Israel airstrikes in Gaza biggest since 2014, UN says violence may escalate to full-scale wartext_fields
Gaza: The number of Palestinians who died in Israeli airstrikes rose to 40 so far and at least five Israelis killed in the counter rocket fire from the Palestinian side.
Israel is said to have carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza and other parts of Palestine since unrest broke out last week. The UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland called for a cessation of hostilities, foreseeing an escalation towards full-scale war.
Meanwhile, Israel Defence Minister Benny Gantz termed the airstrikes, which is allegedly the biggest in the region since 2014, just a beginning. In response to his statement, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed that it was ready to meet if Israel wants to escalate.
Despite the UN envoy's continuous appeal to leaders to work on de-escalation a day after ferocious confrontations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is found to have given little heed and promised to intensify attacks on Gaza.
In a statement issued earlier on Tuesday, the Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said the rocket attacks would continue until Israel stopped "all scenes of terrorism and aggression in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque".
A more worried Wennesland said it is ordinary people who pay the cost of the devastating war in Gaza. He also said he would brief the situation to the15 members of the UN Security Council.
The White House spokeswoman said it has been engaging with both parties focusing on de-escalation of the violence. The US President Joe Biden was being updated on the worsening situation, said Jen Psaki, said US officials were talking to their counterparts in the region.
Wednesday's UN Security Council session is likely to be a test of the Biden administration's position on an issue that it has sought to play down. On Tuesday it blocked a UN Security Council statement calling for a ceasefire.
Israel said its jets had targeted and killed several Hamas intelligence leaders early on Wednesday. Other strikes targeted what the military said were rocket launch sites, Hamas offices and the homes of Hamas leaders.
According to social media posts and news reports, the Israeli army has deployed its tanks to its southern border with the Palestinian territory of Gaza, signalling a new phase in its operation against Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the town of Lod, southeast of Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.
The violence flared after weeks of tension in Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan, with clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque, a compound revered by Jews as Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.
The pressure got escalated in recent days ahead of a court hearing, which is now postponed, in a case that could result in Palestinian families getting evicted from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers.
Reports of violence also come from the occupied West Bank, where a 26-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli gunfire during stone-throwing clashes in a refugee camp near the city of Hebron.
In a nationally televised speech late Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that the tension will continue for some time and said Hamas and Islamic Jihad "have paid and will pay, a heavy price."