The Latest: UN agency says situation in Gaza is dire

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Palestinian mourners gather around the body of Obaida Jawabreh, who was killed in clashes with Israeli forces, during his funeral in the West Bank refugee camp of Al-Arrub, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

GENEVA —The U.N. humanitarian agency is describing an increasingly dire situation inside the Gaza Strip as the war between Israel and the territory’s Hamas rulers rages with no end in sight.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says nearly 47,000 Palestinians have fled their homes during more than a week of heavy Israeli airstrikes. Hamas and other militants have fired more than 3,400 rockets into Israel.

Laerke says electricity across Gaza is only available for six to eight hours a day.

Citing Palestinian authorities, he said 132 buildings comprising 621 housing and commercial units have been destroyed in Gaza. He says another 316 housing units have been severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel says the closures are needed to keep the group from rearming, while rights groups view it as a form of collective punishment.

Laerke welcomed Israel’s decision to open Gaza’s main commercial crossing, allowing essential supplies to flow in for the first time since war broke out on May 10.

COGAT, the Israeli military body that coordinates civilian affairs in Gaza, said the crossing was closed after a mortar attack, several hours after it had been opened in order to allow medical equipment in.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s foreign minister was on a visit to Turkey on Tuesday as part of his Islamic nation’s efforts aimed at mobilizing international support for pressuring Israel to halt attacks on the Palestinians.

The latest development comes a day after Pakistan’s lower house of parliament passed a unanimous resolution denouncing Israel’s attacks on Palestinian people.

Before leaving on his diplomatic mission, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Twitter that Pakistan stands firmly with the Palestinians.

Qureshi will also travel to New York to address the U.N. General Assembly later this week on the matter.

A day before, Pakistan’s opposition parties and the government issued a call for nationwide rallies on Friday to express solidarity with Palestinians.

Pakistan is among those countries that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

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MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is “imperative” to end the violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Speaking at a ceremony with new foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin on Tuesday, Putin noted that “the outburst of confrontation between the Palestinians and the Israelis has already led to a large number of casualties among civilian population, including children.”

“We consider it imperative to end violent actions on both sides and to actively seek a solution based on a relevant resolution of the United Nations Security Council and universally recognized principles of international law,” Putin said.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But the American leader stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the eight days of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages that have killed more than 200 people, most of them Palestinian.

Biden’s carefully worded statement, in a White House readout Monday of his second known call to Netanyahu in three days as the attacks pounded on, came with the administration under pressure to respond more forcefully despite its determination to wrench the U.S. foreign policy focus away from Middle East conflicts.

Biden’s comments on a cease-fire were open-ended and were similar to previous administration statements of support in principle for a cease-fire.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories went on strike in a rare collective action against Israel’s policies on Tuesday as Israeli strikes rained down on Gaza and militants fired dozens of rockets from the Hamas-ruled territory.

With the war in Gaza showing no sign of abating and truce efforts apparently stalled, the general strike and expected protests could again widen the conflict after a spasm of communal violence in Israel and protests across the occupied West Bank last week.

Tuesday’s airstrikes toppled a six-story building that housed libraries and educational centers belonging to the Islamic University, leaving behind a massive mound of rebar and concrete slabs. Desks, office chairs, books and computer wires could be seen in the debris. Residents sifted through the rubble, searching for their belongings.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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