May 16 (UPI) — Israeli airstrikes in Gaza early Sunday killed at least 42 people, including more than a dozen children, in the deadliest day since fighting between the two sides erupted last Monday, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
The ministry said the death toll overnight included 16 women and 10 children. More than 50 other people were also wounded in the strikes.
Among the dead, most of whom were from the extended al-Kolak family, were two toddlers, ages 1 and 3, as well as Palestinian doctor Ahmad Abu al-Aouf, who was director of internal medicine at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital, The Times of Israel reported.
One of area’s few neurologist was also reportedly killed.
Yehiyeh Sinwar, the most senior Hamas leader inside the territory, and his brother Muhammad, also a senior Hamas member, were targeted in a separate strike in the southern town of Khan Younis, the Hindustan Times reported, according to Israeli military. Homes of senior Hamas leaders were attacked twice before.
Dozens were under a collapsed building in an upscale upscale al-Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City, according to the Palestinian Civil Defense organization.
“We’re hearing screams under the rubble,” a member of the Civil Defense told the Al-Jazeera TV network as the search and rescue operation continued behind him.
The Ministry of Health said it expects the death toll to rise.
“The Ministry of Health’s emergency response teams are still working to extract trapped people and dead bodies from under the rubble,” it said in a statement.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said as of 6 p.m. Sunday, 192, including 58 children and 34 women, have died and 1,235 wounded since the fighting between Hamas and Israel began on Monday night.
Israel has said it does not target civilians with most members of terror groups or residents killed by errant Palestinian rockets. It also blames Hamas of hiding military targets among residential buildings to use civilians as human shields.
The Israeli Army said Palestinian terrorists have as of as of 7 p.m. Sunday fired about 3,100 rockets at the nation since the outbreak of fighting seven days ago.
“That’s the highest daily rate of rocket fire that Israel has faced in the history of the country,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “The threat is real.”
About 90% of the rockets were intercepted with 450 falling back into Gaza, it said. Ten people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl, have been killed and hundreds have been injured.
U.S. diplomat Hady Amr has been dispatched to the region and the U.N. Security Council is set to meet. The U.S. government has been attempting to de-escalate the crisis but has affirmed its support for Israel.
“The campaign will continue as long as it is required,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised speech Saturday. He alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building.
Earlier Saturday, airstrikes leveled a 12-story al-Jalaa Building, where the offices of the Associated Press, the TV network Al-Jazeera and other media outlets are located, along with several floors of apartments.
“We now have an International Criminal Court investigation open on the situation in the Palestinian Territories, since 2014,” Saleh Hijazi, deputy regional director at Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa, told Al Jazeera. “We call on the ICC to look into this incident.” He was referring to the bombing of international media offices.
“Such a disproportionate attack amounts to war crime. In addition, this follows a pattern of collective punishment against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”