Israel strikes Gaza tunnels as truce efforts remain elusive

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A man inspects the rubble of destroyed commercial building and Gaza health care clinic following an Israeli airstrike on the upper floors of a commercial building near the Health Ministry in Gaza City, on Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

GAZA – The Israeli military unleashed another heavy wave of airstrikes Monday on the Gaza Strip, saying it destroyed militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders. International diplomacy to end the weeklong war that has killed hundreds appeared to make little headway.

Israel has said it will press on for now with its attacks against Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, and the United States signaled it would not pressure the two sides for a cease-fire even as President Joe Biden said he supported one.

The latest attacks destroyed the five-story building housing the Hamas-run Religious Affairs Ministry, a building Israel said housed the main operations center of Hamas' internal security forces. Israel also killed a top Gaza leader of Islamic Jihad, another militant group whom the Israeli military blamed for some of the thousands of rocket attacks launched at Israel in recent days. Israel said its strikes destroyed 15 kilometers (9 miles) of tunnels used by militants.

At least 212 Palestinians have been killed in the week of airstrikes, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Ten people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.

Violence has also erupted between Jews and Arabs inside Israel, leaving scores of people injured. On Monday, a Jewish man attacked last week by a group of Arabs in the central city of Lod died of his wounds, according to police.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top security officials on Monday evening and later said Israel would “continue to strike terror targets” in Gaza. “We will continue to operate as long as necessary in order to return calm and security to all Israeli citizens,” he said.

The new airstrikes, which hit Gaza overnight Monday and again in the evening, hollowed out one floor of a multistory concrete building and killed five people. A woman picked through clothing, rubble and splintered furniture in a room that had been destroyed. One strike demolished the wall of one room, leaving untouched an open cabinet filled with bedding inside. Children walked over debris in the road.

A car in the street that witnesses said was hit by an airstrike was bent and torn, its roof ripped back and what was left of the driver's side door smeared with blood. A beachside cafe the car had just left was splintered and on fire. Rescue workers tried to put out the blaze with a small fire extinguisher.