Israel persists with air strikes on Gaza as fighting with Lebanon raises fears of wider conflict

People’s dignity and lives must be respected, says UN in call for all sides to defuse ‘explosive powder-keg situation’

Israeli air strikes on Gaza continued throughout Tuesday, day four of the Israel-Hamas war, as continuing clashes along the northern border with Lebanon raised the prospect of a much wider and dangerous regional conflagration.

Large areas of Gaza have already been reduced to rubble, including what was the upscale Gaza city neighbourhood of Rimal, where many of the Hamas leaders had homes. At least 830 people have been killed in Gaza and tens of thousands are homeless.

Israel claimed Hamas economy minister Juad abu Smallah was among those killed in the air strikes.

Israel’s decision to stop the transfer of water, food, electricity and fuel is already being felt and United Nations officials have warned that a humanitarian crisis is looming.


Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said people’s dignity and lives had to be respected as he called for all sides to defuse the “explosive powder-keg situation”.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, speaking after a meeting of EU foreign ministers, said Israel had a right to defend itself, but “cutting water, cutting electricity, cutting food to a mass of civilian people” were actions that were “not in accordance with international law”.

The death toll from the weekend’s attack by Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza, rose to more than 1,000 on Monday, while more than 800 have been killed in Gaza in retaliatory Israeli air strikes.

Speaking on Tuesday night after the EU foreign ministers’ meeting, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said there was “deep concern” about the capacity of the conflict to escalate across the region.

Israel said on Tuesday it was holding the bodies of 1,500 militants who took part in Saturday’s surprise attack, during which the heavily armed gunmen succeeded in entering 22 border communities. The vast majority of those they killed were civilians.

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Israeli forces shot and killed 13 militants in the south of the country on Tuesday despite announcing earlier that the area was now free of militants.

The militants also seized more than 150 Israelis and brought them back to Gaza. A spokesman for the Hamas military wing said there would be no negotiations over a hostage swap as long as Israel’s attacks continued. Another Hamas official threatened to start killing hostages if Israel attacked neighbourhoods without prior warning to residents to evacuate their homes.

Israel said 16 of its citizens and 14 Thai nationals were located safe on Monday night in the border kibbutz of Ein Hashlosha by an army search team, giving hope to the scores of families who have still not located loved ones who have been missing since Saturday.

One such family is the Damti family from the central Israeli town of Gadera, whose Irish-born mother Jennifer was still desperately waiting for information over the fate of her daughter Kim (22), who holds joint Irish and Israeli nationality. Kim was at a music festival in the desert close to the Gaza border where 260 revellers were shot dead by Hamas militants: others were taken across the border to Gaza.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times