Two Thai workers killed in Israel by rocket launched from Gaza

Two Thai workers killed in Israel by rocket launched from Gaza
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip to Israel (AP/Hatem Moussa)

A rocket launched from Gaza has killed two Thai workers in southern Israel hours after Israeli air strikes toppled a six-storey building in the Palestinian territory that housed book stores and educational centres.

With the war showing no sign of abating, Palestinians across the region have gone on a general strike in a rare collective action against Israel’s policies.

Violence erupted at protests in the occupied West Bank, including in the city of Ramallah. Hundreds of Palestinians burned tyres and hurled stones toward an Israeli military checkpoint. Troops fired tear gas canisters at the crowd and protesters picked up some of them and threw them back.

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)

One protester was killed and more than 70 others wounded – including 16 by live fire – in clashes with Israeli troops in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and other cities, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The Israeli army said two soldiers were wounded by gunshots to the leg.

The general strike was an uncommon 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. It threatened to further widen the conflict after a spasm of communal violence in Israel and protests across the West Bank last week.

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. Israel blames the war on Hamas and accuses it of inciting violence across the region.

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

Since the fighting began last week between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the Israeli military has launched hundreds of air strikes it says are targeting Hamas’s militant infrastructure, while Palestinian militants have fired more than 3,400 rockets from civilian areas in Gaza at civilian targets in Israel.

The latest attack from Gaza hit a packaging plant in a region bordering the territory. In addition to the two people killed, who were in their 30s, Israel’s Magen David Adom rescue service said it transported another seven wounded to the hospital. Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said the wounded were also Thai.

The Israeli military said militants also fired rockets at the Erez pedestrian crossing and at the Kerem Shalom crossing, where humanitarian aid was being brought into Gaza, forcing both to close. It said a soldier was lightly wounded in the attack on Erez.

Israel continued its air strikes into Gaza, leaving behind a massive mound of rubble in its attack on the six-storey building with centres used by the Islamic University and other colleges.

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)

Israel warned the building’s residents ahead of time and there were no reports of casualties.

Heavy fighting broke out on 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 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. Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed in the fighting, while Israel says the number is at least 160.

Twelve people in Israel, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks.

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.

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.

As the fighting drags on, medical supplies, fuel and water are running low in Gaza, 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. Nearly 47,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.

Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and entirely destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organisation said in a new report. Nearly half of all essential drugs in the territory have run out.

Israel has vowed to press on with its operations, and the United States signalled it would not pressure the two sides for a ceasefire even as President Joe Biden said he supported one.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the bombardments had set the Palestinian militants back many years.

“I am sure that all our enemies around us see the price we have levied for the aggression against us,” he said, speaking in front of an F-16 fighter jet at an air force base in a video released by his office.

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