Israel battles on three fronts in Gaza, West Bank and at home

The Gaza death toll includes 31 children, and 900 were injured, authorities said, while the Israeli fatalities count one child and one soldier.

The Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system (L) intercepts rockets (R) fired by the Hamas movement towards southern Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip as seen in the sky above the Gaza Strip overnight on May 14, 2021. Israel bombarded Gaza with artillery and air strikes on Friday, May 14, in response to a new barrage of rocket fire from the Hamas-run enclave. Picture: ANAS BABA/AFP

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories - Israel faced a widening conflict on Friday, as deadly violence escalated across the West Bank amid a massive aerial bombardment in Gaza and unprecedented unrest among Arabs and Jews inside the country.

The West Bank clashes, described as among the most intense since the second intifada that began in 2000, left seven people dead from Israeli fire, the Palestinian health ministry said, as overall fatalities from strikes on Gaza rose to 122.

Palestinian armed groups in the enclave have launched more than 1,800 rockets at Israel since Monday, killing nine people, with sirens wailing across the country throughout the week.

The Israeli army said its overnight assault on Gaza involved fighter jets and tanks hitting a Hamas tunnel network dug under civilian areas.

The bombardment saw huge fireballs turn the night sky orange. Towers and homes were levelled, while rockets tore through the skies towards Israel.

Gazan families sought shelter at a school, fearing another barrage.

"All the children are afraid and we are afraid for the children," said Kamal al-Haddad, who fled with his family to a UN-supported school in Gaza City.

Umm Raed al-Baghdadi, who also fled her home, said Gazans "who have been in war since childhood... cannot bear it anymore".

Israeli soldiers have massed on the edge of the blockaded territory, but the army's overnight statement that a ground invasion had commenced proved false.

The Gaza death toll includes 31 children, and 900 were injured, authorities said, while the Israeli fatalities count one child and one soldier.

WEST BANK UNREST

Violence on Fridays in the West Bank is a traditional facet of the long running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Friday's escalation appeared linked to the raging hostilities in Gaza and the internal unrest in Israel.

More than 150 were injured across the territory occupied by Israel since 1967, with Palestinians hit by Israeli bullets, tear gas and in some cases live fire, said the Red Crescent.

A Palestinian security source said Friday's fighting was the "most intense" since the second intifada, or uprising, that began in 2000.

The UN said the Security Council would meet on Sunday to address Gaza.

China accused the US of "ignoring the suffering" of Muslims, after Washington stopped the council from meeting Friday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US was "deeply concerned about the violence in the streets of Israel", and his department urged citizens to "reconsider" travel to the country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said rocket fire by Hamas against Israel amounted to "terrorist attacks".

Several international airlines - including British Airways, Lufthansa and Iberia - cancelled flights amid the onslaught.

'NOT OVER YET'

Israel said hundreds of the rockets fired toward its territory, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, had been intercepted.

Israel has hit roughly 750 sites it described as military targets such as Hamas bomb-making facilities and the homes of senior militant commanders. Three high-rise buildings were flattened.

Israel estimates that more than 30 leaders of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad have been killed.

"I said we'd deliver heavy blows to Hamas and other terror groups, and we're doing that," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

"They're paying and will continue to pay dearly for that. It's not over yet."

The heavy bombardments coincided with the start of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, and saw the faithful pray at mosques and amid the rubble in Gaza.

Three rockets were also fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel, landing in the Mediterranean, the military said.

A source close to Israel's arch-enemy Hezbollah said the Lebanese Shiite group had no link to the incident.

The army said it "fired warning shots towards a number of rioters who crossed from Lebanon into Israeli territory," forcing the suspects back into Lebanon.

'PREVENTING POGROMS'

Within Israel, an unprecedented wave of mob violence has seen Arabs and Jews savagely beat each other and attack places of worship.

More than 750 people have been arrested this week, including more than 100 overnight, police said.

In Lod, where an Arab man was shot dead by a Jewish Israeli on Monday, the outside of a synagogue was burnt overnight, they added.

Officers had detained Jews "walking around looking for trouble" in Netanya and Beersheba, while Arabs in other towns attacked police and police stations with stones and petrol bombs.

Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, who comprise a fifth of the population, say they were enraged by Israeli police storming the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, where police said Palestinians were attacking officers with stones and fireworks.

In one of the most shocking episodes of the intercommunal violence, a far-right Jewish mob beat a man they considered an Arab in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, leaving him with serious injuries.

"Nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews, and nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs," Netanyahu said.

Israel's civil aviation authority said it was directing incoming flights to Tel Aviv to circle offshore when rockets are being fired from Gaza, with pilots choosing whether to divert to Ramon airport in the south or wait until runways are checked for ordnance.

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