UN Secretary-General calls for immediate ceasefire in fierce Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes target Palestinian enclaves early May 17, 2021 local time.

On Sunday (May 16), UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the fierce clashes between Israel and Palestinian militants “utterly appalling” and urged an immediate ceasefire.

“This latest round of violence will only perpetuate the cycle of death, destruction and despair and push any hope of coexistence and peace further into the horizon,” Guterres told a UN Security Council meeting.

Israeli airstrikes early Sunday killed at least 42 Palestinians in Gaza, including 10 children, according to Gaza health officials. The death toll in Gaza has reached at least 188 since the conflict began last Monday. And 10 Israelis have died in rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.

The most violent conflict in several years lasted seven days. Guterres (Antonio Guterres) urged an immediate cease-fire Sunday, saying, “The fighting must stop, it must stop immediately. The rockets and mortars on one side, the airstrikes and artillery bombardments on the other side must stop.” “I call on all sides to heed that call.”

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke Saturday with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to resolve the growing conflict. Biden’s envoy, Hady Amr, also arrived in Israel on Friday as part of the U.S. government’s efforts to reduce the scale of the fighting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel’s campaign against militant groups will not end immediately.

“We will do everything we can to restore order.” In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Netanyahu said, “I hope it won’t take long. It’s not immediate (that can be done).”

Both Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip vowed to continue cross-border fire after Israel targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed the offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. In retaliation for the destruction of the Al Jazeera building, Hamas fired 120 rockets overnight in retaliation, but many of them were intercepted.

“Our operations against terrorist organizations are continuing at full strength,” Netanyahu said in a televised address. “We are acting now when necessary to restore calm and quiet for you, the citizens of Israel.”

Netanyahu argued that the Israelis had been informed of the presence of Hamas military offices in the Gaza building, but provided no proof. “It is a perfectly legitimate target,” he said. He added that the military had warned civilians to evacuate.

The Jerusalem Post said senior Hamas members have been purged by the dozens, and that in addition to military and intelligence commanders, senior Hamas military-industrial, cyber and communications commanders are now among those targeted. Israel has killed Jamal Zabda, a leading member of Hamas’s rocket force (and head of its missile improvement program), Jamal Khatib, a senior Hamas weapons production official who served as deputy chief of general staff, and Jamal Tala, commander of Hamas’s cyber warfare chief. In particular, the killing of Bassem Issa, Hamas leader Deif’s right-hand man and the Gaza regional commander of Hamas’s inner circle, was a major blow to Hamas.