Jerusalem, May 6 (AP/UNB) — The leader of Hamas says his group is "not interested in a new war" with Israel, after two days of heavy rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on the blockaded territory.
Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement late Sunday that the militant group is ready to "return to the state of calm" if Israel stops its attacks "and immediately starts implementing understandings about a dignified life."
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza from Western-backed Palestinian forces in 2007. Recent rounds of fighting, however, have ended relatively quickly with informal truces brokered by Egypt and the U.N.
In the past, Hamas has halted attacks in return for the easing of an Egyptian and Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza.
The Gaza Health Ministry says two more Palestinians, including a 12-year-old boy, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes.
The boy was killed Sunday in an Israeli airstrike targeting an apartment building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya.
Another Palestinian man succumbed to wounds he sustained in an airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip earlier in the day.
The recent fatalities raise Gaza's death toll since Saturday to 22, including three women and two infants. At least eight of the dead were Islamic Jihad militants.
Israel has carried out numerous retaliatory strikes against militants in the Gaza Strip in response to over 600 rockets fired at southern Israel in the past day. Four Israeli civilians have been killed by rocket fire and dozens more have been wounded.
A U.N. statement says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "condemns in the strongest terms" the launching of rockets from Gaza and is following the latest developments there with "deep concern."
The statement Sunday says the U.N. secretary-general "urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint, immediately de-escalate and return to the understandings of the past few months."
Palestinian militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel in the last two days, killing at least four Israelis. Israel has pounded Gaza with airstrikes in response, and the Palestinian death toll has risen to 20, including two pregnant women and two babies.
Recent rounds of fighting have ended relatively quickly with a return to informal understandings brokered by U.N. and Egyptian mediators, in which the militants cease fire in exchange for an easing of the Egyptian-Israeli blockade on Gaza.
Gaza's Health Ministry says three Palestinians, including an infant, have been killed in an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza.
The ministry added Sunday that eight other Palestinians were wounded.
Witnesses said the airstrike hit a multi-story apartment building in Beit Lahiya.
There were no further details on those hit in the strike.
The Palestinian death toll in fighting with Israel has risen to 20 since Saturday, including at least eight militants, two women and two infants. At least four Israelis have been killed by Gaza rockets.
Meanwhile, Israel said it was suspending fuel deliveries to Gaza. Diesel, including Qatari-donated fuel for Gaza's only power plant, had continued to enter despite the escalation. Gaza's lone power station said it was turning off one of its three turbines, worsening chronic power shortages.
An Israeli man wounded by a Gaza rocket that hit the city of Ashdod has died of his wounds, raising the Israeli death toll to four in the past day.
An Israeli police spokesman confirmed Sunday that a 35-year-old man, who was wounded in a direct hit on a car in the southern city, has died.
A total of four Israeli civilians were killed by rockets fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip on Sunday, and at least 66 others have been wounded.
The Israeli military says it bombed militant targets in the northern Gaza Strip as it continues retaliatory strikes against Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.
A total of 15 Palestinians, including at least eight militants, have been killed in the current round of fighting.
Israel's security cabinet is vowing to keep up the military offensive against militant groups in the Gaza Strip after a day and a half of rocket barrages.
Cabinet ministers issued a statement Sunday after a nearly five-hour meeting saying the "ultimate consideration is the security of the state and its residents."
Moments earlier a large rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip set off sirens across southern Israel. Paramedics say a rocket struck a car in the southern port of Ashdod, seriously wounding a 35-year-old man.
Three Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rocket fire in the past day, and at least 66 others have been wounded, police say. The Gaza Health Ministry says 16 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, four of them civilians.
Gaza's Health Ministry says three Palestinians, including a pregnant woman, have been killed in an Israeli airstrike.
The ministry said Sunday that Amani al-Madhoun, 33, was killed along with two men, one of them a relative. It says she was nine months pregnant.
The airstrike occurred in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya.
Further details were not immediately available.
On Saturday, another pregnant woman was killed, along with her baby niece, in what Palestinians say was an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli military denied involvement, saying the woman and baby were killed by a misfired Palestinian rocket. There was no way to reconcile the conflicting accounts.
A total of 15 Palestinians, including at least eight militants, have been killed in the current round of fighting. Three Israelis have been killed by Palestinian fire.
Israeli airstrikes have killed another three Palestinians, including at least two militants.
The Gaza Health Ministry says Mohammed Abu Armana, 30, and Mahmoud Abu Armana, 27, were killed in a strike in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza on Sunday. The Islamic Jihad militant group says both were members of its armed wing.
Later, the ministry said a 24-year-old Palestinian was killed in an airstrike on a building in the southern city of Rafah.
The latest outbreak of violence, which began Saturday with a barrage of Palestinian rockets, has killed 12 Palestinians, including eight militants. Rockets fired from Gaza have killed three Israelis.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Israelis have "every right to defend themselves" after Gaza militants intensified a wave of rocket attacks into southern Israel.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Pompeo called the violence "pretty serious."
The flare-up was one of the bloodiest rounds of fighting since a 2014 war. Palestinian rocket fire has killed at least three Israelis and wounded over 100. Israeli retaliatory airstrikes have killed at least nine Palestinians and wounded over 110.
Pompeo said: "I hope we can return to the cease-fire that had been in place for weeks."
The U.N. envoy to the Middle East is calling for a cessation of rocket fire by Palestinian militants in Gaza after over 600 projectiles have been launched at Israel in the past day.
Nickolay Mladenov tweeted Sunday that "enough Palestinian and Israeli lives have been lost, people injured, houses damaged and destroyed," and called for a "return to the understandings of the past few months before it is too late."
Israeli retaliatory airstrikes have killed at least nine Palestinians and wounded over 110, while Palestinian rocket fire has killed three Israelis and wounded over 100.
The U.N., Egypt, and Qatar have been working in recent months broker a lasting cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group ruling the Gaza Strip.
Gaza's Health Ministry says three Palestinians have been killed in a pair of Israeli airstrikes.
An airstrike on a car Sunday killed one man, identified by residents as Hamed al-Khoudary, a Hamas commander. Earlier, Islamic Jihad confirmed the deaths of two militants killed in east Gaza City.
The latest deaths bring to nine the number of Palestinians killed since Saturday, when militants began firing rockets toward Israel.
An Israeli hospital official says a total of three people have been killed from Palestinian rocket fire.
Dr. Ron Lobel, deputy director of the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, said Sunday his hospital has treated over 110 people over the past 24 hours. He confirmed three deaths.
Lobel did not identify the dead, but they appeared to include a man hit early Sunday when a rocket landed in a residential courtyard and two people who were hit near an Ashkelon factory, according to Israeli media.
An Israeli woman was also critically wounded when an anti-tank missile struck the car she was traveling in.
At least eight Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her 14-month-old niece, have also been killed since the fighting erupted Saturday.
An Israeli hospital says it's been hit by shrapnel after an rocket fired from the Gaza Strip was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system.
Dr. Hezi Levy, director of the Barzilai University Medical Center in the city of Ashkelon, says there were no injuries Sunday, but the hospital's oncology unit suffered damage. He says the interception sent a large amount of metal fragments falling onto the hospital.
The medical center released a video of water pouring through the ceiling into a hallway after pipes were damaged by the strike.
The Israeli military says it's struck a series of new targets in the Gaza Strip, including sites it says were hidden in the homes of Hamas militants or concealed in civilian areas.
In an announcement Sunday, the military said jets and attack helicopters have struck tunnels, military compounds, a weapons-manufacturing facility and several rocket-launching sites.
The army says it's struck some 260 targets since fighting erupted a day earlier. Gaza militants have fired hundreds of rockets during that time, and air raid sirens continue to sound throughout southern Israel.
Six Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her 14-month-old niece, as well as one Israeli man have been killed in the fighting.
Israel's main rescue service says a rocket from Gaza has wounded three Israelis, including two seriously.
The Magen David Adom service says the two men, ages 40 and 22, suffered "multisystem trauma" after being hit with shrapnel Sunday in the coastal city of Ashkelon. The third man, 50, was moderately wounded.
Earlier in the day, an Israeli man was killed in Ashkelon, the first Israeli to die from rocket fire since the 2014 war with Hamas militants.
Gaza militants have fired more than 400 rockets at Israel, with several direct hits on residential buildings. A midday burst struck a home in the city of Beersheba.
Gaza's Heath Ministry says six Palestinians have been killed by retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, including a pregnant woman and her 14-month-old niece. The Israeli military says it was not involved in the incident.
The family of a pregnant Palestinian woman killed by fighting in Gaza over the weekend alongside a 14-month-old girl says the woman was the girl's aunt, not her mother as earlier announced.
Gaza health officials initially identified the woman, Falistin Abu Arar, 37, as the girl's mother. But members of the family clarified the relationship on Sunday.
Palestinian officials say the two civilians were killed in an Israeli airstrike Saturday, while the Israeli army says it was not involved in the incident. It says the pair were killed by a misfired Palestinian rocket. The conflicting accounts could not immediately be reconciled.
Gaza militants have fired more than 400 rockets at Israel, killing one Israeli man, in one of the most intense flare-ups in years. Israel says it has struck back against some 220 targets, killing eight militants.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Gaza's Hamas rulers are paying a "heavy price" for the rocket attacks against Israel.
At the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said Hamas is not only responsible for its own militant actions but also those of the Islamic Jihad group, which operates in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu says he has instructed the military to continue its large-scale airstrikes against militant sites in Gaza and has ordered armor, artillery and infantry reinforcements up to the besieged enclave's perimeter.
Gaza militants have fired more than 400 rockets at Israel over the past day, killing one Israeli man, in one of the most intense flare-ups of violence in years. Israel says it has struck back against some 220 targets, killing eight militants. A pregnant Palestinian woman and her young daughter have also been killed in the fighting.
The Israeli military says an errant Palestinian rocket that misfired — not an Israeli airstrike — caused the death of a pregnant Palestinian mother and her 14-month-old girl in the Gaza Strip.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus on Sunday disputed the Gaza Health Ministry's statement that an Israeli strike killed the Palestinian woman, 37, and her daughter, Seba Abu Arar, in their east Gaza City home the previous day.
Conricus says Israeli forces have killed eight militants amid strikes against some 220 targets in the Gaza Strip. He says these were all deemed "high-quality," legitimate militant sites, including the homes of militants in which militant activity was taking place. He says he has no knowledge of civilians being harmed by Israeli fire.
In the new round of violence, militants in Gaza have fired over 400 rockets into southern Israel in the last 24 hours, killing one Israeli man, Moshe Agadi.
Israeli medical officials say an early morning rocket from Gaza has killed an Israeli man outside a home in the coastal city of Ashkelon.
After being struck by shrapnel Sunday, 58-year-old Moshe Agadi has died of his wounds, marking the first Israeli casualty from rocket fire since the 2014 war with Hamas militants.
Gaza militants have fired more than 400 rockets at Israel over the past day in one of the most intense flareups of violence in years, which broke a monthlong lull.
Israel's Iron Dome defense system intercepted dozens of the projectiles but four Israelis were wounded, including an elderly man who's in a critical condition.
Israel has retaliated with dozens of airstrikes against militant sites in Gaza. Six Palestinians, including a pregnant mother and her baby, were killed.
Jerusalem, May 6 (AP/UNB) — Gaza militants fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel on Sunday, killing at least four Israelis and bringing life to a standstill across the region in the bloodiest fighting since a 2014 war. As Israel pounded Gaza with airstrikes, the Palestinian death toll rose to 23, including two pregnant women and two babies.
The bloodshed marked the first Israeli fatalities from rocket fire since the 2014 war. With Palestinian militants threatening to send rockets deeper into Israel and Israeli reinforcements massing near the Gaza frontier, the fighting showed no signs of slowing down.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent most of the day huddled with his Security Cabinet. Late Sunday, the Cabinet instructed the army to “continue its attacks and to stand by” for further orders. Israel also claimed to have killed a Hamas commander involved in transferring Iranian funds to the group.
Israel and Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction, have fought three wars since Hamas violently seized control of Gaza from Western-backed Palestinian forces in 2007. They have fought numerous smaller battles, most recently two rounds in March.
While lulls in fighting used to last for months or even years, these flare-ups have grown increasingly frequent as a desperate Hamas, weakened by a crippling Egyptian-Israeli blockade imposed 12 years ago, seeks to put pressure on Israel to ease the closure.
The blockade has ravaged Gaza’s economy, and a year of Hamas-led protests along the Israeli frontier has yielded no tangible benefits. In March, Hamas faced several days of street protests over the dire conditions.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement late Sunday that the militant group was “not interested in a new war.”
He signaled readiness to “return to the state of calm” if Israel stopped its attacks “and immediately starts implementing understandings about a dignified life.”
With little to lose, Hamas appears to be trying to step up pressure on Netanyahu at a time when the Israeli leader is vulnerable on several fronts.
Fresh off an election victory, Netanyahu is now engaged in negotiations with his hard-line political partners on forming a governing coalition. If fighting drags on, the normally cautious Netanyahu could be weakened in his negotiations as his partners push for a tougher response.
Later this week, Israel marks Memorial Day, one of the most solemn days of the year, and its festive Independence Day. Next week, Israel is to host the Eurovision song contest. Prolonged fighting could overshadow these important occasions and deter foreign tourists.
The arrival of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins Monday, does not seem to be deterring Hamas.
But the group is also taking a big risk if it pushes too hard. During the 50-day war in 2014, Israel killed over 2,200 Palestinians, over half of them civilians, according to U.N. tallies, and caused widespread damage to homes and infrastructure. While Hamas is eager to burnish its credentials as a resistance group, the Gazan public has little stomach for another devastating war.
“Hamas is the change seeker,” said retired Brig. Gen. Assaf Orion, a former head of the Israeli military general staff’s strategic division. “Hamas needs to make its calculus, balancing its hope for improvement against its fear of escalation.”
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Israelis have “every right to defend themselves.” He expressed hope that the recent cease-fire could be restored.
President Donald Trump warned the Gaza militants that “these terrorist acts against Israel will bring you nothing but more misery.” ″We support Israel 100% in its defense of its citizens....” he tweeted. “END the violence and work towards peace - it can happen!”
The U.N. Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, called for a halt in rocket fire and “a return to the understandings of the past few months before it is too late.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also called for a halt to “indiscriminate rocket attacks” from Gaza and expressed support for Egyptian and U.N. mediation efforts.
Previous rounds of fighting have all ended in informal Egyptian-mediated truces in which Israel pledged to ease the blockade while militants promised to halt rocket fire. Following a familiar pattern, the current round began with sporadic rocket fire amid Palestinian accusations that Israel was not keeping its promises to loosen the blockade.
On Friday, two Israeli soldiers were wounded by snipers from Islamic Jihad, a smaller Iranian-backed militant group that often cooperates with Hamas but sometimes acts independently. Israel responded by killing two Palestinian militants, leading to intense rocket barrages and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes beginning Saturday.
Islamic Jihad threatened to strike deeper into Israel, saying it “is ready to engage in an open confrontation and can open a broader front to defend our land and people.”
By Sunday, the Israeli military said militants had fired over 600 rockets, with the vast majority falling in open areas or intercepted by the Iron Dome rocket-defense system. But more than 30 rockets managed to strike urban areas, the army said.
Israeli officials said Moshe Agadi, a 58-year-old Israeli father of four, was fatally struck in the chest by shrapnel in a residential courtyard in the southern town of Ashkelon.
The other deaths included a 49-year-old man killed when a rocket hit an Ashkelon factory, a man who was killed when his vehicle was hit by a Kornet anti-tank missile near the Gaza border, and a 35-year-old man whose car was hit by a rocket in the southern city of Ashdod.
Israeli police said 66 people were wounded, three seriously. In Ashkelon, the Barzilai hospital itself was hit by debris from a rocket that was intercepted by an Iron Dome missile.
The Israeli deaths were the first rocket-related fatalities since the 2014 war, when 73 people, including six civilians, were killed on the Israeli side.
The Israeli military said it struck 250 targets in Gaza, including weapons storage, attack tunnels and rocket launching and production facilities. It also deployed tanks and infantry forces to the Gaza frontier, and put another brigade on standby.
“We have been given orders to prepare for a number of days of fighting under current conditions,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman.
Palestinian medical officials reported 23 dead, including at least eight militants hit in targeted airstrikes. At least four civilians, including two pregnant women and two babies, were also among the dead.
Late Saturday, the Palestinians said a 37-year-old pregnant woman and her 14-month-old niece were killed in an Israeli airstrike. The army denied involvement, saying they were killed by an errant Palestinian rocket. There was no way to reconcile the claims.
Among the militants who were killed was Hamas commander Hamed al-Khoudary, a money changer whom Israel said was a key player in transferring Iranian funds to the militant group.
Late Sunday, an Israeli airstrike hit an apartment building in northern Gaza, killing a couple in their early 30s and their 4-month-old daughter. A 12-year-old boy was also killed in northern Gaza.
Sirens wailed along Israel’s border region throughout the day warning of incoming attacks. School was canceled and roads were closed. In Gaza, large explosions thundered across the blockaded enclave during the night as plumes of smoke rose into the air.
Hamas seized control of Gaza from the forces of internationally recognized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Despite his fierce rivalry with Hamas, Abbas appealed to the international community “to stop the Israeli aggression against our people.”
Moscow, May 6 (AP/UNB) — Russia's transportation minister says 41 bodies have been recovered from the burned wreckage of an Aeroflot plane at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.
Minister Yevgeny Dietrich also told reporters in a Monday briefing that six people who survived the disaster Sunday night have been hospitalized.
The plane, a Sukhoi SSJ100, caught fire while making an emergency landing at the airport, after turning back on a flight to Murmansk for unspecified reasons.
Russia's Investigative Committee says the flight recorders from the plane have been recovered and that investigators are looking into inexperienced pilots, equipment failure and bad weather as possible causes for the disaster.
Russia's main investigative body says both flight recorders have been recovered from the plane that caught fire while making an emergency landing at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, killing at least 40 people.
Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko was also quoted by Russian news agencies on Monday as saying investigators are looking into three main possibilities behind the cause of the disaster: insufficient pilot qualifications, equipment failure and weather.
Video on Russian TV showed the plane's underside bursting into flames and spewing black smoke after making a hard landing Sunday night. Those who escaped leapt out of the plane down inflatable emergency slides and ran across the tarmac.
Storms were passing through the Moscow area as when the Aeroflot SSJ100 regional jet caught fire during the emergency landing, after it turned back for unspecified reasons en route to Murmansk.
North Macedonia, May 5 (AP/UNB) — Polls have opened in North Macedonia for a presidential election runoff between two top vote-getters from the first round.
More than 3,400 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. Sunday.
The two candidates, Stevo Pendarovski of the ruling Social Democrats, and Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, backed by the conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, finished in a near dead heat, with about 42% of the votes each, in the first round on April 21.
A key question is whether turnout will reach the 40% needed for the election to be valid. The first round barely made it past, with a turnout of 41.8%.
If declared invalid, the two-round contest for the largely ceremonial post will be repeated.
Indonesia, May 5 (AP/UNB) — Indonesian authorities resumed their tough stance against illegal fishing in the country's waters by sinking 51 foreign ships Saturday, as the government ramps up efforts to exert greater control over its vast maritime territory.
The seized ships were sunk at five ports across the archipelago, which has some of the world's richest fishing grounds, the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry said in a statement.
The seized vessels sunk included 38 Vietnamese-flagged ships, 6 Malaysian, 2 Chinese and 1 Filipino. The rest were foreign-owned ships using Indonesian flag.
Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said in a speech that the illegal boats were a threat to the local fishing industry. Their operators are frequently perpetrators of modern day slavery.
"This crime of illegal fishing in our waters was out of mind," Pudjiastuti said. "We can't tolerate anymore."
Saturday's events were carried out in a low-key fashion compared with previous occasions, when boats were blown to pieces and their destruction broadcast live.
A video taken off Datuk island in West Kalimantan province and released by the ministry showed Pudjiastuti and other fishery officers scrambling to an adjacent boat from a sinking vessel that had been filled with sand and flooded. She clapped her hands when she saw several ships successfully sunk.
The move came a week after an Indonesian navy patrol ship was rammed by two Vietnamese coast guard ships after intercepting a boat it says was fishing illegally in its waters. The Vietnamese claimed that the area was Vietnamese waters.
Indonesia detained 12 Vietnamese fishermen from the boat, which sank in last Saturday's clash, and they are being held at a naval base on Natuna island.
Indonesian government says it has sunk more than 500 illegal fishing vessels since October 2014, many with explosives.
Last year, the ministry sunk 125 mostly foreign vessels, included 86 Vietnamese-flagged ships, 20 Malaysian and 14 from the Philippines.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, claims a huge exclusive economic zone, which is frequently penetrated by foreign fishing vessels. Its northerly reaches are regarded by China as its traditional fishing grounds despite their distance from the Chinese mainland.