Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to degrade Hamas’ ability to strike at Israel, and said it could take some time.
“I think any country has to defend itself. It has a natural right of self-defence,” Mr Netanyahu said in an interview with American political talk show Face the Nation on Sunday US time.
The prime minister’s comments come as the Israeli-Palestine conflict reached a grim milestone overnight, with 33 people killed in the deadliest attack since fighting broke out a week ago.
In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council that hostilities in Israel and Gaza were “utterly appalling” and called for an immediate end to fighting.
He said the United Nations was “actively engaging all sides toward an immediate ceasefire” and urged them “to allow mediation efforts to intensify and succeed.”
Mr Netanyahu said Israel would do “whatever it takes to restore order and quiet and the security of our people and deterrence”.
“We’re trying to degrade Hamas’ terrorist abilities and to degrade their will to do this again.
“So it’ll take some time. I hope it won’t take long, but it’s not immediate,” he said.
So far, the death toll in Gaza has reached 192, including 58 children. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children.
Deadliest attack yet
Mr Netanyahu’s comments come as Israel stepped up its airstrikes on Gaza City, flattening three buildings and killing at least 33 people.
Medics say it is the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers nearly a week ago.
The Gaza Health Ministry said 12 women and eight children were among those killed on Sunday, with another 50 people wounded in the attack.
Earlier, the Israeli military said it had destroyed the home of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahiyeh Sinwar.
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It was the third such attack in as many days, after nearly a week of heavy airstrikes.
For their part, the Palestinian militant group ruling Gaza has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.
Israel appears to have stepped up strikes in recent days to inflict as much damage as possible on Hamas as international mediators try to broker a ceasefire.
UN to meet
US diplomat Hady Amr is in the region to try to de-escalate tensions, with the UN Security Council set to meet on Monday morning (AEST).
The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, when Palestinians protested attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.
Hamas fired rockets towards Jerusalem late on Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on Gaza.
The turmoil has also spilled over elsewhere, fuelling protests in the occupied West Bank and stoking violence within Israel between its Jewish and Arab citizens, with clashes and vigilante attacks on people and property.
The military said on Sunday it struck the homes of Mr Sinwar and his brother Muhammad, another senior Hamas member.
On Saturday, it destroyed the house of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas’ political branch.
An Egyptian diplomat said Israel’s targeting of Hamas’ political leaders would complicate ceasefire efforts.
The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cairo is working to broker an end to the fighting, along with other international actors.
Ground invasion advised
The Egyptian diplomat said the destruction of Hamas’ rocket capabilities would require a ground invasion that would “inflame the whole region”.
Egypt, which made peace with Israel decades ago, has threatened to “suspend” co-operation in various fields, the official said.
Hamas and other militant groups have fired some 2900 rockets into Israel.
The Israeli military said 450 of the rockets had fallen short or misfired, while air defences intercepted 1150.
The interception rate appeared to have significantly dropped since the start of the conflict, when Israel said 90 per cent were intercepted.
The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes across the blockaded territory, which is home to more than two million Palestinians, and brought down a number of high-rise buildings, including one that housed The Associated Press’ Gaza office and the TV station Al-Jazeera.
Since the conflict began, Israel has levelled a number of Gaza City’s tallest buildings, alleging they house Hamas military infrastructure.
“The campaign will continue as long as it is required,” Mr Netanyahu said in a televised speech on Saturday.
He alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building.
Israel routinely cites a Hamas presence as a reason for targeting certain locations in airstrikes, including residential buildings.
US President Joe Biden spoke with Mr Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose authority is confined to parts of the occupied West Bank, on Saturday.
The Biden administration has affirmed its support for Israel while working to de-escalate the crisis.