Israeli air strikes on besieged Palestinian enclave continue early morning as health officials say at least 197 civilians, including dozens of children and women, have so far been killed.

Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes target the Palestinian enclave, early on May 17, 2021.
Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes target the Palestinian enclave, early on May 17, 2021. (AFP)

Israeli warplanes have launched a series of new heavy air strikes at several locations of Gaza City early morning.

Explosions rocked the besieged Palestinian enclave from north to south for 10 minutes in an attack that was heavier and on a wider area, reports said on Monday.

Dozens of missiles crashed into different parts of the densely populated coastal territory, AFP journalists said.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli air strikes on Gaza flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 civilians, officials said, making it the deadliest single attack since Israel began attacking the Palestinian enclave. 

Sunday's strikes took the death toll in Gaza to at least 197, including dozens of women and children, with 1,230 people wounded. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.

A rescuer could be seen shouting into a hole in the rubble. "Can you hear me?" he called out. "Are you OK?" Minutes later, first responders managed to pull a survivor out and carried him off on an orange stretcher.

The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, with another 50 people wounded in the attack, and said rescue efforts were still under way.

READ MORE: Turkey proposes 'protection force' for Palestine in emergency OIC meet

'Moments of horror'

As rescue workers were trying to recover bodies from rubble, Israeli warplanes dropped missiles near their locations. Rescue workers said they are being targeted as they carry out their operations.

The pre-dawn attacks were on houses in the centre of Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said. A spokesman for the Israeli military said he would look into these reports.

Palestinians working to clear rubble from a building wrecked in the air strikes recovered the bodies of a woman and man.

"These are moments of horror that no one can describe. Like an earthquake hit the area," said Mahmoud Hmaid, a father of seven who was helping with the rescue efforts.

"We were sleeping and then all of a sudden there were rockets raining down on us," said Lamia Al Koulak, 43, who lost siblings and their children in the dawn bombardment.

"The children were screaming. For half an hour we were bombarded without previous warning. We came out to find the building next door flattened. All the people under the rubble were simple people."

The situation is not getting any easier for people in Gaza as Israel continues its brutal violence against civilians, said journalist Nizar Sadawi who's reporting from the blockaded Palestinian territory. 

Netanyahu defends destroying media building

Later on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an end to seven days of violence was not imminent, despite diplomatic moves to restore calm.

"Our campaign against the terrorist organisations is continuing with full force," Netanyahu said in a televised speech. 

"We are acting now, for as long as necessary, to restore calm and quiet to you, Israel's citizens. It will take time."

He also defended targeting a high-rise building in Gaza that housed Associated Press and Al Jazeera, calling it "a perfectly legitimate target."

READ MORE: UN chief warns of 'uncontainable' crisis as Israel bombards besieged Gaza

UNSC, OIC emergency meetings

The home of senior Hamas politician Yahya Sinwar was also destroyed on Sunday, in the third such attempted assassination by aerial bombardment. 

Hamas has maintained steady fire of its homemade rockets into Israel, while affirming that it would not bow to efforts to subjugate the Palestinian population. 

In response to the intensifying violence, the UN Security Council called for an urgent meeting while Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) members condemned Israel's "barbaric aggression" after an emergency meeting.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded for an immediate end to deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence, warning a Security Council meeting that the fighting could plunge the region into an "uncontainable" crisis.

"Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately," Guterres said as he opened a Security Council session delayed by Israel's ally the United States, calling the violence that has killed nearly 200 people over the past week "utterly appalling."

"It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole," he said.

In OIC emergency meeting, Turkey proposed forming a transnational protection force "with military contributions of willing countries" while Pakistan said it remained ready to join hands with OIC states to prevent Israeli bloodshed in Palestine. 

"It is time to show our unity and determination in Palestine. The Muslim world expects leadership from us, and we are ready to take any necessary step," Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu told the OIC meeting. 

Israel provoked Palestine

Analysts say Palestinians were provoked to launch armed actions against Israel.

Israel is using "mowing the lawn" policy to collectively punish Palestinians and there is no "principled effort" by the international community to stop this, Chris Doyle of Council for Arab-British Understanding told TRT World.

Expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah and the assault on protesters at Al Aqsa Mosque was really the "tip of the spear" of what Palestinians have been enduring, Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director at Democracy for the Arab World Now, told TRT World. 

READ MORE: Thousands rally across European cities in support of Palestine

'They are striking our children'

Nearly a week after the hostilities ensued, the UN Security Council announced it would urgently meet on Sunday, after an Israeli air strike killed eight children sparking international outcry in the sixth day of its bombardment. 

One strike on Gaza killed 10 members of an extended family.

Mohammed al Hadidi said he lost most of his family in a strike on a three-storey building in the al Shati refugee camp killing 10 relatives, two mothers and their four children each.

The children "didn't carry weapons, they didn't fire rockets", he said.

"They are striking our children -- children -- without prior warning," said the devastated father, whose five-month-old baby was also wounded in the explosion.

Israel's army claimed the building was used by senior Hamas officials without providing any proof.

US repeats support for Israel 

Israel ally Washington, which blocked a UNSC meeting scheduled for Friday, has been criticised for not doing enough to stem the bloodshed.

US President Joe Biden again underscored Israel's right to defend itself in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden also expressed his "grave concern" over the violence as well as for the safety of journalists.

In a televised statement late on Saturday, Netanyahu thanked Biden for "unequivocal support".

Meanwhile, two more Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces on Saturday in the West Bank, a day after some of the worst clashes in recent years in the territory left 11 Palestinians dead.

A Palestinian security source said the fighting was the "most intense" since the second intifada, or uprising, that began in 2000.

READ MORE: Death toll in Gaza soars as Biden speaks with Abbas, Netanyahu

Source: TRTWorld and agencies