Rocket strike from Gaza kills 2 in Israel amid continued fighting

Rocket strike from Gaza kills 2 in Israel amid continued fighting
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel (AP/Hatem Moussa)

A strike launched from Gaza has killed two Thai workers inside a packaging plant in Israel amid continued fighting between the country and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

The Magen David Adom rescue service said it transported another seven wounded people to the hospital after the projectile attack. It came as Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories went on strike in a rare collective action against Israel’s policies.

With the war in Gaza showing no sign of abating and truce efforts apparently stalled, the general strike and expected protests could widen the conflict after a spasm of communal violence in Israel and protests across the occupied West Bank last week.

Palestinians chant slogans while taking part in an anti-Israel demonstration during a general strike in the West Bank city of Ramallah (AP/Nasser Nasser)

Israel’s air strikes toppled a six-storey building that housed book stores and educational centres used by the Islamic University and other colleges, leaving behind a massive mound of rubble.

Israel warned the building’s residents ahead of time and there were no reports of casualties. Israel said it was targeting militants, their tunnels and rocket launchers across the territory.

Heavy fighting broke out May 10 when Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers fired long-range rockets towards Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel’s heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

At least 213 Palestinians have been killed in heavy air strikes since, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,440 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians.

A Palestinian protester hurls back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

As the fighting drags on, medical supplies, fuel and water are running low in Gaza. Twelve people in Israel, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza towards civilian areas in Israel.

The fighting is the most intense since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, but efforts to halt it have so far stalled. Egyptian mediators are trying to negotiate a ceasefire, but the US has stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the hostilities and Israel has so far vowed to press on.

With no end in sight to the fighting, Palestinians in Israel, east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank observed a general strike on Tuesday. It was a rare show of unity among Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20% of its population, and those in the territories Israel seized in 1967 that the Palestinians have long sought for a future state of their own. Life had already ground to a halt in Gaza when the fighting began.

A Palestinian man inspects the damage of a six-storey building which was destroyed by an early morning Israeli air strike in Gaza City (AP/Khalil Hamra)

The strike was intended to protest against the Gaza war and Israeli policies that many activists and some rights groups say constitute an overarching system of apartheid that denies Palestinians the rights afforded to Jews.

Israel rejects that characterisation, saying its citizens have equal rights. It blames the war on Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, and accuses it of inciting violence across the region.

Leaders of the Palestinian community in Israel called the strike, which was embraced by the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, where ministries and schools were closed. Most businesses appeared to be observing the strike, and protests were expected.

Muhammad Barakeh, one of the organisers of the strike, said Palestinians are expressing a “collective position” against Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza and Jerusalem, as well as the “brutal repression” by police across Israel.

People inspect the rubble of a destroyed residential building that was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City (AP/Adel Hana)

The war has also seen an unusual outbreak of violence in Israel, with groups of Jewish and Palestinian citizens fighting in the streets and torching vehicles and buildings. In both Israel and the West Bank, Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli forces.

The Israeli military said it fired at 65 militant targets, including rocket launchers, a group of fighters and the homes of Hamas commanders that the army said were being used for military purposes. It said more than 60 fighter jets took part in the operation.

The military said it also shot down a drone “approaching the Israeli border” in the north-east, far from the Gaza fighting. It did not say where the unmanned aircraft originated, but it is possible the drone came from Syria.

The military said Palestinian militants fired 90 rockets, 20 of which fell short into Gaza. Israel says its missile defenscs have intercepted about 90% of the rockets.

Israel’s strikes have brought down several buildings and caused widespread damage in the narrow coastal territory, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians and has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

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