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Gaza: With no end in sight, Israel intensifies bombing campaign

As Palestinian death toll mounts, Israel vows to push on with war ahead of UN Security Council meeting
A building hit and destroyed during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 15 May.
A building hit and destroyed during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 15 May (AFP)

Israel bombed Gaza throughout Saturday as Palestinians marked Nakba Day with protests and mourning in the West Bank, amid global solidarity demonstrations but the absence of serious effort from western governments to pressure Israel to stop the war.

The Israeli military intensified its bombing of the besieged Palestinian territory on Saturday night and early on Sunday. 

The Palestinian health ministry reported that five people were killed, bringing the Palestinian death toll from the crisis to at least 145.

The UN Security Council will meet on Sunday to discuss the conflict, but the United States, which holds veto power at the international body, has not called for an immediate ceasefire.

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the war will go on "as long as necessary," and Washington appears to be on board. 

Hamas and Palestinian groups continued firing rockets towards Israel on Saturday. Footage shared on social media showed Israel's missile defences intercepting dozens of rockets above Tel Aviv at night.

Israel hits media building

Early in the day, Israel bombed a 12-storey tower housing the offices of major media outlets, including the Associated Press, Middle East Eye and Al Jazeera.

The Israeli military gave journalists an hour to evacuate the building.

Free press advocates were quick to denounce the attack. The AP's CEO Gary Pruitt said he was "shocked and horrified" by the Israeli bombing.

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"This bombing is yet another attempt by Israel to dominate the narrative by excluding factual reporting of their air strikes on Gaza," MEE said in a statement. 

"There is now mounting evidence that civilian towers with no military usage or record of involvement are being targeted by the Israeli air force."

But the global outrage did not translate into denouncing statements from major western capitals.

Israel had claimed, without evidence, that the building was being used by Hamas, and Netanyahu tweeted a video of the bombing lauding the attack.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced "unwavering support" for journalists after a call with the AP's Pruitt but did not mention the attack by Israel.

US President Joe Biden expressed unquestioning backing for Israel, according to a White House statement describing a call between him and Netanyahu.

The White House also reiterated support for what it calls "Israel's right to defend itself". The Pentagon also echoed that stance after a call between US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz.

Biden had also held a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The White House said the US president "stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel" during the call.

West Bank protests

While violence raged in Gaza, in the occupied West Bank, protests marking Nakba Day - the anniversary of the mass displacement of Palestinians leading to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 - were met by a crackdown from the Israeli military.

Israeli police fatally shot at least one Palestinian in the West Bank near a refugee camp south of Hebron. 

Protesters on Saturday held funerals for 11 Palestinians killed a day earlier.

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"Today, the Palestinian people - wherever they are - are united, despite Israeli attempts of division," Essam Bakr, the co-ordinator of local groups in Ramallah and al-Bireh, told MEE. 

"Today, we are united in our rejection of the ethnic cleansing policies being carried out in occupied Jerusalem and the massacres committed by the Israeli army in Gaza."

In London, Washington, New York, Baghdad, Dublin and cities across the world, thousands gathered to express solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, governments allied with Israel continued to express "concern" about the violence without criticising Israeli abuses.

"Canada reiterates the fundamental importance of protecting journalists and will always stand for media freedom," Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau wrote in a tweet on Saturday. 

"They are the cornerstone of any fair, strong, and vibrant society and must be free to do their work. Their safety and security must always be ensured."

For its part, China, which chairs the UN Security Council this month, blamed the United States for the international body's failure to act so far.

"Regrettably, the council has so far failed to reach an agreement, with the United States standing on the opposite side of international justice," China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, as quoted by the state-run Xinhua News Agency after a call with his Pakistani counterpart.