “an open meeting tomorrow will not support these de-escalatory efforts,” according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
On May 12, the U.S. blocked a Security Council statement regarding the spiraling violence as Israel continued to pound densely-populated Gaza with airstrikes amid continued rocket attacks from Palestinian groups.
The nixed statement followed a second council briefing from U.N. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Tor Wennesland.
It “expressed deep concern about the latest situation in Gaza and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities” and further “expressed concern about the tensions and violence in East Jerusalem, especially in and around the holy sites.”
“Council members demanded immediate cessation of all acts of violence, provocation, incitement and destruction. They called for respect for international law, including international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians,” it said.
Egypt, U.N. talk with Hamas
The leader of the Hamas resistance group, Ismail Haniyeh, spoke on May 14 with Egypt and the U.N. special envoy about Israeli escalating attacks in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.
Haniyeh “received a phone call from Egypt and another call from the U.N. Special Envoy to the Middle East Tor Wennesland over the political and field developments in Gaza, Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian territories,” Hamas said in a statement.
The statement did not disclose additional details about talks with both parties.
Biden: Israel has not ‘over-reacted’
U.S. President Joe Biden said on May 13 that Israel has not over-reacted in its response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
“One of the things that I have seen thus far is that there has not been a significant over-reaction,” Biden said at the White House.
“The question is how we get to a point where, how they get to a point where there is a significant reduction in the attacks, particularly the rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centers,” he added.
Putin, U.N. urge de-escalation in tensions
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged on May 13 de-escalation in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at a videoconference in Moscow, Putin and Guterres called “the first priority” to stop the violent actions on both sides and ensure the safety of the civilian population.
They also stressed the necessity of the two-state solution for the Palestinian issue, “based on the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and generally recognized international legal norms”.
In a separate statement, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia is making efforts to reduce escalation in the region, encouraging the sides to ease tensions through political and diplomatic means.
Commenting on the situation at a news conference, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia is in touch with all sides, and condemns attacks against the civilians.
“Russia, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and a member of the Quartet for the Middle East, in cooperation with regional and international structures, continues to seek a comprehensive and sustainable settlement in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. They envisage the creation of two states – Palestine and Israel,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency – Rosaviation – recommended all the airlines to fly around Palestine and Israel while the largest Russian airline – Aeroflot – announced it cancels all flights to Tel-Aviv on May 14 aiming limitations, introduced in work of Ben-Gurion airport.
Hurriyet Daily News