UN Agency says Violence at Peak Levels as Israel Flattens High-Rises in Gaza

Palestinians salvage items from the rubble of the destroyed 15-story Basha Tower, following early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

UN Agency says Violence at Peak Levels as Israel Flattens High-Rises in Gaza

As destruction and deaths again mount, reports indicate delayed shipment of US weapons now on its way to Israel

Israel's escalated bombing of the Gaza Strip was evidenced on Tuesday by airstrikes that targeted two high-rise buildings in Gaza City that left one flattened completely and the other badly damaged.

According to the Associated Press it is the fifth high-rise targeted and destroyed in the last several days as a new wave of bombing has taken hold since a cease fire collapsed last week.

While a United Nation's agency says the level of violence has again peaked, reports indicate that a delayed shipment of U.S. weapons have been cleared and may soon arrive in Israel.

The Ma'an News Agencyreports:

[Israel on Tuesday] targeted a 16-storey mixed-use complex known as "Little Italy", causing its complete collapse, witnesses said.

Warplanes also fired on the 14-storey al-Basha building in the western Rimal neighborhood, causing massive damage and wounding another 15 people, witnesses and medics said.

Part of the building was used by Sawt Al-Shaab radio, or "Voice of the People", run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

According to AP:

Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said 25 people were wounded in the attack on the Italian Complex.

One Italian complex resident, 38-year-old engineer Nael Mousa, said that he, his four children and 70-year-old mother had managed to flee the building late Monday night after a guard had alerted them of an impending strike, and that he was in his car some 300 meters (yards) away when it was bombed by an Israeli F-16 fighter jet.

Within two hours, he said, it had been completely levelled by at least five additional bombs.

"I have become homeless, my children's fear will never be soothed, and something new has now been added to our feelings toward Israel and all the world which has been looking on without doing anything," he said.

The latest dispatch from the United Nation's Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza reports that the situation on the ground for Palestinians has reached a crisis of unprecedented scale:

There are now approximately 300,000 people crowding into 85 UNRWA schools in Gaza - a number never before seen in Gaza's history. The collapse of ceasefire talks in Cairo on 18 August led to the seventh week of hostilities, with violence at an intensity previously only seen during the early days of the conflict. But unlike those early days, aerial bombardment is now concentrated in the west of Gaza, the location of all UNRWA emergency shelters and the bulk of the population. With the Gaza Strip effectively sealed off and the eastern side severely damaged and scattered with unexploded ordnance, people have nowhere to go.

The UNRWA is now pleading for international assistance so that it can begin to grapple with the level of need dictated by the scope of the destruction.

"Civilians caught in the ongoing violence need help to meet their immediate needs, and to support the long path to recovery that will begin when hostilities cease," the agency said. "The most immediate needs include food and non-food items such as hygiene kits that help prevent the outbreak of diseases. Other priorities include primary health care and psychosocial support. Almost all families in Gaza are coping with grief - including many cases in which multiple members of the same family have been killed. Extreme and continuous levels of violence have caused deep levels of fear in the population of Gaza, particularly children. Many children will bear permanent impact from the violence, with the Ministry of Health estimating that 1,000 of the 3,000 children who have been injured will suffer from a life-long disability."

Amid the latest escalation of violence and despite the catastrophe unleashed by more than six weeks of fighting, Haaretz reports on Tuesday that a temporarily delayed shipment of U.S. arms--including Hellfire missiles and other weapons requested by the IDF for its ongoing assault on Gaza--will soon be released and delivered to Israel. According to the newspaper:

Over the past few days, Israeli officials have sounded optimistic that the freeze on the shipment would be lifted. One Israeli source said the barriers that had delayed it, which he defined in part as bureaucratic, had now been removed.

A defense source told Haaretz Monday that in light of the progress in Israel's talks with the administration on this issue, he expected the shipment to depart for Israel soon. However, it isn't yet clear whether the arms ship has already set sail, or if not, when it will do so.

The U.S. State Department confirmed about 10 days ago that in light of the fighting in Gaza, it had decided to take extra precautions with regard to arms shipments to Israel. Marie Harf, the department's deputy spokeswoman, said the U.S. was worried by the civilian casualties in Gaza, and "Due to the crisis in Gaza we took additional care like we would take in any crisis ... We wanted to look at things a little bit harder."

Nevertheless, she stressed that arms shipments to Israel had not been embargoed and insisted that there was no change in America's policy of supporting Israel.

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