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Gaza conflict rages as Netanyahu says airstrikes will continue

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on February 21, 2018 [THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on 21 February 2018 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images]

Israel pounded Gaza with airstrikes into the early hours of Sunday, destroying a tower block that housed news media organisations, while Palestinian militants fired rocket salvoes at Tel Aviv, reports Reuters.

The hostilities showed no sign of letting up as they entered the seventh day, with Palestinians saying at least 181 people have been killed since the conflict began on Monday, including 52 children. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.

The 12-storey block in Gaza City brought down by Israeli airstrikes housed the US Associated Press and Qatar-based Al Jazeera media operations.

The Israel military said it was a legitimate military target, containing Hamas military offices, and that it had given warnings to civilians to get out of the building before the attack.

The strike was condemned by Al Jazeera and the AP, which asked the Israelis to put forward evidence.

"AP's bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building," the news organisation said. "We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk."

READ: Israeli human rights group says state committing war crimes in Gaza

The United States told Israel "that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

US President Joe Biden later spoke to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to restore calm.

But both Israel and Hamas insisted they would pursue their campaigns, leaving no end to the hostilities in sight despite a UN Security Council meeting scheduled for Sunday to discuss the worse outbreak of Israel-Palestinian violence in years.

Netanyahu said in a televised speech:

The party that bears the guilt for this confrontation is not us, it's those attacking us. We are still in the midst of this operation, it is still not over and this operation will continue as long as necessary.

Netanyahu said Israel's air and artillery barrage had eliminated dozens of Hamas militants and taken out "hundreds" of the Islamist militant group's sites including missile launchers and a vast tunnel network.

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