Rockets target Tel Aviv after residential tower flattened in Gaza

At least 32 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza City and three residents in Israel

Follow the latest updates as violence escalates in Israel and Palestine

Israel and Gaza's rulers Hamas on Tuesday threatened further violence after 35 people were killed in the fiercest cross-border fire in years, and the UN's Middle East peace envoy warned of a risk of "full-scale war".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said militants in the Gaza Strip will "pay a very heavy price" after three people in Israel were killed by rockets fired from the Palestinian coastal enclave.

"We are at the height of a weighty campaign," Mr Netanyahu said in televised remarks alongside Israel's defence minister and military chief.

The premier was speaking after an Israeli air strike destroyed a 13-storey residential tower in Gaza City.

Residents of the building and their neighbours were warned to evacuate the area about an hour before the strike, which wounded one person and left dozens homeless.

Shortly after, sirens blared across Israeli coastal cities as a barrage of rockets was launched from Gaza.

Israeli medics confirmed the death of a woman, 50, in Rishon Lezion, a city south of Tel Aviv.

At least one rocket hit in nearby Holon, where a bus was gutted by flames on a shopping street. Departures were temporarily halted at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.

Hamas said it launched about 130 rockets in response to the apartment block being destroyed, in its most intensive fire since the conflict broke out on Monday evening.

The Israeli military had earlier said about 600 rockets had been fired from Gaza.

At least 32 Palestinians, including 10 children, have been killed in Gaza since Monday evening, most as a result of air strikes, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The Israeli military said 16 of the dead in Gaza were combatants and the militant group Islamic Jihad confirmed three senior figures had been killed.

Earlier on Tuesday, an Israeli and an Indian resident were killed in separate rocket strikes on their homes in the southern Israeli citizen of Ashkelon.

"The situation is very volatile," Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told The National.

"There are intentions by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to escalate in terms of the range of rockets and intensity of the rocket fire. That is something we will not tolerate."

Smoke rises from a building after it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike. Reuters
Smoke rises from a building after it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike. Reuters

Mr Netanyahu said Israel planned to increase "both the might of the attacks and the frequency".

Israel said it sent 80 fighter jets to destroy 150 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets.

The prospect of further military action has raised international alarm, with Middle East foreign ministers holding an emergency meeting on Tuesday and the UN Security Council said to meet privately to discuss the crisis on Wednesday.

"The current situation in Palestine is not sustainable," Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.

Tor Wennesland, the UN's Middle East peace envoy, warned of a dire outcome if all sides failed to pull back.

"We’re escalating towards a full-scale war," Mr Wennesland said on Twitter.

Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa, condemned the violence against Palestinians.

"The UAE stands with the Palestinian rights, with the end of the Israeli occupation, with the two-state solution and with an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Dr Gargash wrote on Twitter.

Mr Netanyahu said Gaza militants on Monday had crossed a "red line" with rocket fire in the Jerusalem area for the first time since 2014.

The EU said rocket fire aimed at civilians in Israel "is totally unacceptable and feeds escalatory dynamics".

"The significant upsurge in violence in the occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza needs to stop immediately," the European Commission said late on Monday.

Former US president Donald Trump said that Joe Biden's "lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks on our allies".

The deadly strikes were preceded by weeks of violence around Jerusalem's Old City.

More than 900 Palestinians were wounded in days, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, along with dozens of Israeli police officers.

The rocket fire from Gaza followed a warning to Israel to withdraw its security troops from Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City, the third holiest site in Islam.

Israeli police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at worshippers, while Palestinians hurled chairs and stones. At times, police fired stun grenades inside Al Aqsa Mosque.

The worst violence came Monday, as Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day, which marks their military's capture of the eastern part of the city in 1967.

“Many patients have received head, chest or eye injuries from rubber bullets," said Dr Natalie Thurtle, medical co-ordinator in Palestine for the charity Doctors Without Borders.

"We have seen many children injured, including a 12-year-old with a femur injury and a 14-year-old with an eye injury."

On Monday night, crowds of Israelis gathered near the Western Wall – Judaism’s holiest prayer site at the base of Al Aqsa compound – waving Israeli flags and chanting nationalist slogans.

Ayman Odeh, an Arab-Israeli legislator, shared a video on Twitter showing people chanting religious verse that has become popular among far-right groups.

After criticism of heavy-handed police tactics, the Israeli government defended its handling of tension in Jerusalem.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Tuesday to express his "concerns regarding rocket attacks on Israel and his condolences for the lives lost as a result", State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

"The Secretary reiterated his call on all parties to de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence," Mr Price said.

Palestinian protests initially broke out at the start of Ramadan in mid-April, when police banned people from gathering at the city's Damascus Gate, where Muslims traditionally meet after evening prayers.

Another flashpoint was the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where dozens of Palestinians are under threat of eviction by Jewish settlers.

Palestinians mourn loved ones killed by Israeli air strikes

Updated: May 12, 2021 03:20 PM

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