56 killed in Gaza, 6 in Israel, fears of full-scale war mount

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GAZA: Israel said it killed 16 members of the

Hamas

armed wing in Gaza in a barrage on Wednesday and Palestinian militants rained rockets into Israel as Washington said it would send an envoy to try to calm their most intense hostilities in years. At least 56 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, officials said.
Israeli PM

Benjamin Netanyahu

said the brigade commander for Gaza City was among senior members of the Islamist militant group who had been killed. “This is just the beginning. We’ll hit them like they’ve never dreamed possible,” he said. Soon after the announcement, a new rocket barrage was fired at the Israeli city of Ashdod and Israeli media said the military was preparing for new salvoes on the Tel Aviv area. Hamas confirmed the death of the commander. Its leader Ismail Haniyeh added: “The confrontation with the enemy is open-ended.”
A Palestinian source said truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the UN had made no progress to end violence. Describing the scenes of destruction as “harrowing”, US secretary of state

Antony Blinken

said a senior aide, Hady Amr, would be sent to urge Israelis and Palestinians to seek calm.

Pentagon

chief

Lloyd Austin

reaffirmed “ironclad support for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself”. Israeli defence minister

Benny Gantz

said Israel would continue to strike Hamas to restore long-term calm, according to a statement.
The fighting is the heaviest between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in the Hamasruled enclave, and concern is growing that the situation could spiral out of control. “Stop the fire immediately. We’re escalating towards a full-scale war,” tweeted UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland.
In Gaza, a multi-storey residential building and a tower housing Hamas and other media outlets collapsed after Israel warned occupants in advance to evacuate. Other air strikes hit what Israel’s military said were rocket launch sites, Hamas offices and homes of Hamas leaders.
Twenty-four people were killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza on Wednesday, Gaza’s health ministry said. Witnesses and health officials in Gaza said one Israeli air strike killed three people. Many Israelis also spent a sleepless night as waves of rockets hit Israel’s heartland. Israelis ran to shelters or lay on pavements in some communities far from Gaza. Tension also spilled over in mixed Arab-Jewish towns in Israel where there have been demonstrations over the hostilities. After a synagogue was torched in Lod, police deployed paramilitary reinforcements and announced a curfew.
The violence followed weeks of tension during

Ramzan

, with clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters near Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. These escalated ahead of a court hearing — now postponed — that could lead to the eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers. The conflict has led to the freezing of talks by Netanyahu’s opponents on forming a governing coalition to unseat him after inconclusive election.

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