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Israel strikes Gaza tunnels, Hamas leaders; Biden administration focused on 'reducing the violence'

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Israel Palestine bombing
Posted at 4:23 AM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 17:40:34-04

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Israeli military has unleashed another heavy wave of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, and says it has destroyed militant tunnels and the homes of several Hamas commanders.

The strikes came as international diplomacy to end the weeklong war appears to be making little headway. Mounting airstrikes have pushed the death toll in Gaza above 200 people, according to the Washington Post.

The United States signaled it would not pressure the two sides for a cease-fire.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Monday that while the administration believes that Israel has a "right to defend itself" from Palestine, its ultimate goal in the Middle East was the de-escalation of violence.

During a briefing at the White House, Psaki was repeatedly asked if the White House felt Israel's attacks on Gaza constituted a proportional response. Psaki said that the White House would not give a "day-by-day grade" of the conflict's events but added, "our focus, our goal...is reducing the violence."

Psaki's comments came hours after Israelis say the strikes destroyed 15 kilometers of militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders.

Israel says it will press on for now with its attacks against Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza.

The latest attacks destroyed the five-story building housing the Hamas-run Religious Affairs Ministry. They also killed a top Gaza leader of Islamic Jihad.

The bombings on Monday came after a weekend full of violence, including an Israeli airstrike on a building that housed media for both the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes across Gaza, and militants have launched more than 3,100 rockets into Israel since the fighting began last week.

“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement following the bombing. “We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”

Israel claims that the building that housed the media companies was also housing Hamas operations. In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Israel Defense Force's spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said it forfeited military gains by informing the media companies ahead of the strike, but did not offer proof that the building was housing Hamas.

During Monday's briefing, Psaki said she could not confirm or deny the Israeli claims that Hamas was operating out of the building. She said that information would be held within intelligence department circles.