When the two sides exchanged air strikes on Tuesday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation from Tel Aviv and said: “We are in the middle of a major operation.”
Israeli bombings across Gaza killed at least 35 people, including 12 children, according to Palestinian health officials. As of Tuesday evening, 220 people were injured. The Israeli military said it killed more than 15 militants.
Rockets were fired at Tel Aviv in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Sirens warned of an impending attack around 3 a.m. local time. It wasn’t immediately clear whether there were victims.
In the city of Ashkelon, two people were killed by rocket fire on Tuesday, according to an Israeli military spokesman. A third person died on Tuesday evening in the town of Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv, after a rocket attack. Israeli media reported citing the ZAKA rescue service.
A CNN team heard at least 50 explosions in the coastal city near Gaza, and rocket fire was also reported in the city of Ashdod. At least 17 Israeli civilians have been treated for injuries from rocket attacks, the military said.
On Wednesday, Israel declared a state of emergency in downtown Lod and dispatched border police battalions to reinforce the area, the government’s press office said. Protests broke out in the mixed Jewish-Arab city this week, which escalated into unrest.
A CNN team that drove through Lod early Wednesday saw stone-strewn streets and burned-out cars. Overnight, a missile hit a house in Dahamesh, just outside the city, killing a 52-year-old man and his daughter, both Israeli Arab citizens.
The Israeli military said in a morning briefing on Wednesday that a total of five Israeli civilians have been killed since the violent exchange of rocket fire and air strikes between Gaza and Israel earlier this week.
A 13-story building collapse
A 13-story high-rise block in Gaza collapsed Tuesday evening after being hit by an Israeli air strike, promising retaliation by militants.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that the building contained offices used by Hamas on several floors, including intelligence services of its military wing, as well as a research and development unit that worked on missiles.
The IDF also said it “warned civilians in the building in advance and gave them enough time to evacuate the site”.
There are reports that a person on a nearby street was injured when the building collapsed.
Separately, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, two separate buildings were hit, a three-story residential building that killed three people and a ten-story building that suffered major damage but recorded no deaths. The larger building, known as the al-Jawahera building, houses media network companies and other offices.
After the Israeli strike on the tower, a barrage of more than 200 rockets was fired from Gaza into Israel.
Hamas had previously warned that if tower buildings in Gaza were targeted, they would not remain idle and respond with rocket fire.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, responded with 210 rockets fired at Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv.
Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesman for Gaza Ashraf, Al Qidra, said many Gaza residents are now in a panic due to ongoing Israeli air strikes.
“Targeting civilian homes and overcrowded neighborhoods is panicking more than half of Gaza’s population, including women and children,” Al Qidra said in a post on Twitter on Wednesday.
He said the ongoing Israeli air strikes had “dangerous psychological effects due to terrifying and successive sounds of explosions, scenes of destruction and victims”.
Al Qidra also said that 43% of the victims in Gaza are children and women.
Gaza Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bazam also said in a statement released Wednesday that dozens of Israeli air strikes had struck multiple areas in Gaza.
Most of the air strikes hit Gaza City and Khan Yunis in the southern part of Gaza.
No signs of de-escalation
In the past two days, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired at least 500 rockets at Israel in Gaza, forcing the closure of Israel’s main international airport, Ben Gurion, some ten miles east of Tel Aviv.
The militants say it was in response to the actions of Israeli police who fired stun grenades Monday morning at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – one of the city’s holiest sites.
Hundreds of Palestinians went to hospitals for treatment after clashes with the Israeli police. This was the worst violence seen in the city for weeks.
“We have the right to respond to the Israeli offensive and protect the interests of our people as long as the Israeli occupation continues to escalate,” Hamas said in a statement.
According to a military spokesman, the Israeli military carried out more than 150 strikes in Gaza on Tuesday afternoon. Israel has also called up 5,000 reserve troops on active duty to “improve” its operation in Gaza.
A number of deaths have been reported during strikes in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza. Among them were Amira Abdel-Fattah, 57, who was killed in her home, along with her son, who has special needs, Ibrahim al-Masri, 11, and his brother Marwan, 7, said the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The Israeli army says they are investigating.
A Palestinian in Gaza telephoned CNN to say that the sounds of Israeli strikes throughout Monday night and the sound of rocket fire had been “terrible”.
The man who refused to be named described a mood of anger in Gaza over the recent events in Jerusalem. “It is the fact that during Ramadan the Israelis cracked down on Al Aqsa while the people were praying,” he said.
The man added that Israel’s actions would only encourage support for Hamas and that he believed that militants should continue to fire missiles.
Meanwhile, Israeli Arab citizens demonstrated on Monday evening and Tuesday in the streets of several Israeli cities and villages, including Haifa and Lod, in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem.
In Lod, a 25-year-old Arab-Israeli man was shot dead by a 34-year-old Jewish resident who said he was reacting to stones thrown at him. Two people were arrested in connection with the incident, police said.
Israeli police said around 150 violent protesters were arrested in multiple locations. Rioters attacked drivers, threw stones at passing cars, blocked roads and, according to police, set fire to tree tires and a car.
The international community demands calm
The United States and the European Union called for the violence to be de-escalated, while several Middle Eastern countries, including Turkey, condemned the Israeli police force’s response to the tensions in Jerusalem.
One of the main causes of growing unrest in recent days has been the possible eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
The Israeli police have been clashing with Palestinians in the neighborhood and elsewhere for several weeks. Palestinians accuse Jewish nationalists of provocation and persistent police tactics.
According to the United Nations and the Palestinian Red Crescent, nearly a thousand Palestinians were injured in East Jerusalem and over 200 in the West Bank between May 7 and 10.
On Tuesday, UN human rights experts expressed “grave concern over Israel’s aggressive response to protests in East Jerusalem and called on Israel, the occupying power, to immediately lift its threat to evict hundreds of Palestinian households from their legally protected homes.”
“Restoring calm in Jerusalem is important, but creating the conditions for justice and equality in the city is even more important,” the experts said in the statement.
The UN also condemned Israeli air strikes in Gaza and the firing of Palestinian rockets.
US President Joe Biden has received a briefing from his national security adviser about the ongoing violence between Israelis and Palestinians, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
Biden has instructed his team to deal “intensively” with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, she said. “His team is communicating a clear and consistent message in support of de-escalation, and that is our primary focus. The President’s support for the security of Israel, for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, is fundamental and will never waver . “
She condemned Hamas rocket attacks on Jerusalem, but also said: “We stand against extremism that has inflicted violence on both communities.”
US officials have “openly” spoken to Israeli officials about the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, Psaki said, saying they had worked against common interests of reducing violence.
“We believe that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve freedom, security, dignity and prosperity,” she said.