The militant group Hamas targeted Tel Aviv with several rockets on Tuesday night after Israel intensified air strikes in the Gaza Strip.
The escalation risks turning the two-day rivalry into a much wider conflict of unrest that has also begun among Arab populations in Israel’s cities.
The flights traveled as the skies over central Tel Aviv lit up the shields of Israel’s Iron Dome tracking multiple rockets simultaneously. One was hit by a reportedly empty bus in Holon south of Tel Aviv. At least six people have received medical attention and multiple casualties are expected.
The escalation came hours after Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister, ordered the expansion of Israel’s air campaign in the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli military sought to undermine Hamas ’operational capability with multiple bombings, targeting rocket launching pad and military commanders.
“Hamas will receive blows here that it did not expect,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday night. Hamas responded with a vow to attack Tel Aviv, saying it was launching 130 rockets at a time in a probable attempt to override Israel’s air defenses.
Benny Gantz, defense minister, who ordered 5,000 reserve troops to be returned to duty, said earlier that Israel’s air campaign would continue until its operational objectives were met.
Gaza authorities say 28 Palestinians have been killed, including nine children, although it is unclear if all of the deaths were due to Israeli air strikes. A multistorey building in Gaza collapsed in an air strike.
Three Israeli civilians were killed, and nearly a dozen were injured, Israeli medics said.
Israel has killed nearly 20 militants of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to the Israel Defense Forces. As Israel undertakes complex maneuvers, it warns that civilian casualties are likely. “Some of [rocket] firing holes have been planted within the civilian population and it cannot be ruled out that there have been civilian deaths, ”it said.
After several days of tension inside Jerusalem, the militant group that flew into Gaza on Monday night fired rockets towards the city, the farthest Israeli has reached since 2014. Israel immediately flew several air targets. strike.
The Hamas action came after Israeli police on Monday cleaned up the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a holy place for Muslims and Jews, injuring hundreds of Muslim protesters with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. Palestinians are outraged by the bans near the mosque and the planned expulsion of Arabs to make way for Jewish residents.
Egyptian, Qatari and UN officials mediating between Israel and Hamas are trying to restore calm, an Israeli official said on Tuesday. Israel has rejected Hamas’ initial offer to stop, Channel 12 TV reported.
The Arab League described Israel’s response to Gaza as “impartial and irresponsible” and “a pathetic display of force to spend on children’s blood.”
Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, said Joe Biden, the U.S. president, has received updates from his national security team and his main focus is on destruction.
He said the U.S. condemned the rocket attacks of Hamas and other groups, including the attacks on Jerusalem, and Biden’s support for “Israel’s security, for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, important and unshakable. ”
“Jerusalem, a city that is important to people of faith around the world, should be a place to live together,” Psaki said.
The UN Security Council will meet in a private session on Wednesday, according to diplomats, to discuss the escalation of violence.
In a sign of widening unrest, riots began in several Israeli towns including Lod, Ramle and Jaffa – each with a large Arab -Israeli population. Netanyahu moved border police battalions from the occupied West Bank to Lod, near Tel Aviv, after the mayor of the town’s 80,000 -populated population said the riots there were “too much police”.
Police say a patrol car was set on fire after several crowds attended the funeral of an Arab man killed by a Jewish resident, and the Haaretz newspaper reported two synagogues and a Jewish schools were set on fire.
“It was a giant incident – an intifada [uprising] of Arab Israelis, ”Yair Revivo, mayor of Lod, said on television.
There were also clashes in Hebron in the West Bank. “There were wild disturbances here yesterday, which we will not allow, among the young hotheads. Our directive is to do everything to maintain order and peace,” Netanyahu said.
Tensions have risen as a court case over the expulsion of Arabs coincides with Israel’s annual celebration that began on Sunday called Jerusalem Day, in which Israelis celebrated their conquest of Arab East Jerusalem in 1967. The settlement suspended.
Violence comes at a dangerous time in Israeli politics. Netanyahu’s position has waned as coalition talks between his rivals have progressed, almost ensuring a government can. remove the position of five-time premier. His supporters on the right viewed the expulsions of East Jerusalem as an important part of a long-standing strategy to replace Arabs with Jews in the Holy City.
Further reporting by Heba Saleh in Cairo