Gaza / Tel Aviv (dpa) – According to the Israeli military, militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 1,050 missiles at Israel since Monday night. The coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv, in particular, experienced the heaviest rocket attacks to date on Wednesday evening.
In return, the Israeli Air Force has again massively attacked targets in the Palestinian territory, where more than 50 people have now died. The army said the home of a high-ranking member of Islamist Hamas was also destroyed. The building also served as an arsenal.
Palestinian militants have been firing rockets at Israel since Monday evening, shortly after 6 p.m. The Israeli army is responding with the largest bombing since the Gaza war in 2014. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the number of Palestinians murdered since Monday is 53, including 14 children and three women. 320 people were injured.
The conflict has worsened since the start of Ramadan in mid-April and the Muslim month of fasting ends on Wednesday evening. In recent days there have been violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, especially in Jerusalem. This included protests against police barriers in the old city and the threat of deportation of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district.
As the military reported, about 850 of the 1,000 missiles fired were intercepted or dropped in Israel. About 200 others fell in the Gaza Strip. So far, five people have been killed in rocket fire in Israel. More than 200 others were injured.
According to reports in local media and eyewitnesses, several children were killed in Israeli air strikes and others by misdirected missiles from extremists in the Gaza Strip. At least 20 members of Hamas and the militant Islamic Jihad, including senior officials, have been killed, according to the Israeli army.
A spokesman for the Hamas-led Interior Ministry said all police buildings in the Gaza Strip had been destroyed in the air strikes. Dozens of loud explosions could be heard in the west of Gaza City.
The army also destroyed two multi-story buildings in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening. According to the information, there were offices of senior Hamas members. There were also rooms for Arab media in the houses. The residents of the buildings had been warned of the attack by Israeli forces. Before the first building was destroyed, Hamas had threatened a “hard” missile strike on Tel Aviv.
Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv was temporarily closed to landings and take-offs due to the attacks. Flights were diverted to Cyprus. In many cities in the greater Tel Aviv area and around the Gaza Strip, schools should remain closed on Wednesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinian organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad are paying a heavy price for the recent attacks. “This operation will take time, but we will restore the security of the citizens of Israel.” Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said they were determined to deal a hard blow to the militant groups.
Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas strongly condemned the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israel. “The fact that there is now such an escalation of violence should not be tolerated nor accepted,” Maas said during a visit to Rome. “In this situation, Israel has the right to self-defense.”
Russia and the US called on all parties to exercise restraint. In New York, UN Secretary-General António Guterres was deeply concerned and “deeply saddened by the increasing number of victims,” said a spokesman.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Sarif sharply criticized Israel during a surprise visit to Syria, a country in civil war. Israel’s “criminal acts” have significantly worsened the situation in the region, Sarif said in Damascus.
Given increasing violence in the Middle East, the UN Security Council is expected to hold a second emergency meeting on Wednesday within days.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, two young Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.
Violence also spread to Arab cities in the Israeli heartland. On Tuesday evening, serious riots broke out in the city of Lod near Tel Aviv, where Jews and Arabs live together. According to media reports, Arab residents have desecrated and set fire to a synagogue. Dozens of cars were also set on fire and shop windows were broken. Lod’s mayor spoke on television of a “civil war” in the city and called for an immediate curfew. Numerous other police forces were sent into the city to maintain peace. Serious skirmishes also broke out in the Arab-style cities of Acre in the north of the country and in Jaffa near Tel Aviv.