News / Middle East

Gaza Fighting Deepens, Flight Ban Holds

Palestinians take cover during an Israeli air strike on a house in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, July 23, 2014.
Palestinians take cover during an Israeli air strike on a house in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, July 23, 2014.
Reuters

Gaza fighting raged on Wednesday, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said indirect truce talks between Israel and Hamas had made some progress.

While pressing a 15-day-old offensive, Israel scrambled to contain economic damage from a halt of flights to Tel Aviv's main airport by U.S. and European airlines spooked by the long-range rocket salvoes of Hamas and other Gaza Strip guerrillas.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Adding to pressure on Israel, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said there was "a strong possibility'' that it was committing war crimes in Gaza, where 668 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.

Israel denied the suggestion, stepping up the war of words and accusing Hamas of using fellow Gazans as human shields.

Palestinian fatalities by date, July 8 - 22, 2014Palestinian fatalities by date, July 8 - 22, 2014
x
Palestinian fatalities by date, July 8 - 22, 2014
Palestinian fatalities by date, July 8 - 22, 2014

Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt rocket salvoes by Hamas and its allies, which have struggled under an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade on Gaza and angered by a crackdown on their supporters in the nearby occupied West Bank.

After aerial and naval bombardment failed to quell the outgunned guerrillas, Israel poured ground forces into the Gaza Strip last Thursday, looking to knock out Hamas's rocket stores and destroy a vast, underground network of tunnels.

"We are meeting resistance around the tunnels ... they are constantly trying to attack us around and in the tunnels. That is the trend,'' Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said on Wednesday.

  • Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City, July 23, 2014.
  • A Palestinian man, in clothes stained with the blood of his father who medics said was killed by Israeli shelling, mourns at a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 23, 2014.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem, July 23, 2014.
  • Israeli airport workers pass a sign pointing to a shelter for refuge in case a warning siren indicates the possibility of an incoming rocket, at Ben Gurion International airport, Tel Aviv, July 23, 2014.
  • An arrivals board displays canceled and delayed flights in Ben Gurion International airport a day after the U.S. FAA imposed a 24-hour restriction on flights after a Hamas rocket landed close to the airport, Tel Aviv, July 23, 2014.
  • An Israeli military helicopter evacuates soldiers, wounded during an offensive in Gaza, near the border with the central Gaza Strip, July 23, 2014.
  • A Palestinian firefighter walks amidst the rubble of a house that witnesses said was hit by an Israeli air strike, Gaza City, July 23, 2014.
  • Palestinian rescue workers inspect the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City July 23, 2014.
  • A video journalist makes his way through rubble of a building destroyed by an Israeli strike in Gaza City, July 23, 2014.
  • A relative of Israeli soldier Jordan Ben-Simon, who also held French citizenship and was killed in fighting in Gaza, mourns over his coffin during his funeral in Ashkelon, Israel, July 22, 2014.
  • Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, July 22, 2014.

Military losses rise

Hamas and a smaller Gaza faction, Islamic Jihad, said they killed several Israeli soldiers in two separate ambushes on Wednesday. Israel had no immediate comment on those claims.

Some 29 troops have been confirmed killed so far in the conflagration. Three civilians have died in rocket attacks out of Gaza, including a foreign laborer hit on Wednesday.

The military says one of its soldiers is also missing and believes he might be dead. Hamas says it has captured him, but has not released a picture of him in their hands.

Flight ban

Airlines from the United States and Europe canceled more flights to Israel on Wednesday after rocket fire from Gaza hit near the county's main international airport earlier this week.

Citing a "potentially hazardous situation" as Israel and Hamas continue to exchange fire, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration renewed a 24-hour ban on U.S. carriers like Delta, American, and United from flying to Israel's Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf acknowledged Wednesday that Hamas has rockets that could reach Ben Gurion airport, but the accuracy of those weapons is limited.

"During current fighting Hamas rockets have landed north of the airport although the accuracy of their rockets does remain limited," she said

The FAA action represented a public relations coup for Hamas, which is anxious to dent Israel's global image. However, the Tel Aviv stock exchange and Shekel were flat, with traders showing little immediate concern about the flight stoppages.

An Israeli official said Netanyahu had asked Kerry to help restore the U.S. flights. A U.S. official said the Obama administration would not "overrule the FAA'' on a security precaution but noted the ban would be reviewed after 24 hours.

However, U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines said it would extend its suspension of flights on Wednesday, as did Germany's Lufthansa and Air Berlin as Polish airline LOT.

Gaza StripGaza Strip
x
Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip

Clouds of black smoke hung over Gaza, some 65-km (40 miles) south of Ben Gurion, with the regular thud of artillery and tank shells filling the air.

Mosque attack

Palestinian medics said two worshippers were killed and 30 wounded in an attack on a mosque in the heart of the densely populated Zeitoun neighborhood in eastern Gaza City.

 In southern Abassan and Khuzaa villages, residents said they were besieged by Israeli snipers who wounded two Palestinians as they tried to emerge from hiding with white flags in hand. Israeli tanks fired shells near ambulances, discouraging their approach to recover casualties, witnesses said.

PLO

In a move that could effectively turn Abbas into the main Palestinian point person for any Gaza truce, his umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on Wednesday formally supported core conditions set by the Hamas-led fighters.

These demands include the release of hundreds of Hamas supporters recently arrested in the nearby West Bank and an end to the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has stymied the economy and made it near impossible for anyone to travel abroad.

Egypt has tried to get both sides to hold fire and then negotiate terms for protracted calm in Gaza, which has been rocked by regular bouts of violence since Israel unilaterally pulled out of the territory in 2005.

Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist, balked at Cairo's original, barebones offer. The dispute was further complicated by distrust between Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamas.

Egyptian sources said a unified Palestinian position could help achieve a deal. Unlike Hamas, Abbas and his Western-backed PLO have pursued peacemaking with Israel for two decades.

Death, destruction

Gaza's Health Ministry said 49 Palestinians were killed on Wednesday, many of them in the southern town of Khan Younis -- one of the focal points of Israel's recent assault.

In the far north, residents continued to flee Beit Hanoun as  Israeli tanks thrust deeper into the border town and destroyed nearby orchards in their search for hidden Hamas tunnels.

"Columns of people are heading west of Beit Hanoun, looking for a safe shelter. This is not war, this is annihilation,'' said 17-year-old Hamed Ayman. "I once dreamt of becoming a doctor. Today I am homeless. They should watch out for what I could become next.''

Gaza officials said that so far in the 16-day conflict, 475 houses had been totally destroyed by Israeli fire and 2,644 partially damaged. Some 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals had also suffered varying degrees of destruction.

"There seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,'' the U.N.'s Pillay told an emergency session at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

She also condemned indiscriminate, militant rocket and mortar attacks out of Gaza.

 Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the U.N. rights council was an "anti-Israel'' body.

"Israel is acting according to international law. It is acting against terrorism. It is regrettable civilians are killed, but when we call on them to vacate and Hamas calls on them to stay, then that is what happens,'' she told Israel Radio. 

You May Like

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

What Happens When Americans Eat What They Tweet

You are what you tweet, according to new maps that show a correlation between obesity and tweeting about high-fat foods More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs