More rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Wednesday, and the IDF said it was hitting more targets as violence that has so far killed at least 40 people continues, officials said.
Gaza’s health ministry said on Wednesday that 35 people had been killed. An Israel Police spokesman said on Wednesday two people died in an overnight rocket strike, bringing the death toll to five.
Fighting between Hamas, a militant group that controls Gaza, and Israel has involved hundreds of rockets and airstrikes in the most intense exchange of fire since 2014.
Tor Wennesland, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, on Tuesday called for an immediate end to the shooting, Tweeter: “We are heading for full-scale war.”
On Tuesday, Israeli airstrikes razed a residential building in Gaza, which measured 13 floors. The Israel Defense Forces said they hit a multi-story building in the Rimal area used by Hamas and warned civilians in advance. No casualties were reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday promised that Hamas and Islamic Jihad “have paid and, I tell you here, will pay a very heavy price for their aggression.” He said the Israeli forces were in the midst of a “major campaign”.
Ziyad Al-Nakhalah, secretary general of the Islamic Jihad movement, said his group “will continue this battle, and we promise our people that we will not back down and continue to resist, God willing.”
Recent hostility has focused on the Old City of Jerusalem, which has some of the holiest sites in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The unrest has been fueled by plans to evict Palestinian families from a neighborhood in East Jerusalem whose land is claimed by Jewish settlers.
Tensions escalated on Friday and Monday when Israeli police used stun grenades and rubber bullets on Palestinians inside the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site and site. most sacred of Judaism. Israeli officials said it was in response to stones thrown at his forces and at the Western Wall, where thousands of Jews had gathered to pray.
Hamas fired rockets on Monday after hundreds of Palestinians were injured in previous clashes with Israeli forces.
The Israel Defense Forces said on Wednesday that around 1,050 rockets had been fired from Gaza in the past 38 hours, and that of those, 850 were either intercepted by air defense systems or landed in Israel. The other 200 landed in Gaza and did not cross the border.
The IDF said it carried out its biggest strikes against “terrorist targets” since 2014, when there was a 50-day war. He said he destroyed two high-rise buildings in Gaza.
Gaza’s health ministry said 35 people had died, including 12 children. He said more than 230 others were injured.
Israeli emergency services said three women were killed in a direct rocket hit and 30 others were injured in rocket fire. An Israel Police spokesman said on Wednesday that a man and woman died after a direct rocket strike in the Lod area, southeast of Tel Aviv, overnight, which raised the number of dead at five.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was “gravely concerned” about the escalation of violence, his spokesman said in a statement.
“The Israeli security forces must exercise the utmost restraint and calibrate their use of force,” the statement said. “The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars at Israeli population centers is unacceptable.”
Explosions from Israeli airstrikes and the whistling of outgoing rocket fire could be heard in Gaza throughout the day, and large plumes of smoke from targeted buildings rose into the air. Israel resumed a policy of airstrikes aimed at killing wanted militants and began demolishing entire buildings – a tactic that drew heavy international criticism in 2014.
In Israel, relentless barrages of rocket fire left long trails of white smoke in their wake, as explosions of anti-rocket interceptors exploded overhead. Air raid sirens roared throughout the day, sending panicked residents scurrying for cover.
Paul Goldman, Lawahez Jabari and The Associated Press contributed.