Gaza death toll reaches 65 as Hamas attacks Tel-Aviv
The death toll in Gaza rose dramatically on Wednesday as the worst escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in years showed no signs of abating.
The Palestinian health ministry in the Gaza Strip announced on Wednesday evening that 65 people, including 16 children, had been killed as a result of Israeli airstrikes on the besieged coastal territory.
At least 365 people have been injured in Gaza and four Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, including a man who was killed during a confrontation with Israeli soldiers near Nablus in the early hours of Thursday morning.
In Israel, six people have been killed as a result of Hamas rocket attacks, including a soldier, three women, and two children. Dozens of Israelis have also been wounded.
Israel has struck densely populated apartment buildings and tower blocks in Gaza, while Hamas rockets have managed to hit Israeli cities despite Israel’s Iron Dome defence system.
Al-Jazeera English reported on Wednesday that air raid sirens and explosions were heard across Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities as Hamas rockets rained down, with panicked residents rushing for shelter.
In Gaza, Israeli airstrikes destroyed a tall residential building and the Al-Sharouk tower, where several media organizations have offices.
“Targeting such a building which holds media offices is a clear message by the Israeli occupation that it does not want any media to tell the truth of what is going on in the Gaza Strip: the crazy air raids that are taking place in every moment; the killing and targeting of civilians of residential buildings and apartments; hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded in just two days of escalation,” Youmna al-Sayed, a journalist operating from Gaza, told Al-Jazeera.
AFP quoted the Israeli military as saying that around 1,500 rockets had been fired by Palestinian factions towards Israel since Monday, when Hamas gave Israel an ultimatum to stop its assaults on Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and launched rockets after it expired.
Israel has carried out more than 350 air raids on the Gaza Strip since Monday, Al-Jazeera reported.
Senior Hamas commanders were among those killed in the strikes including Bassem Issa, the movement’s military chief in Gaza.
The chief of Hamas’s political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, said that the confrontation with Israel was “open-ended”, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to escalate the conflict further.
“This is just the beginning. We’ll hit them like they’ve never dreamed possible,” he said.
Al-Jazeera said that Israel was considering a ground invasion of Gaza for the first time since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
The escalation in the conflict was sparked by Israel’s plans to forcibly expel residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and its assaults on worshippers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, which injured hundreds of Palestinians during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.