Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he is not planning any “immediate” end to deadly airstrikes Sunday on Gaza, hours after his military’s jet fighters flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 people.
Since the fighting began Monday, more than 192 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 58 children and 22 women, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. At least 10 Israelis have been killed in the rocket attacks, including a six-year-old.
In a televised address, Netanyahu told the Jewish state that the attacks were continuing at “full force” and will “take time.”
“I hope it won’t take long,” Netanyahu told CBS’s “Face the Nation” show in the United States. But he said the end of the attacks was “not immediate” despite international efforts to broker a case-fire in the week-long exchange of missile fire between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
“We were attacked by Hamas...unprovoked attacks on Jerusalem,” the Israeli capital, Netanyahu said.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to restore order and quiet,” he said in the television interview. “We’re trying to degrade Hamas’s terrorist ability and to degrade their will to do this again.”
Netanyahu spoke after the deadliest attacks since the devastating war in Gaza in 2014. The Israeli airstrikes targeted a major downtown street of residential buildings and store fronts over a five-minute period after midnight, flattening two adjacent buildings and another about 50 meters away.
Early Sunday, Israel bombed the house of Yehya Al-Sinwar, the top Hamas Leader in Gaza, on the seventh straight day of hostilities. It was not immediately clear if Sinwar was home. An Associated Press report said he was “likely in hiding along with the rest of the group’s upper echelon.”
Netanyahu defended the destruction Saturday of a 12-story building in Gaza City where the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera news organizations were based, as well as apartments and other offices.
The building’s owner received a warning by telephone from the Israeli military an hour before the attack and AP staffers and other building occupants evacuated the building immediately. Netanyahu said no one was injured in the attack. Al-Jazeera continued to broadcast the airstrikes as the building collapsed.
The Israeli leader said the building, in addition to housing the media offices, was home to the “intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization.”
“It is a perfectly legitimate target,” he contended.
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement the news organization was “shocked and horrified” by Israel’s attack on the building, while noting it had received a warning from Israel.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” Pruitt warned.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Pruitt and “offered his unwavering support for independent journalists and media organizations around the world and noted the indispensability of their reporting in conflict zones,” according to spokesman Ned Price. “He expressed relief that the Associated Press team on the ground in Gaza remains safe.”
The Israeli military said, without evidence, that it destroyed the building because intelligence operatives within the Islamist militant group, Hamas, were using media offices as “human shields.”
“AP’s bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” the news organization responded. “We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”
Separately, hundreds of people took to the streets in Lebanon Sunday to protest the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
The U.N. Security Council met Sunday to try to figure out how to quell the violence and the United States dispatched a diplomat to the region to try to broker a cease-fire.
The latest outbreak of fighting began last Monday after conflicts in east Jerusalem last month. Palestinian clashes with police erupted in response to Israeli police tactics during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Jewish settlers threatening to evict dozens of Palestinian families. A focal point of the unrest was the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located on a hilltop compound that is revered by both Muslims and Jews.
On Saturday, Netanyahu said the air bombardment will “continue as long as needed.”
“You cannot hide — not above ground, and not underground. Nobody is immune,” he said, speaking to the leaders of Hamas in Gaza, and he thanked U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders for their support.
Biden called Netanyahu on Saturday and said he condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and reaffirmed his support for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas and other terrorist groups. The U.S. leader also expressed concern for the safety of journalists and the need to ensure their protection, according to a White House readout of the call.
Biden also spoke by phone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, their first conversation since Biden assumed the U.S. presidency in January.
He updated Abbas on U.S. diplomatic efforts to end the ongoing conflict, stressing that Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel. Biden also underscored his commitment to a “negotiated two-state solution as the best path to reach a just and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the White House said.
Hady Amr, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, was in Israel and set to meet with Israeli leaders Sunday, then with Palestinian officials in the West Bank to find a “sustainable calm,” the State Department said.
European Union foreign ministers will have a videoconference Tuesday about the escalating fighting between Israel and the Palestinians. Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said on Twitter Sunday that the ministers will “discuss how the EU can best contribute to end the current violence.”