Gaza / Tel Aviv (dpa) – At least three people have been killed in the heaviest missile attacks to date on the Israeli coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv since the beginning of the Middle East conflict.
According to the rescue organization Zaka, a woman died in a direct impact in the city of Rishon Lezion, and a woman and a child were killed in a second wave of attacks in Lod, near Tel Aviv. In Jehud, also in the greater Tel Aviv area, a house was hit immediately. The Israeli Air Force responded with the most extensive bombing of the Gaza Strip since the 2014 Gaza war. Palestinian sources said dozens were killed in the isolated coastal area.
On the Israeli side, several people were injured as a result of massive rocket attacks by militant Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, according to paramedics. The news site “Ynet” reported that an 84-year-old collapsed in Tel Aviv on his way to a shelter. Hours earlier, two women had been killed in rocket attacks in the coastal city of Ashkelon, which was shot at particularly badly during the day, according to Israeli police.
Islamist Hamas said it fired 130 missiles from the Gaza Strip at Tel Aviv and central Israel. In the end it should have been much more, as the mutual shelling continued until the night of Wednesday. Hamas will not back down, a spokesman for militant Islamists in the Gaza Strip said. “When Israel strikes, armed resistance will strike back.” The Israeli military said it had “hit a number of major terrorist targets and terrorist activists in the Gaza Strip.”
According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, the number of Palestinians killed has risen to 35, including 12 children and three women. 233 people were injured. According to reports from local media and eyewitnesses, some children have been killed in Israeli air strikes and others by misdirected extremist missiles. At least 20 members of Islamic Hamas and militant Islamic Jihad, including senior officials, have been killed, according to the Israeli army.
The army destroyed two multi-storey buildings in the Gaza Strip. According to the information, there were offices of senior Hamas members. 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 have to remain closed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said militant Palestinian organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad are paying a heavy price for the recent attacks on Israel. “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. Given increasing violence in the Middle East, the UN Security Council is expected to hold a second emergency meeting on Wednesday within days.
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has worsened since the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in mid-April. In recent days there have been violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, especially in Jerusalem. The trigger was, among other things, the police barriers in the old city and the threat of deportation of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district.
Serious riots then 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.