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Israel’s military continued to pound targets in Gaza on Wednesday in response to rocket barrages by Hamas and other militants on Tel Aviv and Beersheba – as the death toll from the spiraling hostilities climbed to six Israelis and 43 Palestinians.
The Gaza Health Ministry said the dead Palestinians include 13 children and three women, adding that 300 residents in the territory have been wounded in the strikes, including 86 children and 39 women.
Meanwhile, the head of Israel’s emergency services reported that one person has been killed and another seriously wounded by an anti-tank missile fired from the Gaza Strip.
Eli Bein of the Magen David Adom said the Wednesday morning attack hit a jeep after a night of deadly exchanges between Israel and Palestinians in an escalation of weeks of tension with roots in disputed Jerusalem.
The Hamas terror group has taken responsibility for the Kornet anti-tank guided missile attack, the Times of Israel reported.
“The Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’s military wing) targeted a Zionist enclave with a guided missile in the northern Gaza Strip,” the group said in a statement.
Immediately following the attack, militants in the Strip fired mortar shells throughout the area.
Six Israelis, including three women and a child, have been killed by rocket fire Tuesday and early Wednesday, and dozens of people were wounded.
The worst fighting since the 2014 Gaza war was sparked by clashes in Jerusalem between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police focused on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a site sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
Israel said its warplanes had targeted and killed several Hamas intelligence leaders early Wednesday. Other strikes hit what the military said were rocket launch sites, Hamas offices and the homes of the group’s leaders.
“Israel has gone crazy,” said a man on a Gaza street, where people ran out of their homes amid explosions.
Many Israelis also spent a sleepless night, with sirens sounding at 3 a.m. in Tel Aviv, warning of impending rocket strikes.
“The children have escaped the coronavirus, and now a new trauma,” an Israeli woman in the coastal city of Ashkelon said on Channel 11 TV, according to Reuters.
Hamas’s armed wing said it fired 210 rockets toward Tel Aviv and Beersheba in response to the strikes on buildings in Gaza City.
The Israel Defense Forces said about a third of the rockets had fallen short, landing within Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the militants would pay a “very heavy” price for the rocket attacks.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations had urged calm, but his group’s message to Israel was: “If they want to escalate, the resistance is ready, if they want to stop, the resistance is ready.”
On Tuesday, the White House said Israel had a right to defend itself from rocket attacks but applied pressure on the country over the treatment of Palestinians, saying Jerusalem must be a place of coexistence.
Meanwhile, an Israeli police spokesperson defended the force’s use of live fire during riots in Lod as well as the crowd-dispersal methods used in East Jerusalem.
“This is the first time we’ve seen local residents using weapons, opening fire, and the response from our units has been also using live fire in order to prevent anyone from being killed,” spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said, the Times of Israel reported.
“Police were prepared and mobilized in Jerusalem in order to prevent the disturbances, but unfortunately local Arab Israeli residents were involved. Police responded by only using non-lethal weapons there,” he said.
A state of emergency was declared in Lod after intense Arab rioting reportedly saw three synagogues and multiple stores torched, along with dozens of cars, according to the news outlet.
With Post wires
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