Israeli warplanes launch strikes in Gaza and Palestinian militants fire rockets

14 May 2021, 20:04 | Updated: 15 May 2021, 08:00

Palestinians inspect damage to a neighbourhood
Palestinians inspect damage to a neighbourhood. Picture: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

By Will Taylor

Israeli war planes have launched renewed air strikes in Gaza early this morning, with Hamas militants responding by firing rockets into Israel.

The confrontations mark a broadening out of some of the worst violence in the region in years. Violent clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians have spread across much of the occupied West Bank following days of hostility.

Palestinian families last night fled the outskirts of Gaza City as Israel fired artillery at what it said was a large network of militant tunnels.

The attack came ahead of a possibility of a ground invasion into the Gaza strip was raised, as Israeli forces aim to counter Hamas rocket fire.

Palestinian health officials said seven people were killed by Israeli army fire in several locations.

The Gaza Health Ministry said 119 people have been killed, including 31 children and 19 women, while 830 have been wounded.

Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a six-year-old boy and a soldier.

Israel has amassed troops on the border and called up 9,000 reservists.

Militants have fired some 1,800 rockets and the Israelis have launched more than 600 airstrikes, with at least three high-rise buildings toppled.

Tanks stationed near Gaza have shelled areas.

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Inside Israel, violence erupted for a further night as Jewish and Arab groups clashed in the town of Lod.

In Gaza, Families fled to UN-run schools in the city.

"We were planning to leave our homes at night, but Israeli jets bombarded us so we had to wait until the morning," said Hedaia Maarouf, who fled with her extended family of 19 people, including 13 children.

"We were terrified for our children, who were screaming and shaking."

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"It was a massacre," said Sadallah Tanani, a relative of a family reportedly killed by an Israeli airstrike.

Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said tanks stationed near the border fired 50 rounds and aimed to destroy militant tunnels.

"As always, the aim is to strike military targets and to minimise collateral damage and civilian casualties," he said.

"Unlike our very elaborate efforts to clear civilian areas before we strike high-rise or large buildings inside Gaza, that wasn't feasible this time."

Egyptian mediators have pressed for a ceasefire, which appears to have gotten nowhere.

A senior Hamas leader said the group had rejected a proposed three-hour pause in fighting, which broke out after Hamas fired a long range rocket at Jerusalem on Monday after Palestinian protests about policing and Jewish settlers.

The violence began a month ago in Jerusalem, which Israel considers to be its capital while Palestinians want their future state to be run from East Jerusalem.

Life in many parts of southern Israel has been put on hold in many places, with barrages aimed at Tel Aviv.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to continue operations and "extract a very heavy price from Hamas".

Israel has been criticised for civilian casualties in its wars in Gaza, while the state insists Hamas is endangering civilians by putting military equipment in civilian areas and launching rockets.