• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

TEL AVIV: The worst Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2014 saw 1,000 rockets fired at the Jewish state by Wednesday, the Gaza Strip pounded by relentless air strikes and at least 40 people killed, fueling fears of a descent into “full-scale war.”

May 12, 2021

Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system is launched to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, above the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, on May 11, 2021. AFP PHOTO
TEL AVIV: The worst Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2014 saw 1,000 rockets fired at the Jewish state by Wednesday, the Gaza Strip pounded by relentless air strikes and at least 40 people killed, fueling fears of a descent into “full-scale war.”
In another night of escalating conflict, Palestinian militants attacked Israel’s commercial center of Tel Aviv and other cities, while the Israeli army bombed more targets of the Hamas Islamist group in the crowded costal enclave.
The most intense hostilities in seven years have killed at least 35 Palestinians, including 12 children, and five Israelis, triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
As world powers voiced growing alarm and the UN Security Council readied for another emergency meeting on the bloody crisis, the UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland warned that “we’re escalating towards a full-scale war.”
“Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of de-escalation,” he said, echoing warnings from the international community.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli city of Lod, where police said “wide-scale riots erupted among some of the Arab residents.”
Palestinian groups, mostly Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have launched more than 1,000 rockets towards Israel since Monday evening, Israel’s army said, including hundreds at Tel Aviv, where air sirens wailed overnight.
Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes at Gaza, the Israeli-blockaded coastal enclave of two million people that Hamas controls, targeting what the army described as Palestinian military sites.
Aside from the mounting death toll, at least 230 Palestinians were wounded, many rescued from the smoldering ruins of buildings. On the Israeli side, more than 100 people have been injured, as residents across the Jewish state have been ordered to seek shelter.
A fire rages at sunrise in Khan Yunish following an Israeli airstrike on targets in the southern Gaza strip, early on May 12, 2021. AFP PHOTO
‘Everything caught fire’
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Tuesday that “this is just the beginning” of Israel’s strikes, vowing that the operation, now dubbed “Guardian of the Walls”, would aim to restore peace “for the long-term.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed in turn that “if Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it.”
Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said he expected the fighting to intensify and, when asked about unconfirmed reports that Hamas might seek a ceasefire, said: “I don’t think my commanders are aware, or particularly interested.”
In Gaza City, people sifted through debris after an Israeli air strike destroyed a 12-storey building near the coastline.
Hamas said the tower block had been a residential building. AFP reporters said it also housed the offices of several Hamas officials.
Five members of a single family were killed by an Israeli strike in northern Gaza on Tuesday, including young brothers Ibrahim and Marwan, who were filling sacks of straw at the time.
“We were laughing and having fun when suddenly they began to bomb us. Everything around us caught fire,” their cousin, also called Ibrahim, told Agence France-Presse.
“I saw my cousins set alight and torn to pieces,” said the 14-year-old, breaking down in tears.
A picture taken early on May 12, 2021 shows smoke billowing from Al-Jawhara Tower in Gaza City which was targeted by Israeli airstrikes overnight. AFP PHOTO
‘We don’t have a safe room’
In Israel’s central city of Lod, a man and a girl were killed Wednesday by rocket fire from Gaza. Israel’s foreign ministry identified one of the dead as 16-year-old Nadin Awad, an Arab Israeli.
Her cousin, Ahmad Ismail, told public broadcaster Kan that he was near Nadin when she was killed alongside her father Khalil Awad, 52.
“I was at home, we heard the noise of the rocket. It happened so quickly. Even if we had wanted to run somewhere, we don’t have a safe room,” Ismail told Kan.
Earlier, an Israeli woman was killed as rockets hit Rishon Letzion on the coastal city’s southern edge, and in Ashkelon near Gaza, which Hamas threatened to turn into “hell,” rockets fired by militants killed two women.
The crisis started last Friday when weeks of tensions boiled over and Israeli riot police clashed with crowds of Palestinians at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Nightly clashes since then have rocked the ancient compound and flared elsewhere in east Jerusalem, leaving more than 900 Palestinians injured.
Palestinians clashed again with Israeli officers in riot gear on Tuesday evening, with 245 Palestinians injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Large protests were held Tuesday in solidarity with Palestinians around the world, including in London, as well as in Muslim-majority countries including Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey.