Violence swept across the Holy Land on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning (11-12 May) leaving dozens of dead people and many more injured in the Palestinian territories and in Israel.
Reuters news agency reports that hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement based in Gaza, escalated on Wednesday, with at least 35 killed in Gaza and five in Israel in the most intensive aerial exchanges for years.
Israel carried out hundreds of air strikes in Gaza into Wednesday morning, as the Islamist group and other Palestinian militants fired multiple rocket barrages at Tel Aviv and Beersheba.
One multi-story residential building in Gaza collapsed and another was heavily damaged after they were repeatedly hit by Israeli air strikes. Israel said its jets had targeted and killed several Hamas intelligence leaders early on Wednesday. Other strikes targeted what the military said were rocket launch sites, Hamas offices and the homes of Hamas leaders.
It was the heaviest offensive between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in Gaza, and prompted international concern that the situation could spiral out of control.
UN Middle East peace envoy, Tor Wennesland, tweeted:
Stop the fire immediately. We’re escalating towards a full scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of deescalation. The cost of war in Gaza is devastating & is being paid by ordinary people. UN is working w/ all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now— Tor Wennesland (@TWennesland) May 11, 2021
The homes of Palestinians in Gaza shook and the sky lit up from Israeli attacks, outgoing rockets and Israeli air defence missiles intercepting them. At least 30 explosions were heard within a matter of minutes just after dawn on Wednesday.
Israelis ran for shelters or flattened themselves on pavements in communities more than 70 km (45 miles) up the coast and into southern Israel amid sounds of explosions as interceptor missiles streaked into the sky.
In the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod, near Tel Aviv, two people were killed after a rocket hit a vehicle in the area. Lod and other mixed towns have seen large demonstrations by Israeli Arab residents over the Gaza violence and tensions in Jerusalem.
Hamas's armed wing said it fired 210 rockets towards Beersheba and Tel Aviv in response to the bombing of the tower buildings in Gaza City. Israel's military says that around a third of the rockets have fallen short, landing within Gaza.
For Israel, the militants' targeting of Tel Aviv, its commercial capital, posed a new challenge in the confrontation with the Islamist Hamas group, regarded as a terrorist organisation by Israel and the United States.
The violence followed weeks of tension in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque. These escalated in recent days ahead of a – now postponed – court hearing in a case that could end with Palestinian families evicted from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers.
Violence has also flared in the occupied West Bank, where a 26-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli gunfire during stone-throwing clashes in a refugee camp near the city of Hebron.
Source: commonspace.eu with Reuters news agency (London) and agencies
Photo: A Palestinian child looks at the rubble from his destroyed home after an Israeli missile attack on Gaza as violence spirals across the Holy Land Israeli warplanes attacked several locations in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)