Scores killed as Israel strikes Gaza

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 00:00 |
Palestinians evacuate a building targeted by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City. Israel was responding to attacks by Palestinians over Jerusalem Day celebrations. Photo/PD/AFP

Israel and Hamas exchanged heavy fire on Tuesday, with at least 26 Palestinians killed in Gaza, in a dramatic escalation between the bitter foes sparked by unrest at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Nine children were among those killed in the blockaded Gaza Strip that is controlled by the Islamist movement and 125 people there were wounded, local health authorities said. 

At least 30 Israelis have been injured -- including two women in critical condition in the southern community of Ashkelom, according to the emergency response service Magen David Adom.

More than 300 rockets have been fired by Palestinian militants towards Israel since Monday, with over 90 percent intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said. 

Israel fighter jets and attack helicopters have carried out more than 130 strikes on military targets in the enclave, said Conricus.

They have killed 15 Hamas commanders, he added, while the group Islamic Jihad confirmed two of its senior figures were also killed.  

More rockets were launched from the coastal enclave Tuesday, as Hamas’ armed wing the Qassam Brigades vowed to turn the southern Israeli community of Ashkelon into “a hell”. 

Loud booms again rocked the town on Tuesday, where a rocket had ripped a gaping hole into the side of an apartment block, an AFP reporter said.

Qassem Brigades said it had fired 137 rockets towards Ashkelon and nearby Ashdod within five minutes on Tuesday afternoon.

Conricus said Israel had no confirmation its strikes had impacted Gaza civilians, or whether the casualties there were caused by Palestinian rockets misfiring. 

Defence Minister Benny Gantz authorised an army request to mobilise 5,000 reservists if necessary.

Tensions in Jerusalem have flared into the city’s worst disturbances since 2017 in the days since Israeli riot police clashed with large crowds of Palestinians on the last Friday of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.  - AFP

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