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ISRAEL destroyed a Palestinian cultural centre in a bombing raid on the besieged city of Gaza yesterday, just hours before reportedly signing a ceasefire agreement.
Israel’s armed forces said their recent onslaught, including the targeting of the Said al-Mishal Cultural Centre in Gaza City’s Beach refugee camp, was in in response to rockets and mortar rounds fired by Hamas and its allies at the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.
Today local media reported that three Palestinians had been killed in the Israeli strikes, including a mother and her 1-year-old daughter in the Jaafari area of Gaza.
The Israeli forces claimed the cultural centre was a legitimate target as it housed “the operational arm of the political leadership of the Hamas terror group.”
However, the attack was condemned as part of an attempt by Israel to destroy Palestinian culture and identity.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said: “The deliberate targeting of a cultural centre with air strikes and destruction … is a barbaric act.”
He said it was an attempt by Israel to undermine Egyptian relief efforts in Gaza as the building also housed an organisation providing services for Egyptian women.
A spokesman for the Egyptian community in Gaza, Adel Abd al-Rahman, said that services were provided to thousands of Egyptian mothers in the building before it was “destroyed in an ugly and arrogant way.”
Gaza-based based human rights group Al Mezan condemned “the military’s targeting of civilians and civilian property and the unnecessary harm and trauma caused to the population in Gaza.”
Tensions have escalated since March, when weekly demonstrations started calling for the right for Palestinians to return to land seized when more than 700,000 were forced to flee their homes following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
During the demonstrations more than 120 unarmed civilians have been shot dead by Israeli snipers and thousands more injured, prompting the United Nations to launch investigations over potential war crimes.
Israel refused to confirm that it had agreed a ceasefire with Hamas, but a pause in the bombings appeared to be holding as the Star went to press.
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