Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire plea after commanders 'neutralised'

Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire plea after nine of their commanders were ‘neutralised’, as Israel prepares for possible Gaza ground invasion and warns: ‘We will not stop’

  • Barrages since Monday have killed top commanders, including intelligence chief and head of rocket-making
  • Hamas requested ceasefire last night on a ‘mutual basis’ after launching 1,000 rockets – leaving 7 Israelis dead
  • But Israel has vowed to press on with its military campaign despite outcry from the international community
  • UN has warned of ‘full-scale war’ as the number of Palestinians killed in airstrikes reached 67 on Thursday
  • ‘The campaign is still far from over,’ Israeli cabinet minister said last night. ‘Whatever we don’t do now, we will have to do in six months or a year from now … Israel will not stop and has no interest in stopping.’
  • Plans for a ground invasion were being drafted for the IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi later today
  • If they get his approval they will be handed up to Netanyahu and his cabinet to give the final order 

Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a peace offering from Hamas as Israel today pressed ahead with fierce bombardments on the Gaza Strip which have crippled the Islamists’ command structure and levelled their bases.

Barrages since Monday have killed nine top Hamas commanders, including their intelligence chief, their lead missile designer and their terror boss in Gaza City.

Hamas offered truce last night via the Russian foreign ministry, requesting ceasefire on a ‘mutual basis’ after they launched more than 1,000 rockets at densely populated towns and cities, killing seven Israeli civilians.

But Netanyahu has vowed his troops are committed to a long operation which will only ‘increase in force’ despite outcry from the UN as the Palestinian death toll continues to climb – 67 people have been killed, including more than a dozen children. 

‘The campaign is still far from over,’ a cabinet minister said after last night’s meeting with Netanyahu. ‘Whatever we don’t do now, we will have to do in six months or a year from now.’

He told Israeli news site Ynet: ‘When we have hit all our targets and the other side has still not surrendered, we will launch a ground operation even though we do not seek it.’  

Plans for the ground invasion were being drafted for Israeli Defence Force Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi for approval later on Thursday, according to the Jerusalem Post. If they get the General’s sign off, the plans will be passed on to Netanyahu and his cabinet. 

‘This will not end in the next few days,’ the cabinet minister added. ‘Israel will not stop and has no interest in stopping. It is all moving in the right direction. We will act until they admit that opening fire was a mistake, just as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah did after the Second Lebanon War in 2006.’

Pleas for calm by Joe Biden and Boris Johnson appeared in vain this morning as Israel and Hamas exchanged cross-border blows throughout the early hours of Thursday morning – sending Israelis fleeing into air raid shelters, while Palestinians were evacuated their apartments. 

And after a senior Hamas commander was killed yesterday, the Islamists responded with a barrage of rockets into southern Israel which rescue workers said killed a six-year-old boy.  

A ball of fire engulfs a tower block in Gaza City early on Thursday morning as Israel presses forward with its campaign against Hamas. ‘The campaign is still far from over,’ a cabinet minister said after last night’s meeting with Netanyahu. ‘Whatever we don’t do now, we will have to do in six months or a year from now.’

Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting off his security cabinet last night, telling them he was rejecting a Hamas peace offering which was delivered by the Russian foreign ministry

A missile is seen heading for a tower block in Gaza on Wednesday, left; and an explosion rises into the sky in the early hours of this morning, right

Israeli security force members patrol during a night-time curfew following violence in the Arab-Jewish town of Lod on Wednesday night following riots in the city 

Israeli Arabs gather next to a mosque during clashes between Jews, Israeli police and Arabs, in the mixed town of Lod, central Israel on Wednesday

Six high-ranking commanders and a further five key Hamas figures were ‘neutralised’ on Wednesday, including Brigadier General Bassem Issa and Jamal Zabda, head of the group’s rocket unit, according to the Israeli Defence Force (IDF)

Palestinians gather to survey the damage to a wrecked block of apartments on Thursday in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip

The remains of a tower block is seen in Gaza City on Thursday after it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes

An Israeli man checks the damages after a rocket attack from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva, on Thursday

Palestinians walk home after performing Eid al-Fitr prayers on Thursday amidst debris near the al-Sharouk tower, which housed the bureau of the Al-Aqsa television channel in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip

A five-year-old boy killed in Israel by rocket fire from Gaza has been pictured, after he became one of the country’s seven victims of the latest cross-border conflict.

Ido Avigal was fatally stuck by shrapnel after the building he was in with his mother was hit by a missile on Wednesday night.

In the building, found in the town of Sderot on the border with Gaza, seven people were hurt when it suffered a direct hit from a rocket.

Ido Avigal, who was killed in his home in Sderot by a rocket fired from Gaza on May 12, 2021. Avigal was pronounced dead several hours later, becoming the seventh Israeli victim of the cross border conflict that started earlier this week

The boy’s mother grabbed him and took him into a fortified room when the in-coming rocket sirens sounded, according to local Hebrew media reports cited by the Times of Israel. 

However, in a rare tragedy, shrapnel from the rocket punctured the shelter’s window, critically wounding the boy and also injuring his mother.

Avigal was pronounced dead several hours later, becoming the seventh Israeli victim of the cross border conflict that started earlier this week.

So far, Israel has seen five Israeli citizens killed, one Indian national and an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldier in the latest violence in the region.

As of Wednesday night, at least 67 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, including 16 children.

Israel says most of the dead were terrorists and insists the children killed were victims of stray Palestinian rockets.    

Six high-ranking commanders and a further five key Hamas figures were ‘neutralised’ on Wednesday, including Brigadier General Bassem Issa, chief of the Gaza Brigades, and Jamal Zabda, head of the group’s rocket unit, according to the IDF. 

The IDF say that Hamas is ‘losing everything’ after they killed their senior leaders and destroyed their government buildings, including banks and other administrative centres in air strikes on 650 targets.

IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman told reporters early Thursday: ‘Tonight we started destroying government targets in the Gaza Strip, such as central banks and internal security buildings. Hamas is beginning to discover cracks and there is pressure in the organization, even among the Gaza public who is losing its patience and sees these ruins on the eve of the holiday (of Eid al-Fitr).’  

Three tower blocks have been levelled in assaults by the Israel Air Force and the Islamists’ network of underground tunnels has been decimated by bunker buster bombs.

As well as the nine Hamas commanders, the IDF say they have killed another 60 Hamas officers. 

The fighting has sparked violent clashes between Arabs and Jews in Israel, in ugly scenes which have not been witnessed for more than 20 years.

Mobs attacked each other in the central city of Lod last night, which has been the epicentre for the troubles, despite a curfew imposed earlier this week and a state of emergency declared by Netanyahu.

Israeli police said two people were shot and wounded and an Israeli Jew was stabbed despite the deployment of additional security forces. Dozens of people were arrested there and in other towns across Israel where clashes and rioting broke out. 

In the coastal city of Bat Yam, less than ten miles from Lod, Israeli nationalists attacked an Arab motorist, dragging him from his car and beating him until he was motionless. 

Israel’s president Rueven Rivlin denounced the ‘bloodthirsty Arab mobs’ following the riots in Lod. 

‘The sight of the pogroms in Lod and the disturbances across the country by an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob, injuring people, damaging property and even attacking sacred Jewish spaces is unforgivable,’ Rivlin said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Netanyahu warned that he was prepared to use an ‘iron fist if necessary’ to calm the violence.

Yesterday Mr Johnson tweeted a plea for Israel and Hamas to ‘step back from the brink’ and ‘show restraint’. 

He added: ‘The UK is deeply concerned by the growing violence and civilian casualties and we want to see an urgent de-escalation of tensions.’

His calls were backed up by similar messages from the EU, the US, Russia and Turkey.

The UN’s Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland warned the latest violence was ‘escalating towards a full-scale war’.

And UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he was ‘gravely concerned’ by the ongoing troubles.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired more than 1,000 missiles in the first 48 hours of the conflict which began on Monday, an average of one every three minutes, and has enough to keep the bombardment going for two months.

Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said: ‘According to our estimates we’re talking about between 20,000 and 30,000 rockets in Gaza today, rockets and mortars.

‘We’ve seen a constant expansion in terms of range and also in terms of the size of the warheads. They have an advanced arsenal of rockets, I think it’s on a par with the fire capabilities of a few small European countries.’ 

A fire rages at sunrise in Khan Yunish following an Israeli airstrike on targets in the southern Gaza strip, early on May 12, 2021. – Israeli air raids in the Gaza Strip have hit the homes of high-ranking members of the Hamas militant group, the military said Wednesday, with the territory’s police headquarters also targeted

Israeli artillery in action as the escalation continues between Israeli army and Hamas at the Gaza Border, Israel, 12 May 2021. At least 70 people have been killed in the conflict, including around 16 children

Pictured: Palestinians leave their neighbourhood to head to a safer location as Israeli warplanes continue air strikes on Gaza Strip, in Gaza City, Gaza on May 12

While Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defence system has intercepted nine out of ten Palestinian rockets, the remainder have killed at least six civilians and injured more than 90. Families in Tel Aviv spent most of yesterday taking cover in underground shelters.

Israel’s retaliation has included hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, led by F-35 stealth bombers and Apache attack helicopters, which are understood to have killed 32 and wounded more than 300. Israel says most of the dead were terrorists and insists the children killed were victims of stray Palestinian rockets.

The UN security council met yesterday to discuss the crisis. The heaviest offensive between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in the Hamas-ruled enclave has increased international concern that the situation could spiral out of control.

‘Israel has gone crazy,’ said a man on a Gaza street, where people ran out of their homes as explosions rocked buildings.  

Israel’s army on Thursday said it had received a rocket warning in the north of the country, the first time the alert has been given there since hostilities soared between Israel and Palestinians earlier this week.

The approximately 1,500 rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas militants since Monday had so far set off warnings in southern and central Israel, but not in the north, the army said. 

However in the small hours of Thursday morning, alarms not only sounded in the economic capital Tel Aviv in the middle of the country – where residents rushed to shelters – but also in Jezreel Valley in the north.

There was no immediate word of a rocket strike or casualties in Nahalal, some 62 miles.  

Rockets are launched from Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, towards Israel on Wednesday night

Men look at rubble in Gaza City on Wednesday as smoke spews from a fresh bombardment by the Israelis

The ruins of buildings which were destroyed in Israeli air strikes amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday

People gather to look at the damage to an apartment building in the northern Gaza Strip following air strikes on Thursday

Since hostilities escalated on Monday evening, Hamas has fired around 1,500 rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory, according to the latest estimate by Israel’s army.

The launch of around 350 rockets had failed, while hundreds more were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, the army said.

Seven people in Israel have been killed by the onslaught, including a six-year-old and a soldier.

Unrest has been growing in Israel and Gaza in recent weeks following violent confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem and a long-running dispute over the eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem in favour of Jewish settlers. 

The UN Security Council held another emergency meeting on Wednesday on worsening hostilities, again without agreeing on a joint statement due to opposition from the United States, Israel’s key ally, diplomats said.

According to several sources, 14 of the 15 members of the Council were in favor of adopting a joint declaration aimed at reducing tension.

However, the United States saw the Security Council meeting as a sufficient show of concern, diplomats told AFP on condition of anonymity, and did not think a statement would ‘help de-escalate’ the situation.

‘The United States has been actively engaged in diplomacy behind the scenes with all parties, and across the region, to seek to de-escalate the situation. At this stage, a Council statement would be counterproductive,’ said one source familiar with discussions, also speaking anonymously.

A new meeting – this time public – could be held within days, however. 

Netanyahu vows to ‘inflict blows that Hamas has not dreamed of’ before Israeli air strike levels 14-storey building and Hamas retaliates with 130 rockets

Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday threatened to ‘inflict blows that Hamas has not dreamed of’ before Israeli rockets levelled a 14-storey tower bloc, prompting Hamas to retaliate with 130 rockets of its own, as the deadly fighting in the middle east continued on Wednesday.

Israeli fighter jets dropped two bombs on the 14-storey Al-Sharouk tower, which housed the bureau of the Al-Aqsa television channel, and is the third tall structure in Gaza City levelled since the bombing campaign began Monday.

The Israeli Prime Minister issued the threat as he visited a hospital in the city of Holon today, paying tribute to those wounded in fighting between the two sides that is now at its worst point since the 2014 Gaza War.

Referencing the deaths of Hamas commanders earlier in the day – including Brigadier General Bassem Issa and Jamal Zabda, head of the group’s rocket unit – Netanyahu vowed: ‘This is only the beginning.’

Another multi-storey building was destroyed in Gaza on Wednesday evening by an Israeli air strike, prompting Hamas to retaliate with 130 rockets of its own, as the deadly fighting in the middle east continued on Wednesday. Pictured: Smoke rises from Al-Sharouk tower hit by an Israeli air strikes, in Gaza City on May 12, 2021

Smoke and flames rise after Israeli fighter jets conducted airstrikes over Beit Lahia in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Thursday as Israel pressed ahead with a fierce military offensive in the Gaza Strip

Heavy smoke and fire rise from Al-Sharouk tower as it collapses after being hit by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City on May 12, 2021. An Israeli air strike destroyed a multi-storey building in Gaza City today

Pictured: Rescuers and people gather in front of the debris of Al-Sharouk tower that collapsed after being hit by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City, on May 12, 2021

Israel diverts flight from Ben Gurion to southern airport after US airlines suspend flights to country

Israel diverted an incoming flight from Ben Gurion Airport on Thursday to a southern airport designed to serve as a wartime alternative to its main international gateway outside Tel Aviv, aviation tracker Avi Scharf said on Twitter.

The El Al Israel Airlines flight 332 was en route to land at Ramon Airport near Eilat, said Scharf, an editor with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said. Online data suggested the flight had come from Brussels.

It came after United States airlines – American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines – suspended flights to Israel through Thursday amid rising violence in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza, and Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets at targets in Israel, including the main airport in Tel Aviv.

American Airlines cancelled its daily flight from New York to Tel Aviv on Wednesday and Thursday and offered to put passengers on flights at later dates, according to an airline spokesman.

United cancelled flights from Chicago, Newark and San Francisco, and Delta cancelled flights from New York to Tel Aviv.

Company representatives said the airlines were monitoring the situation for when they might resume the flights.

His comments came despite international calls for urgent deescalation and as Israel braces for more missile strikes overnight to avenge the deaths of its commanders.

In just two days of fighting, Hamas has fired more than 1,000 rockets at Israel, while the Jewish state has carried out counter-strikes against what it called military targets.

But the civilian death toll is quickly mounting, with at least with at least 67 Palestinians including 16 children and three women killed as of Wednesday evening, alongside seven Israelis including one child and one soldier. 

Israeli police announced Wednesday that they are imposing a nighttime curfew on the central city of Lod, that was the scene of unrest in recent days

Police said in a statement that officers would enforce the ban on people entering Lod, residents leaving their homes, and people in public spaces starting at 8 p.m.

Lod has seen two nights of violent protests, including the torching of dozens of vehicles, a synagogue, and violent clashes between Arab protesters and police. Israeli authorities declared a state of emergency in the city and deployed Border Police forces. 

Hamas has confirmed that Bassem Issa, commander of its Gaza City Brigade, was among those ‘martyred’ today.

Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, named another three slain Hamas officers: Jamaa Tahla, responsible for the improved accuracy of the group’s rockets; Jamal Zabeda, chief of ‘special projects’ in the munitions department; and Hazzem Hatib, head engineer in the munitions wing.

The militants have launched more than 1,050 rockets at Israel since Monday, killing six civilians, including an Arab-Israeli girl in the city of Lod in the early hours of this morning. 

‘The army will continue to attack to bring a total, long-term quiet. Only when we reach that goal will we be able to speak about a truce,’ Defence Minister Benny Gantz said today from the southern town of Ashkelon where two Israeli women were killed by Hamas rockets on Tuesday. 

Along the Gaza border, an Israeli soldier was also killed by an anti-tank missile, the military said. 

Rockets are launched towards Israel from Rafah, in the southern the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 12, 2021

An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in Gaza Strip, at the Israeli Gaza border, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, as the IDF ramps up its operation against Hamas

Smoke and fire rise above buildings in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, during an Israeli air strike, on May 12, 2021

Israeli ultranationalists attack Arab driver in Tel Aviv suburb and Jewish citizen is attacked as clashes on the streets continue on Wednesday, leading to over 370 arrests 

As rockets from Gaza streaked overhead, Arabs and Jews fought each other on the streets below and rioters torched vehicles, a restaurant and a synagogue in one of the worst spasms of communal violence Israel has seen in years. The violence lead to over 370 arrest, police said.

The mayor of the mixed town of Lod, which saw the worst of the violence Tuesday, compared it to a civil war or a Palestinian uprising. Arab experts and activists say the violence was fueled by unrest in Jerusalem that has brought Israel to the brink of another Gaza war, but is rooted in deeper grievances that go back to the founding of the state.

Violence flared again Wednesday night with a wave of apparent revenge attacks. In Bat Yam, a Tel Aviv suburb, a large crowd of ultranationalist Israelis pulled a man from a car who they thought was Arab and beat him until he lay on the ground motionless and bloodied. A hospital said he’s in serious condition without identifying him.

Earlier, a group of black-clad Israelis smashed the windows of an Arab-owned ice cream shop in Bat Yam and ultranationalists could be seen chanting, ‘Death to Arabs!’ on live television during a standoff with Border Police. In the northern city of Tiberias, video uploaded to social media appeared to show flag-waving Israelis attacking a car.

Israel’s Channel 13 quoted a senior police officer as saying Arabs are suspected of attacking and seriously wounding a Jewish man in the coastal city of Acre amid new clashes there.

Pictured: A video grab from footage released by Kan 11 Public broadcaster on May 12, 2021, shows a far-right Israeli mob attacking who they considered an Arab man, on the seafront promenade of Bat Yam

This video grab obtained from a footage released by Kan 11 Public broadcaster on May 12, 2021, shows a far-right Israeli mob attacking who they considered an Arab man, on the seafront promenade of Bat Yam

In a late night television interview, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, whose figurehead office is meant to serve as the nation’s moral compass, said the country was gripped by civil war and urged citizens to ‘stop this madness.’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on both Jews and Arabs to cease attacks on each other: ‘It doesn’t matter to me that your blood is boiling. You can’t take the law in your hands,’ he said.

Police said they arrested nearly 400 people allegedly ‘involved in riots and disturbances’ across the country Wednesday.

The violence comes at a time when Israel’s Arab minority appeared to be gaining new acceptance and influence. Mansour Abbas, the head of an Arab party with Islamist roots, emerged as a kingmaker of sorts after March elections and was poised to play a key role in a coalition that would oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies.

But in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Abbas indicated that coalition talks would be put on hold because of the escalating violence. ‘If there is a cease-fire, we will return to the political track to form a government,’ he said.

In recent days, Arab citizens of Israel have held mass protests across the country over Israel’s policing of a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem and plans to evict dozens of Palestinian families in the city following a legal campaign by Jewish settlers.

Adding to the tensions are increasingly powerful far-right groups in Israel that won seats in March elections and are allied with Netanyahu. In recent days, far-right politicians have visited the tense east Jerusalem neighborhood where the families are threatened with eviction and staged marches elsewhere in the bitterly contested city.

After police broke up a protest Monday night in Lod, a young Arab resident was shot and killed. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the man was with a group of rioters threatening Jewish homes, and that Jewish residents opened fire in a ‘life-threatening situation.’ He said three people have been detained for questioning and police are investigating. Arab residents of Lod disputed the account, pointing out that the slain man was unarmed.

Pictured: Palestinians gather during confrontations with the Israeli security forces in the city centre of the West Bank town of Hebron, on May 12,2021

His funeral the next day drew thousands of people and a heavy police presence. Clashes broke out between the two sides, leading to riots in which several vehicles and a synagogue were set ablaze. A 56-year-old Jewish man was severely wounded after Arabs pelted his car with rocks, according to the Magen David Adom emergency service.

The violence soon spread to other mixed communities across Israel. In neighboring Ramle, ultra-nationalist Jewish demonstrators vandalized Arab cars. In Acre, protesters torched Uri Buri, a famous Jewish-owned seafood restaurant. Magen David Adom said 46 people were wounded in the riots.

Rosenfeld said there were several different instances of Arabs attacking Jews, and that 12 police officers were wounded. He said 270 suspects were arrested at 40 locations across the country where vehicles were set on fire and public property was damaged.

‘The Arabs don’t want us here, but we’re going to stay,’ said Avraham Sagron, a Jewish resident of Lod, as he surveyed the charred entrance of the synagogue, the interior of which appeared largely untouched.

Netanyahu visited Lod and Acre, where he pledged to ‘stop the anarchy’ and restore order ‘with an iron fist if needed.’ He called on Arab and other community leaders to condemn the violence and act to stop it.

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces in the city centre of the West Bank town of Hebron, on May 12,2021

Authorities deployed hundreds of police reinforcements to Lod and other areas, including paramilitary border police who usually operate in the occupied West Bank. They also ordered a nighttime curfew in Lod.

Arabs say the violence of the past two days was not directed at Jews, but at religious nationalists with close ties to the settlement movement who have moved into mixed areas in recent years, pushing Arab residents out.

Israel’s Arab minority makes up about 20% of the population and are the descendants of Palestinians who stayed in the country after the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, when an estimated 700,000 fled or were driven from their homes in towns like Lod. They have citizenship, including the right to vote, but face widespread discrimination.

Arab citizens speak Hebrew and are well-represented in Israel’s medical profession and universities, but they largely identify with the Palestinian cause, leading many Israelis to view them with suspicion. Lod’s Arabs, who make up about a third of the city’s population, are among the poorest communities in Israel.

‘We’re talking about young people who have no horizon, no dreams, who are unemployed and live in a very difficult reality,’ said Dr. Nasreen Haddad Haj-Yahya, the director of the Arab-Jewish relations program at the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think tank.

 Authorities deployed hundreds of police reinforcements to Lod and other areas, including paramilitary border police who usually operate in the occupied West Bank. They also ordered a nighttime curfew in Lod

She said the anger of the last two days was not directed at Lod’s longtime Jewish community but at more ideological recent arrivals.

‘It’s not because of who they are. It’s because they are trying to Judaize Lod. They are trying to drive out the indigenous Arab residents,’ she said. ‘The young people see it as a threat to their presence in the land, to their existence.’

Thabet Abu Rass, the co-director of the Abraham Initiatives, which promotes Jewish-Arab coexistence, said the six Arab members of Lod’s municipal council have been sidelined and the city’s budget heavily favors Jews. He accused Mayor Yair Revivo of inciting against Arabs.

Revivo, a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, has courted controversy by complaining about the volume of the Muslim call to prayer in Lod and for remarks that appeared to cast its Arab residents as a national security threat.

‘He should be a mayor for everybody,’ said Abu Rass, who lives near Lod and has an office there. ‘He’s not giving equal services for all residents.’

The mayor’s spokesman said he was not available for comment. Earlier, Revivo had urged Arab residents to end the violence, saying: ‘The day after, we will still have to live here together.’

Israeli officials often hold up the Arab minority as proof of their commitment to tolerance, frequently pointing out that Arab citizens enjoy civic rights and freedoms that many Arab states deny their own people.

Ghassan Munayyer, a Lod-based activist, says the veneer of coexistence conceals deeper disparities, including in housing and infrastructure, comparing its Arab neighborhoods to ‘refugee camps.’

‘The Jews love saying there’s coexistence. They go out to eat in an Arab restaurant and they call it coexistence,’ he said. ‘But they don’t see Arabs as equal human beings who have rights that they have to respect.’ 

Britain, the United States and Russia among international voices calling for de-escalation in Israel-Gaza conflict

Calls for deescalation of the conflict have come from senior politicians around the world, including the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.

Washington announced that it planned to send an envoy, Hady Amr, for talks with Israel and Palestinians.

‘My expectation and hope is this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself,’ Biden said on Wednesday after speaking to Netanyahu.

Biden did not explain the reasons behind his optimism. Netanyahu’s office said he told the U.S. president that Israel would ‘continue acting to strike at the military capabilities of Hamas and the other terrorist groups active in the Gaza Strip’.

Biden’s British counterpart Boris Johnson Boris condemned the spiralling conflict, saying he was ‘urging Israel and the Palestinians to step back from the brink and for both sides to show restraint’ on Wednesday morning.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for an urgent meeting of the Middle East Quartet in order to halt violence between Israel and the Palestinians. 

Pictured: Rockets fired from Gaza fly towards Israel, as seen from Gaza City, 12 May 2021

Ms Psaki said that the Biden administration has ‘had more than 25, high level calls and meetings by senior US officials with senior officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and their partners and other stakeholders.

‘A lot of it is happening, privately through diplomatic channels, it’s happening with officials in the region we’re in regular dialogue, multiple times per day as I noted with the Egyptian and Qatari officials, who have significant influence over Hamas – and our objective here is descalation as we look to protecting the people to reach out.’ 

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has called Netanyahu to reaffirm America’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks. 

The country’s State Department said he also repeated U.S. calls for a de-escalation of violence and the Biden administration’s belief that both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in safety and security.

Blinken announced earlier he was sending a senior diplomat to the region to make similar appeals in person to Israeli and Palestinian officials. He also said that Israel had an ‘extra burden’ to avoid civilian casualties as it responds to the attacks.

According to the State Department, Blinken also told Netanyahu that as he and President Joe Biden have said in the past, the administration believes Israelis and Palestinians should ‘enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.’  

He also ’emphasised the need for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in safety and security, as well as enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy,’ in an apparent effort for the Biden administration to demonstrate that it cares about Palestinian rights, according to Politico. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wants to see an ‘urgent de-escalation of tensions’ between Israel and Hamas amid the most severe outbreak of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

Black smoke billows after a series of Israeli airstrikes targeted Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip early on Wednesday. According to military experts, the plumes of smoke seen rising suggest the Israelis are deploying bunker buster bombs, targeting underground infrastructure 

Smoke rises during an Israeli air strike on suspected Hamas targets in Gaza City on Wednesday

Johnson tweeted on Wednesday that the United Kingdom is ‘deeply concerned’ and urged leaders to ‘step back from the brink.’

He was one of many leaders around the world offering up advice after longtime tensions in contested Jerusalem erupted into rocket-fire from the Gaza Strip and an intense response from Israel.

British Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly told Parliament that Britain ‘unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets at Jerusalem and other locations in Israel.’ He called Hamas’ conduct ‘terrorism’ and called on militants to ‘end their incitement and rocket fire against Israel.’

Cleverly said Israel has a ‘legitimate right to self-defense,’ but added that in doing so, ‘it is vital that all actions are proportionate, in line with international humanitarian law and make every effort to avoid civilian casualties.’

Hamas militants and their allies have fired more than 1,000 missiles at Israel, though many have been shot down by the Iron Dome defence system, while others have landed inside Gaza. The Israeli towns of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Yehud have been struck, as well as the most populous city, Tel Aviv. In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Air Force has targeted suspected Hamas strongholds in Gaza City as well as the southern settlements Rafah and Khan Yunis

Terrifying footage shows Hamas rocket blow up a bus, yards from civilians 

Terrifying video footage has emerged of a rocket launched by Hamas militants blowing up a bus in Israel as civilians watched on in horror.  

Video shows the city bus erupting in flames, with black smoke billowing from the burning vehicle, in the central city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, last night. 

In other videos, dozens of Israel’s Iron Dome defence system’s missiles can be seen lighting up the night sky yesterday as they shot down a bombardment of rockets fired by Hamas militants.

Residents of Tel Aviv, Israel’s most populous city, hid in their houses and under shelters as scores of rockets were seen flying overhead before they were struck down by Israeli missiles. 

Video shows the city bus erupting in flames, with black smoke billowing from the burning vehicle, in the central city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, last night

Just after daybreak, the Israeli Air Force unleashed dozens of strikes within the course of a few minutes with what appeared to be bunker buster bombs targeting underground Hamas infrastructure.   

The Israeli Defence Forces later dispatched two infantry brigades to the area of a downed militant drone, indicating preparations for a possible ground invasion. 

Boris Johnson condemned the spiralling conflict this morning hours after his former counterpart Donald Trump blamed ‘weak’ Joe Biden for allowing things to escalate.

‘I am urging Israel and the Palestinians to step back from the brink and for both sides to show restraint,’ the Prime Minister said. ‘The UK is deeply concerned by the growing violence and civilian casualties.’ 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spoke to the Israeli foreign minister on Tuesday and will speak to the Palestinian prime minister on Wednesday, MPs were told in Westminster. 

Despite international condemnation for the bloodshed, the worst since the 2014 war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for ceasefire, vowing last night to ‘step up’ attacks. 

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in turn that ‘if Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it’. 

The tensions began a month ago in Jerusalem, where heavy-handed police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Muslim neighbourhoods ignited protests and clashes with police. On Monday, a riot on Temple Mount left hundreds of Palestinians wounded before Hamas started launching rockets.

The International Criminal Court at the Hague announced this morning it was looking at possible ‘crimes’ committed as the ferocious cross-border engagement entered its third day. 

‘I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute (which founded the ICC)’, Fatou Bensouda tweeted. 

More than a hundred Hamas rockets were launched at Israel’s most populous city, Tel Aviv, last night after a tower block in Gaza suspected of being a Hamas headquarters was destroyed by an Israeli air strike.

Palestinian women check the damage inside their apartment on Wednesday morning after it was bombed by the Israelis

Smoke billows from an Israeli bombardment at sunrise on Khan Yunish in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday

A Palestinian father carries his children away from their home to head to a safer neighbourhood after a bombardment warning on Wednesday

Palestinians assess the damage caused by an Israeli air strike in the town of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 12, 2021. Heavy exchanges of rocket fire and air strikes, and rioting in mixed Jewish-Arab towns, fuelled fears today that deadly violence between Israel and Palestinians could spiral into ‘full-scale war’

A Palestinian man takes pictures of the aftermath of a bombardment on Wednesday morning as a mound of dirt lies in the street beside mangled cars in Gaza City 

Smoke billows from an Israeli air strike on a tower block in Gaza as it collapses. The destruction of apartment apartment towers was among several tactics used during the 2014 war that are now the subject of an investigation by the International Criminal Court into possible war crimes. Israel is not a member of the court and has rejected the probe.

Israelis sing to keep their spirits up in a Tel Aviv bomb shelter 

Footage has emerged of Israelis singing in a bomb shelter as fighting between the Jewish state and Hamas intensified today amid warnings of all-out war.

The video was taken in Tel Aviv overnight as the city was targeted by a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza.

It shows a large group of people standing in what appears to be a basement car park being led in song by Shuli Rand, a well-known Jewish actor and musician.

The song is called Between Holiness and Secularity, and the lyrics that appear in the video translate as: ‘Please save me and please keep me from harm.’

What’s happening now in the Holy Land… A bomb shelter in Tel Aviv.

Footage has emerged of Israelis in a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv overnight singing as the city was targeted by 201 Hamas rockets

Tel Aviv found itself targeted overnight by rockets as Hamas said 210 rockets had been fired at the city, which is Israel’s most-populous. 

The strike was in retaliation for a multi-storey block of apartments that was blown up in Gaza, Hamas said. 

At least 67 people have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave’s health ministry. Six people have been killed in Israel, medical officials said. 

The IDF have assassinated several top militant commanders, including Hassan Kaogi, head of the Hamas intelligence department, in their airstrikes. 

In a statement, the army said it carried out a ‘complex and first-of-its-kind operation.’ Those targeted, it said, were ‘a key part of the Hamas ‘General Staff” and considered close to the head of the group’s military wing. 

Hamas later confirmed they had lost several of their top brass, including its military chief in Gaza City, Bassem Issa. 

The Israelis accuse the Palestinian fighters of using their own people as human shields, but the civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip have only hardened the position of the extremists who have launched hundreds more missiles. 

In Israel’s central city of Lod, a girl and her father were killed in the early hours of Wednesday by rocket fire from Gaza. Israel’s foreign ministry identified the girl 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.

‘I was at home, we heard the noise of the rocket. It happened so quickly. Even if we had wanted to run somewhere, we don’t have a safe room,’ Ismail told Kan. 

Lod also saw riots after thousands of mourners joined a funeral for an Arab man killed by a suspected Jewish gunman the previous night.

The crowd fought with police, and set a synagogue and some 30 vehicles, including a police car, on fire, Israeli media reported.

Paramedics said a 56-year-old man was seriously hurt after his car was pelted with stones. 

The Israeli President Reuven Rivlin described it as a ‘pogrom’ carried out by a ‘bloodthirsty Arab mob,’ after Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the mixed Jewish-Arab city.

‘The sight of the pogrom in Lod and the disturbances across the country by an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob, injuring people, damaging property and even attacking sacred Jewish spaces is unforgivable,’ Rivlin said. 

Yair Revivo, mayor of the city, last night called for army back-up to help secure the area, saying ‘civil war’ was breaking out.

‘This is Kristallnacht in Lod,’ said Revivo, in reference to the Nazi pogrom against German Jews in 1938.

‘I have called on the prime minister to declare a state of emergency in Lod. To call in the IDF. To impose a curfew. To restore quiet. There is a failure of governance. 

‘This is a giant incident – an Intifada of Arab Israelis. All the work we have done here for years [on coexistence] has gone down the drain.’ 

Netanhayu made a pre-dawn tour of the city to declare a state of emergency.

‘We will not tolerate this; we need to restore calm,’ Netanyahu said in Lod. ‘If this isn’t an emergency situation, I don’t know what is. We are talking about life and death here.’   

A thick black column of smoke and red flames rise into the sky over Gaza on Wednesday during Israeli bombardments

A Palestnian family flee their home on Wednesday to head to a safety from Israeli airstrikes as rubble fills the street

A fire rages at sunrise in Khan Yunish in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning as Israel’s bombardment of Hamas targets continues

Israeli artillery in action as the escalation continues between Israeli army and Hamas at the Gaza border

A colossal crater blown into a Gaza street is seen on Wednesday beside wrecked shops and homes in nearby tower blocks

An overturned car lies in the street filled with debris after a tower block was levelled in Gaza by Israeli warplanes last night

Smoke billows over Gaza on Wednesday as the Israeli bombardments continued throughout the night and into dawn

A Palestinian boy walks past rubble on a street in Gaza City on Wednesday after bombardments by the Israeli Air Force throughout the night 

Display mannequins from a damaged clothing shop are scattered amid the debris outside the heavily-damaged Al-Jawhara Tower in Gaza on Wednesday morning 

Cars are wrecked by rubble after buildings collapsed last night in Gaza during the Israeli barrages

An Israeli security officer comforts a man in the town of Holon near Tel Aviv during rocket attacks by militants in Gaza on Tuesday night

Two Palestinian women survey the damage to their bombed out flat in Gaza City on Wednesday morning 

Footage released by the IDF shows precision airstrikes on densely populated Gaza 

IDF announced they had killed at least four Hamas commanders on Wednesday. They included Gaza City Brigade chief Bassem Issa; Jamaa Tahla, responsible for the improved accuracy of the group’s rockets; Jamal Zabeda, chief of ‘special projects’ in the munitions department; and Hazzem Hatib, head engineer in the munitions wing.


Former US President Donald Trump blamed his successor Joe Biden’s ‘weakness’ for the renewed clashes in the Middle East. Writing on his website Trump, he said: 

‘When I was in office we were known as the Peace Presidency, because Israel’s adversaries knew that the United States stood strongly with Israel and there would be swift retribution if Israel was attacked. 

‘Under Biden, the world is getting more violent and more unstable because Biden’s weakness and lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks on our allies. 

‘America must always stand with Israel and make clear that the Palestinians must end the violence, terror, and rocket attacks, and make clear that the U.S. will always strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself. 

‘Unbelievably, Democrats also continue to stand by crazed anti-American Rep. Ilhan Omar, and others, who savagely attack Israel while they are under terrorist assault.’

Asked whether the actions of the police against protesters may have played a role, he shut down the suggestion, saying: ‘These events have no excuse; this is fundamental hate.’  

It comes after the PM, speaking after two women were killed in Hamas strikes yesterday, said he ‘deplored’ the deaths in Israel, adding that the country’s military would ‘further increase both the intensity and the rate’ of its own air strikes against Gaza.

‘Hamas will be hit in ways that it does not expect,’ Netanyahu said. ‘We have eliminated commanders, hit many important targets and we have decided to attack harder and increase the pace of attacks.’ 

The homes of three Hamas commanders were destroyed overnight on Wednesday.

A significant barrage had begun by 3am, with Israel firing into the Gaza Strip.

‘In response to HUNDREDS of rockets in the last 24 hours, the IDF has struck a number of significant terror targets and terror operatives across the Gaza Strip, marking our largest strike since 2014,’ the IDF confirmed. 

‘We are currently striking more terror targets in Gaza.’ 

In Israel, five people including three women have been killed. 

One of the three women was in her 60s and another in her 80s, and died during Hamas rocket attacks earlier on Tuesday.

The third woman, aged 50, was killed on Tuesday evening when a rocket hit a building in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion. 

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