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Israeli shelling of Gaza continues; Hamas predicts a cease-fire within days

Israeli soldiers work in an artillery unit as it fires near the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, on the Israeli side May 19, 2021.

Ammar Awad | Reuters

Israel launched a fresh wave of airstrikes over the Gaza strip early Thursday in what it says are continued operations to take out Hamas targets.

Hamas, meanwhile, has indicated it sees a cease-fire happening within the next few days. So far, however, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he plans to carry on the offensive, telling Israeli media Wednesday night that he is “determined to continue in this operation until its objective is achieved.”

Top Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk told a Lebanese television channel that he expected a cease-fire in one to two days, while mediation efforts led by Egypt — the only country with open lines of communication to both Hamas leaders and Israel — are reportedly ongoing. U.S. President Joe Biden has told Netahyahu he “expects a significant de-escalation in Gaza,” but so far those words have not been heeded, and the exchange of fire from both sides continues.

The bombings early on Thursday from Israeli fighter jets killed at least one Palestinian, wounded several others and destroyed at least five family homes, according to health officials in Gaza. Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization and political party that’s governed the Gaza strip since 2007, has fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel.

The recent violence in the territory — the worst it has seen since 2014 — has left at least 227 Palestinians dead, at least 63 of them children.

At least 12 people in Israel have been killed, two of them children. Some Hamas rockets have also reportedly landed in Gaza, killing Palestinians as well.

Israel’s military said it hit at least four homes belonging to Hamas commanders, targeting “military infrastructure” and weapons storage, particularly Hamas’ network of underground tunnels. But those tunnels run under civilian neighborhoods, meaning several Palestinian families have lost their homes, with many civilians buried in the rubble.

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