The clashes between Palestinian armed groups, which launched more than a thousand rockets into Israeli territory, and Israel, which is intensively bombing the Gaza Strip, left more than 50 dead and raised fears of a large-scale war on Wednesday.

Israel woke up on Wednesday to considerable damage not seen since the 2014 Gaza war, with houses and cars vandalized.

So far the clashes have left at least 48 dead in Gaza, including 14 children and three women, in addition to two Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and five Israelis.

The violence stems from the weekend riots at the Esplanade of the Mosques, the third holiest site in Islam, in East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel in 1967.

Concern grows in the international community and the UN Security Council prepares for another emergency meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called for the de-escalation on Wednesday, as did the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, while the UN envoy for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, he warned of the risk of a full-scale war.

For its part, the International Criminal Court (ICC) warned that there may be possible crimes committed in the conflict.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod, where police reported rioting by Arab residents.

A violence that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called a pogrom by a bloodthirsty Arab crowd.

Some observers fear civil unrest will escalate. In several mixed cities across the country, protesters carrying Palestinian flags burned cars and property, attacked motorists and clashed with police.

According to the army, the Israeli airstrikes, the most intense since 2014, are a response to “more than a thousand rockets” launched by various armed groups from the Gaza Strip into Israel since Monday night.

Of that total, about 850 rockets landed in Israel or were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, with the rest crashing in the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli defense ministry.

On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said during a visit to the Israeli city of Ashkelon that “the army will continue to attack to ensure a total and lasting calm” and assured that only when we have reached this goal will we be able to speak of a truce.

Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes against the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave of Gaza, targeting what the army describes as Palestinian military sites.

In addition to the rising death toll, more than 300 Palestinians were injured, and many were rescued from the ruins of the buildings. On the Israeli side, more than 100 people were injured.

In northern Gaza, five members of the same family were killed in an Israeli attack on Tuesday, including two brothers, Ibrahim and Marwan, who were filling straw sacks.

“We were laughing and having fun when they suddenly started bombing us. Everything around us caught fire,” his cousin, also named Ibrahim, told AFP.

On Tuesday night, Israeli aviation blew up a 12-storey building in which senior Hamas officials had their offices and then another nine-storey building, which contained a local television channel, homes and shops.

The army said the target was Hamas’s “military intelligence chief” Hasan Kaogi and the armed Islamist movement’s “counterintelligence director” Wael Isa.

After the night attacks, Hamas launched a new barrage of rockets, again against the city of Tel Aviv.

“If [Israel] wants an escalation, we are prepared,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said, calling on security forces to withdraw from the East Jerusalem Mosque Esplanade, the scene in recent days of clashes between the police and protesters.

 

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