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Saturday November 27, 2021

UN fears all-out war between Israel and Palestinians

Blinken says sending Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr 'immediately' to meet with Israeli, Palestinian leaders.

By News Desk
May 13, 2021

TEL AVIV: Heavy exchanges of rocket fire and air strikes and rioting in mixed Jewish-Arab towns took place as UN expressed fears Wednesday that deadly conflict between Israel and Palestinians could spiral into "full-scale war". It has claimed 65 lives in the last three days, as another emergency meeting of the UN Security Council ended without agreeing to a joint statement due to opposition from the United States, Israel’s key ally, according to diplomats.

Rocket sirens once went off in several cities of Israel on Wednesday including Tel Avivl, Lod, Rehovot, Givat Shmuel, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion after Israeli strike destroyed 10-storey Sharouq Tower in Gaza, hosting media organisations. This followed large barrage of rockets fired towards Tel Aviv. The US Secretary of State Blinken says Israel must take ´extra burden´ to avoid civilian deaths.

Blinken says sending Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr 'immediately' to meet with Israeli, Palestinian leaders. The UN’s Middle East envoy issued a stark warning that “we’re escalating towards a full-scale war” as violence between Israeli jets and Palestinian militants continued this morning. Tor Wennesland, who is expected to brief the UN security council on the crisis today, urged leaders on all sides to “take the responsibility of de-escalation”.

Earlier, Israel´s Defence Minister Benny Gantz vowed more attacks on Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza to bring "total, long-term quiet" before considering a ceasefire. The most intense hostilities in seven years have killed at least 48 people in Gaza, including 14 children, three Palestinians in the West Bank, and five Israelis since Monday. At least 230 Palestinians and 100 Israelis have also been wounded. "This is just the beginning," warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We´ll deliver them blows they haven´t dreamt of." Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh threatened to step up its operation, code-named "Sword of Jerusalem", warning that "if Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it". Hamas said it fired 130 rockets at Israel on Wednesday in retaliation for a strike on a multi-story building in Gaza City, as air raid sirens wailed across Israel, including in Tel Aviv.

Palestinian groups, mainly Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have launched more than 1,000 rockets, Israel´s army said, including hundreds at Tel Aviv, where air sirens wailed overnight. Of these, 850 rockets have hit in Israel or been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, while the rest have crashed inside Gaza, the army said. Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes at Gaza, the Israeli-blockaded strip of two million people that Hamas controls, targeting what the army described as Palestinian "terror" sites. Violence also flared in the occupied West Bank, where three Palestinians were killed, including two shot in clashes near Nablus and near Hebron.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli city of Lod, where police said "wide-scale riots erupted among some of the Arab residents".

There were fears of widening civil unrest as protesters waving Palestinian flags burnt cars and properties, including a synagogue, clashed with Israeli police and attacked Jewish motorists in several Jewish-Arab towns. Israel imposes night curfew over Arab-majority city of Lod after clashes erupted over tension in Jerusalem, Gaza. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Middle East Eye that "a strategic decision" had been made to enact a curfew between 8pm to 4am . In a related development, Chevron shut Tamar gas field off Israeli coast as unrest flared up. The Tamar platform is located some 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) off the city of Ashdod along Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast. Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said he expected the fighting to intensify and, when asked about unconfirmed reports that Hamas might seek a ceasefire, said: "I don´t think my commanders are aware, or particularly interested."

Violence also flared in the occupied West Bank, where three Palestinians were killed, including two shot in clashes near Nablus and near Hebron. In the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim, shell-shocked residents were assessing the damage Wednesday after a rocket shattered their district´s leafy calm for the first time in its history. "At around 8:45 pm the alarms went off and I heard loud booms, very close, one after another," said Givatayim resident Galit Bialobopolo, 50."I went out to the stairwell and immediately called my daughter who had gone for a run." A rocket had slammed into the building opposite their home, causing a blast that could be felt inside Bialobopolo´s appartment. "All my windows were broken and all the walls are cracked," she said, still visibly in shock.The balcony of the building that was hit was a mess of twisted metal, smashed cement blocks and an air-conditioning unit that had fallen on the rubble.

The rocket fire from Gaza also forced Israeli authorities to briefly close Tel Aviv´s Ben Gurion airport, the country´s main gateway to the world. But the rockets have not shaken Shai Amir, who remembers Iraq firing missiles on Tel Aviv during the Gulf war. In Israel´s central city of Lod, a man and a girl were killed Wednesday by rocket fire from Gaza. Israel´s foreign ministry identified one of the dead as 16-year-old Nadin Awad, an Arab Israeli. Her cousin, Ahmad Ismail, told public broadcaster Kan that he was near Nadin when she was killed alongside her father Khalil Awad, 52." An Israeli woman was killed when rockets hit Rishon Letzion near Tel Aviv. In Ashkelon, a town near Gaza which Hamas threatened to turn into "hell". In Gaza City, people sifted through debris after an Israeli air strike destroyed a 12-storey building near the coast. Hamas said the tower block had been a residential building. AFP reporters said it also housed the offices of several Hamas officials.Five members of a single family were killed by an Israeli strike in northern Gaza Tuesday, including young brothers Ibrahim and Marwan, who were filling sacks of straw at the time. "We were laughing and having fun when suddenly they began to bomb us.

Everything around us caught fire," their cousin, also called Ibrahim, told AFP. "I saw my cousins set alight and torn to pieces," said the 14-year-old, breaking down in tears. Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the coastal territory, says it fired hundreds towards Israel´s commercial capital and tourist hub Tel Aviv on Tuesday night in response to Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

The crisis started last Friday when weeks of tensions boiled over and Israeli riot police clashed with crowds of Palestinians at Al-Aqsa mosque. Nightly disturbances have since flared in east Jerusalem, leaving more than 900 Palestinians injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.The unrest has been driven by anger over the looming evictions of Palestinian families from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged both sides to "step back from the brink". The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, voiced concern at the escalation and said "crimes" may have been committed. Bensouda announced in March that she had opened a full investigation into the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories, infuriating Israel, which not a member of The Hague-based court. Israelis and Palestinians must immediately halt their violence "to prevent a broader conflict" impacting civilian populations, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Wednesday. "The EU is dismayed at the large numbers of civilian deaths and injuries, including children," he said in a statement. "All efforts should be directed at avoiding civilian casualties, and supporting de-escalation." China vowed to keep pushing the United Nations Security Council to calm the situation in East Jerusalem, and condemning the attacks on civilians.