By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have escalated further as Palestinian militants in Gaza fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which responded with ramped-up airstrikes on the coastal enclave, as unrest spread to cities and towns beyond Jerusalem.
As both sides traded airstrikes on Tuesday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation from Tel Aviv, saying, “We are in the midst of a significant operation.”
However the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” by the ongoing violence further calling upon both sides to calm down before the tensions turn into war.
Israeli bombing raids across Gaza have killed at least 35 people, including 12 children, according to Palestinian health officials, who also said 220 people have been injured, as of Tuesday evening. The Israeli military said it had killed more than 15 militants.
Rockets were fired towards Tel Aviv in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Sirens could be heard warning of an impending attack around 3 a.m. local time. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
In the town of Ashkelon, two people were killed by rocket fire Tuesday, according to an Israeli military spokesman. A third person died in the town of Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening after a rocket attack, Israeli media reported citing the ZAKA emergency service.
The Israeli military said in a morning briefing Wednesday that a total of five Israeli civilians have now been killed since the start of the violent exchange of rocket fire and airstrikes between Gaza and Israel earlier this week.
A 13-story tower block in Gaza city collapsed on Tuesday night after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, drawing vows of retaliation from militants.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that the building contained offices used by Hamas across several floors, including intelligence offices of its military wing, and a research and development unit working on rockets.
The IDF also said it provided “advance warning to civilians in the building and provided sufficient time for them to evacuate the site.”
The larger building, known as the al-Jawahera building, houses media network companies and other offices.
Following the Israeli strike on the tower, a barrage of more than 200 rockets was then fired from Gaza into Israel.
Earlier Hamas had warned if residential tower buildings in Gaza were targeted, they would not sit idle and would respond with rocket fire.
Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesman in Gaza Ashraf, Al Qidra, said many Gaza residents are now in a state of panic due to the ongoing Israeli airstrikes.
“The deliberate targeting of civilian houses and crowded residential neighborhoods puts more than half of the population of the Gaza Strip, including women and children, in a state of panic,” Al Qidra said in a post to Twitter on Wednesday.
He said the ongoing Israeli airstrikes have “dangerous psychological repercussions due to frightening and successive sounds of explosions, scenes of destruction and victims.”
Al Qidra also said 43% of the victims in Gaza are children and women, Gaza’s Interior Ministry’s spokesman Iyad al-Bazam also said in a statement released Wednesday that dozens of Israeli airstrikes hit several areas in Gaza.
Most airstrikes hit Gaza City and Khan Yunis in the southern portion of Gaza.
In the past two days, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza have fired at least 500 rockets into Israel, forcing the closure of Israel’s main international airport, Ben Gurion, about fifteen kilometers east of Tel Aviv.
The militants say it is a response to the actions of Israeli police who fired stun grenades inside the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem — one of the city’s holiest sites — on Monday morning.
Hundreds of Palestinians went to hospitals for treatment after ensuing clashes with Israeli police, in the most serious violence seen in the city in weeks.