WARNING – DISTRESSING IMAGES: The death toll is mounting as fighting escalates in a decades-long conflict in the Middle East which threatens to further destabilise the region.
Hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militant groups flared on Tuesday (local time), raising the death toll in two days to 32 Palestinians, including 10 children, according to the Health Ministry while roughly 200 have been injured.
Meanwhile three women in Israel have been reported killed by rocket fire and dozens of people wounded.
Israel carried out multiple air strikes in Gaza, a self-governing Palestinian territory, which saw a 13-storey residential building collapse after it was hit by an Israeli air strike, one of hundreds Israel said it had carried out against targets of militant group Hamas.
Hamas repeatedly fired volleys of missiles at Tel Aviv as Palestinian rockets rained down almost nonstop on parts of the country on Tuesday night (local time), The Associated Press reported.
As sirens sounded across Israel, images from those on the ground showed the destruction caused by the bombing.
On social media, footage from inside Israel's Ben Gurion airport showed panicked travellers rushing through terminals, ostensibly out of fear of a rocket strike as sirens blared in the background.
Air traffic into and out of Israel's Ben Gurion Airport has been suspended, with flights diverted, after rockets were seen intercepted in nearby airspace.
"During the massive rocket fire... flights were stopped to protect the country’s skies,” aviation authority spokesman Ofer Lefler told AFP.
Countries heading for 'full-scale war'
It is the heaviest fighting between the two bitter enemies since 2014, with international observers warning it shows no signs of slowing.
The UN envoy for Middle East Peace, Tor Wennesland, warned Israel and Hamas were heading towards "full-scale war".
"Stop the fire immediately. We’re escalating towards a full-scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of deescalation," he tweeted on Wednesday morning.
"The cost of war in Gaza is devastating and is being paid by ordinary people."
On Wednesday, Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government was "deeply concerned about the violence in East Jerusalem" and called on leaders to restore calm.
"The focus of all parties must be on a return to genuine peace negotiations to define a just, durable and resilient peace agreement," she said.
Israel PM: 'This campaign will take time'
In another sign of widening unrest, demonstrations erupted in Arab communities across Israel, where protesters set dozens of vehicles on fire in confrontations with police. Israel has enacted a state of emergency to help police deal with the riots.
The fighting between Israel and Hamas is the most intense since a 50-day war in the summer of 2014. In just over 24 hours, the current round of violence, sparked by religious tensions in the contested city of Jerusalem, increasingly resembled that devastating war.
In a nationally televised address, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant groups “have paid, and I tell you here, will pay a heavy price for their aggression”.
He claimed Israel had killed dozens of militants and inflicted heavy damage on hundreds of targets.
“This campaign will take time,” he said.
“With determination, unity and strength, we will restore security to the citizens of Israel.”
In a televised address, Hamas’ exiled leader Ismail Haniyeh said Israel bore responsibility for the violent unrest that had bubbled over.
“It’s the Israeli occupation that set Jerusalem on fire, and the flames reached Gaza,” he said.
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