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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More