Netanyahu declares emergency in city after riots as Gaza-Israel conflict escalates

·2 min read
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours the city of Lod early on May 12, 2021 - AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours the city of Lod early on May 12, 2021 - AFP

Israel was facing two escalating conflicts on Wednesday after its military carried out hundreds of strikes in Gaza in response to a Hamas rocket barrage on Tel Aviv, while rioting by Arab-Israelis in the central city of Lod prompted the prime minister to announce a state of emergency.

On Wednesday morning, the Israel Defence Forces launched a fresh round of airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza strip, destroying multiple police stations and residential blocks, including the Hamas police headquarters.

The bombardment has traumatised thousands of Gazan civilians who posted footage online of huge explosions in urban areas, as plumes of smoke rose over the city. Many people had to be rescued from the remains of smouldering buildings.

As of Wednesday, the Israeli military operation in Gaza has killed more than 30 people, including 12 children, while at least 200 are injured.

In Israel overnight, a rocket attack on a suburb in Tel Aviv killed one woman, while two people were killed in a separate attack on the city of Lod.

This brought the Israeli death toll to five after two women were killed in Ashkelon on Tuesday.

Several dozen Israelis have been injured by around a thousand Hamas rockets launched at central and southern Israel since Monday.

The worst barrage, late on Tuesday night, was directed at Tel Aviv where the sky lit up with explosions as around a hundred rockets were engaged by the Iron Dome, Israel's air defence system.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has declared a "state of emergency" in the central city of Lod, where a synagogue and several businesses were torched as an Arab protest against Israeli military action descended into a riot.

Black smoke billows early on May 12, 2021 from a fire raging at a refinery hit by Hamas rockets the previous day in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, near the Gaza Strip - AFP
Black smoke billows early on May 12, 2021 from a fire raging at a refinery hit by Hamas rockets the previous day in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, near the Gaza Strip - AFP

According to the Times of Israel, it is the first time that Israel has used such emergency powers on the Arab community since 1966.

The unrest is spreading to other Israeli cities with a high Arab population, such as Haifa in the north, and Ramla in central Israel. There were also reports of clashes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz warned "this is just the beginning" of Israel's strikes.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed in turn that "if Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it".

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