Sun | Jun 13, 2021

Escalating Mideast violence bears hallmarks of 2014 Gaza war

Published:Wednesday | May 12, 2021 | 10:35 AM
A Palestinian man passes by the remains of a building destroyed by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Rockets streamed out of Gaza and Israel pounded the territory with airstrikes early Wednesday as the most severe outbreak of violence since the 2014 war took on many of the hallmarks of that devastating 50-day conflict, with no endgame in sight. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Rockets streamed out of Gaza and Israel pounded the territory with airstrikes Wednesday as the most severe outbreak of violence since a 2014 war took on many hallmarks of that devastating 50-day conflict, with dozens killed and no resolution in sight.

Palls of gray smoke rose in Gaza, as Israeli airstrikes levelled two apartment towers and hammered the militant group's multiple security installations, destroying the central police compound.

In Israel, barrages of hundreds of rockets fired by Gaza's Hamas rulers and other militants at times overwhelmed missile defences and brought air raid sirens and explosions echoing across Tel Aviv, Israel's biggest metropolitan area, and other cities.

The death toll in Gaza rose to 48 Palestinians, including 14 children and three women, according to the Health Ministry.

More than 300 people have been wounded, including 86 children and 39 women.

Six Israelis, including three women and a child, were killed by rocket fire, and dozens of people were wounded.

While the rapidly escalating conflict has brought images familiar from the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, the past day has also seen a startling new factor: A burst of fury from Israel's Palestinian citizens in support of those living in the territories and against Israel's recent response to unrest in Jerusalem and its current operations in Gaza.

Amid those protests, communal violence erupted in several mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli cities, including the burning of a Jewish-owned restaurant and a synagogue, the fatal shooting of an Arab man, and attacks on Arab-owned cars.

In a rare move that highlighted the tensions, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday ordered units of border guards deployed to help police keep order.

There was no sign that either side is willing to back down.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to expand the offensive, saying “this will take time.”

Hamas has called for a full-scale intifada or uprising.

The last such uprising began in 2000 and lasted more than five years.

The latest eruption of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem, where heavy-handed police tactics during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers ignited protests and clashes with police.

A focal point was the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a site sacred to Jews and Muslims.

Late Monday, Hamas, claiming to be “defending Jerusalem,” launched a barrage of rockets at the city in a major escalation.

The Israeli military said militants have fired more than 1,050 rockets since the conflict began, with 200 of them falling short and landing inside Gaza Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said two infantry brigades were sent to the area, indicating preparations for a possible ground invasion.

Israel has struck hundreds of targets in the Gaza Strip, where 2 million Palestinians have lived under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized power in Gaza from rival Palestinian forces.

The conflicts ended after regional and international powers convinced both sides to accept an informal truce.

Once again, diplomats are seeking to intervene, with Qatar, Egypt, and the United Nations working to deliver a cease-fire.

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