Israel – (warsoor) – Palestinian militants say they fired 130 missiles at the Israeli city of Tel Aviv after an Israeli air strike felled a tower block in the Gaza Strip.
The 13-storey building was attacked an hour and a half after residents and local people were warned to evacuate, Reuters news agency reports.
Israel’s military says it is targeting militants in Gaza in response to earlier rocket attacks.
At least 30 people have died in some of the worst violence in years.
The international community has urged both sides to end the escalation, which follows days of unrest in Jerusalem.
Militants had already fired more than 400 rockets since Monday night, killing two Israelis. Health officials in Gaza report that 28 Palestinians there were killed by Israeli air strikes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that the main militant group, Hamas, had “crossed a red line” by firing rockets towards Jerusalem for the first time in years.
He warned that the strength and frequency of Israel’s air strikes would increase and Hamas would be “hit in ways that it does not expect”.
Israel says it hit at least 150 targets in Gaza in response to the earlier rocket attacks.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, says it has been acting to defend Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque from Israeli “aggression and terrorism” after the site, which is holy to Muslims and Jews, saw clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians on Monday that left hundreds injured.
The past few days have seen the worst violence in Jerusalem since 2017. It followed mounting Palestinian anger over the threatened eviction of families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers. Tension had already been stoked by a month of altercations between protesters and police in the predominantly Arab part of the city.
What do we know of the latest fighting?
Hamas said it had launched rockets at Tel Aviv and its suburbs in response to “the enemy’s targeting of residential towers”.
Video footage from the city shows rockets streaking through the night sky, some exploding as they are hit by Israeli interceptor missiles.
Pedestrians ran for shelter and diners streamed out of restaurants while others flattened themselves on pavements as the sirens sounded, according to Reuters. One woman is reported to have been killed in the town of Rishon LeZion, near Tel Aviv.
In the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, a rocket hit an empty bus, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told AFP news agency.
The rockets were launched after the destruction of the Hanadi Tower in Gaza, which houses an office used by the political leadership of Hamas, Reuters reports.
Two hours after the collapse, there were still no reports of casualties.
The fundamental reason for the renewed violence does not change. It is the open wound of the unresolved conflict between Jews and Arabs that has blighted and ended Palestinian and Israeli lives for generations.
This latest episode has happened because of tension in Jerusalem, the sharpest part of the conflict. The holy sites in the Old City are national as well as religious symbols. Crises affecting them have often ignited violence.
The triggers for what has happened this time include heavy-handed Israeli policing of Palestinians during Ramadan and controversial efforts in the Israeli courts to evict Palestinians from their homes.
But other events could have had the same effect. This was a crisis waiting to happen, in a conflict that, once again, has been left to fester.
Leaders on both sides have concentrated on safeguarding their own positions.
The biggest challenge, of making peace, has not been addressed seriously for years.
Earlier on Tuesday, two women, one in her 60s and the other in her 80s, were killed in a rocket attack on the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, with one other person seriously injured, medics say.
Hamas said it had fired 137 rockets at Ashkelon and nearby Ashdod in the space of five minutes, and warned it had “many surprises” prepared if the fighting continued.
At least 95 people received treatment in Israeli hospitals as a result of the attacks.
Earlier, the Israeli military said 90% of the rockets had been intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defence system.
The Israeli military said it had struck 130 “terror targets” in Gaza overnight in response, including two attack tunnels being dug under the border with Israel.
The military and the Shin Bet security agency announced that they had also killed the head of Islamic Jihad group’s special rocket unit, Samah Abed al-Mamlouk. Islamic Jihad confirmed the deaths of Mamlouk and two other senior figures in a strike on a building in central Gaza City.
The commander of a Hamas anti-tank missile unit was reportedly killed on Tuesday evening, as the Israeli military launched what it called “massive wave” of air strikes to neutralise Hamas’ rocket-launching capabilities in northern Gaza.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported that at least 28 Palestinians, including 10 children, had been killed in Israeli strikes and more than 150 others had been injured.
It said a 59-year-old woman and her disabled son had died in an attack on Tuesday morning.
On Monday night, seven members of one family, including three children, died in an explosion in Beit Hanoun. The cause of the blast was not clear.
The Israeli military said at least 16 of those killed had been members of militant groups and that it took precautions to minimise possible harm to civilians.
A spokesman told the BBC that about one in three of the rockets fired by militants landed inside Gaza, potentially causing damage and civilian casualties inside the territory.
What’s the global reaction?
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas must end the rocket attacks “immediately”, adding: “All sides need to de-escalate.”
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted that the violence in Jerusalem and Gaza “must stop” and called for “an immediate de-escalation on all sides, and end to targeting of civilian populations”.
A spokesman for the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the upsurge in violence “needs to stop immediately” and warned that rocket-fire targeting Israeli civilians “is totally unacceptable and feeds escalatory dynamics”.
The UN human rights office said it was “deeply concerned” by the escalation and condemned “all incitement to violence and ethnic division and provocations”.
A Palestinian official told Reuters news agency that the UN, Egypt and Qatar were trying to negotiate an end to the fighting.
What has caused the violence?
The fighting between Israel and Hamas was triggered by days of escalating clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at a holy hilltop compound in East Jerusalem.
The site is revered by both Muslims, who call it the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), and Jews, for whom it is known as the Temple Mount. Hamas demanded Israel remove police from there and the nearby predominantly Arab district of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families face eviction by Jewish settlers. Hamas launched rockets when its ultimatum went unheeded.
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