Boris Johnson urges Israel and Palestine to 'step back from the brink' of war

12 May 2021, 08:35 | Updated: 12 May 2021, 10:12

By Daisy Stephens

Boris Johnson has urged Israel and the Palestinians to "step back from the brink and for both sides to show restraint" following growing violence.

It comes after the UN warned has Israel on the brink of "full scale war," after escalating violence in the region claimed at least 35 lives.

Hamas fired around 130 rockets at targets in Israel after another day of intensifying conflict which saw the destruction of a tower block in Gaza in an Israeli air strike.

The UK Prime Minister tweeted: "I am urging Israel and the Palestinians to step back from the brink and for both sides to show restraint.

"The UK is deeply concerned by the growing violence and civilian casualties and we want to see an urgent de-escalation of tensions."

The barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip and air strikes into the territory continued almost non-stop throughout Tuesday, in what appeared to be some of the most intense fighting between Israel and Hamas since their 2014 war.

Protest in West Bank for Palestinians in Jerusalem
Protest in West Bank for Palestinians in Jerusalem. Picture: Getty

35 Palestinians and five Israelis have lost their lives in the latest clashes.

The death toll in Gaza rose to 35 Palestinians, including 10 children, according to the Health Ministry, which said more than 200 people were wounded.

Five Israelis, including three women and a child, were killed by rocket fire on Tuesday and early on Wednesday, while dozens of others were injured.

The rocket strikes come after Gaza’s police headquarters was destroyed by air strikes from Israel.

In a nationally televised speech late on Tuesday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Hamas and Islamic Jihad "have paid, and will pay, a heavy price", adding: "This campaign will take time, with determination, unity and strength."

As the unrest spreads, hundreds of residents of Arab communities across Israel staged demonstrations denouncing the recent actions of Israeli security forces against Palestinians in one of the largest protests by Palestinian citizens in Israel in recent years.

Egyptian officials said they were trying to negotiate a ceasefire and the UN’s middle east peace envoy has called for the violence to stop, but instead it is said to be gaining momentum.

The UK government has said the violence between Israel and Hamas is "very concerning."

The United Nations Middle East peace envoy has warned the conflict between Israel and Hamas is escalating to the risk of an all out war.

Tor Wennesland, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, posted online: "Stop the fire immediately. We’re escalating towards a full scale war.

"Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of deescalation. The cost of war in Gaza is devastating & is being paid by ordinary people. UN is working w/ all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now"

Further destruction came as Gaza City's police headquarters was destroyed after Israel launched air strikes.

Iyad al-Bozum, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, said the police compound with several buildings was blown up by rockets unleashed by Israel as dawn broke on Wednesday.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, a 26-year-old Palestinian was killed during clashes with Israeli troops that entered al-Fawar refugee camp in southern Hebron, Palestine's health ministry said.

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.

The UN Security Council planned to hold its second closed emergency meeting in three days on Wednesday on the escalating violence, an indication of growing international concern.

Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said the UN's most powerful body did not issue a statement because of US concerns that it could escalate tensions.

The fighting between Israel and Hamas was 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.