Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza pursued further cross-border attacks early on Thursday after Joe Biden called publicly for progress towards a ceasefire and Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue military operations until “quiet and security” is restored.
Israel carried out more than a dozen airstrikes on Gaza after midnight, including two that destroyed two houses in the territory’s south, as the escalation in violence stretched into an 11th day. Medics said four people were wounded in an airstrike on the town of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Israel’s military said its aircraft early on Thursday struck what it said was a “weapons storage unit” in the Gaza City home of a Hamas official, and “military infrastructure located in the residences” of other Hamas commanders, including in Khan Younis.
Rocket sirens blared early on Thursday in the southern Israeli town of Beersheba and in areas bordering Gaza. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
Both sides in the conflict denied on Wednesday that a truce was imminent but efforts are continuing amid growing international pressure. France has circulated a UN resolution adding pressure on the US to demand a ceasefire, and issued a joint statement with Egypt and Jordan that “called on the parties to immediately agree on a ceasefire”. They said they would work with the UN and other partners to ensure humanitarian help for the population of Gaza. The US has already said the resolution would “undermine efforts to de-escalate” violence.
The UN Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, was meeting Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar, Al Jazeera television reported. The 193-member United Nations general assembly was due to meet on the conflict on Thursday with the participation of several foreign ministers but was not expected to take action.
One senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV: “I think that the ongoing efforts regarding the ceasefire will succeed. I expect a ceasefire to be reached within a day or two, and the ceasefire will be on the basis of mutual agreement.”
Egter, the fighting continued with both Israel and the Islamist militants voicing defiance.
Since the fighting began on 10 Mei, Palestinian health officials say 228 people have been killed in aerial bombardments that have worsened Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation. Israeli authorities put the death toll to date at 12 in Israel, where repeated rocket attacks have caused panic and sent people rushing into shelters.
Vroeër, Biden has told Netanyahu that he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire” between Israel and militants in Gaza, in a notable toughening of the US president’s language on the conflict.
The White House said that in a phone call on Wednesday, “the two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States”.
Dit het bygevoeg: “The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.”
But in a statement issued swiftly after the White House disclosed the call, Netanyahu said he was “determined to continue this operation until its objective is achieved: to restore quiet and security to you, citizens of Israel”.