Death and destruction in Gaza as Israel attacks

Israeli-Palestinian violence flares

The Israeli military added that about 160 aircraft also conducted a massive overnight attack on a network of tunnels dug by Hamas, reports said.

Masses of red flames illuminated the skies as the deafening blasts from the outskirts of Gaza City jolted people awake.

Palestinians living in areas close to the Gaza-Israel border fled their homes in pickup trucks, on donkeys and by foot.

At least 103 Palestinians and eight Israelis have been killed, according to Palestinian and Israeli official figures. The Israeli emergency medical service Magen David Adom said a man in his 50s was in serious condition and taken in for treatment due to shrapnel in his stomach. The death toll stood at 119, including 27 children, it said.

When asked by Germany's DPA news agency about the operation, an IDF spokeswoman would not say whether troops had actually entered the Gaza Strip, of if they are carrying out operations from the Israeli side of the border.

The conflict escalated after Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem amid eviction protests, which left scores of Palestinians and police officers wounded.

Power supplies may also be cut further as a result of the military action.

Just a few kilometers away, residents in the Israeli town of Ashkelon were fleeing to their bomb shelters again, as sirens wailed warning of a fresh barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza.

Israeli firefighters battle a field fire after a rocket launched from Gaza strip struck on May 13 in Ramla. Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier.

"IDF air and ground troops are now attacking in the Gaza Strip", the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said in a brief message, signalling the most serious escalation since the 2014 war. "Clarification: there are now no IDF ground troops inside the Gaza Strip".

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Israel has responded with hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, a densely populated and built up coastal strip in which the militants have embedded themselves within civilian populations.

Early Friday morning saw some of the heaviest artillery fire and airstrikes on Gaza since hostilities began.

"I said that we will exact a very heavy price from Hamas", Netanyahu wrote on Facebook, referring to the militant group.

On Thursday, the army said in a statement it destroyed a fourth multi-storey building that was used by Hamas. Israel's forces destroyed "many kilometres" of the tunnels during the attack, it claimed. "The last word hasn't been said and this campaign will continue as long as necessary". Thousands of reservists have been called up and leave for all combat units has been cancelled. Additionally, Israel security forces are scrambling to contain deadly riots between Jews and Arabs, with projectiles also fired on Israel from Lebanon. A synagogue was torched overnight and 43 people were arrested, according to police.

A spokesman for Gantz said he told executives of Facebook and Tik Tok during a Zoom meeting Thursday that the current round of violence is being "intentionally stirred through social media by extremist elements" sworn to damage Israel.

Chief Nadav Argaman said Friday that Shin Bet "will not allow violent lawbreakers to carry out terrorism on the streets of Israel".

The fighting in Gaza has spilled over into communal clashes inside Israel, where decades of pent-up grievances and nationalism have exploded into rampages by Arabs and Jews.

Late on Thursday, three rockets were launched towards northern Israel from an area in southern Lebanon, a Lebanese security source said.

IDF Military Intelligence rejects this allegation, saying that it had warned the political echelon of the threat of an attack by Hamas almost a month ahead of time, in mid-April, when significant clashes broke out regularly between residents of East Jerusalem and Israeli forces and amid the Palestinian Authority's decision to indefinitely postpone Palestinian elections that were planned for May.

Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, said a "civil war [would] be a danger to our existence, more than all the dangers we have from the outside".

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