Fears of 'full-scale' war mounting

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 13 May 2021

Relentless rocket fire and rioting in mixed Jewish-Arab towns fuelled growing fears yesterday that violence between Israel and Palestinians that has claimed 55 lives could spiral into full-scale war.

Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz vowed more attacks on Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza to bring "total, long-term quiet" before considering a ceasefire.

Islamist militants have launched more than 1,000 rockets since Monday, said Israel's army, which has launched hundreds of air strikes on Islamist groups in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza.

The most intense hostilities in seven years have killed at least 48 people in Gaza, including 14 children, three Palestinians in the West Bank, and five Israelis.

The bloodshed was triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

As world powers voiced growing alarm and the UN Security Council readied for another emergency meeting on the bloody crisis, the UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland warned that "we're escalating towards a full-scale war."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli city of Lod, where police said wide-scale riots erupted among some of the Arab residents.

There were fears of widening civil unrest as protesters waving Palestinian flags burned cars and properties, clashed with Israeli police and attacked Jewish motorists in several Jewish-Arab towns.

President Reuven Rivlin said Israelis needed "to be ready and armed, strong and determined, prepared to defend our home."

Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have launched more than 1,000 rockets, Israel's army said, including hundreds at Tel Aviv.

Of these, 850 rockets have hit in Israel or been intercepted by its Iron Dome air defense system, the army added. Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes at Gaza, targeting Palestinian "terror" sites.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged both sides to "step back from the brink."

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, voiced concern at the escalation and said "crimes" may have been committed.

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