The UN fears a “full-scale war” after the deadly exchange of fire between Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli military has escalated significantly.
More than 1,000 rockets have now been fired by Palestinian militants over 38 hours, Israel said, most at Tel Aviv.
Israel has carried out deadly air strikes, bringing down two tower blocks in Gaza on May 11.
Israeli Arabs have also staged violent protests in a number of Israeli towns.
The city of Lod, near Tel Aviv, has been put under a state of emergency.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” by the ongoing violence.
Six Israelis have died and in Gaza at least 43 Palestinians, including 13 children, have been killed since May 10, the health ministry said.
The latest fatality was an Israeli citizen, who was killed when an anti-tank guided missile, fired from the northern Gaza Strip, struck a jeep on the border. Two other people were injured.
The fighting follows weeks of rising tension stoked by violent confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a site in Jerusalem that is holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Israel’s military says this is the biggest exchange since 2014.
Of the 1,050 rockets and mortar shells that have now been fired from Gaza, 850 had landed in Israel or were intercepted by its Iron Dome air defense system, and 200 failed to clear the border and landed back in Gaza, the Israeli army said.
Video footage from the city showed rockets streaking through the night sky, some exploding as they were hit by Israeli interceptor missiles.
Loud booms and air-raid sirens were heard across targeted cities, which included Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Modiin, and the southern city of Beersheba, as Palestinian militants tried to overwhelm missile defenses.
The rocket fire escalated after the two residential tower blocks were brought down in Gaza. Israel said it was targeting rocket launch sites, high-rise buildings, homes and offices used by Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza.
Hamas said it was incensed by the “the enemy’s targeting of residential towers”.
Residents had been warned to evacuate the buildings before the fighter jets attacked, however health officials said there were still civilians deaths.
US state department spokesman, Ned Price said Israel had the right to defend itself but the Palestinian people also had the right to safety and security.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Israeli strikes were “just the beginning”.
“Terror organizations have been hit hard and will continue to be hit because of their decision to hit Israel,” he said.
“We’ll return peace and quiet, for the long term.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised address: “If [Israel] wants to escalate, we are ready for it, and if it wants to stop, we’re also ready.”
Protests by Israeli Arabs in Lod escalated to full-scale rioting, with protesters throwing rocks at police, who responded with stun grenades.
A 52-year-old father and his 16-year-old daughter reportedly died when a rocket hit their car, with a number of other people injured in clashes, Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The violence caused Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to declared a state of emergency in Lod on May 11. It was the first time the government had used emergency powers over an Arab community since 1966, The Times of Israel said.
PM Netanyahu, who went to the city to call for calm, said he would impose a curfew if necessary.
Israeli media reported that synagogues and several businesses had been set on fire, while Reuters said there were reports a car driven by an Arab resident had been stoned.
Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s main international hub and one of the country’s busiest, briefly halted flights on May 11 and an energy pipeline between the cities of Eilat and Ashkelon was hit.
There has also been unrest in other cities with a large Israeli Arab population, as well as in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned as biased a speech by outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry on Israeli-Palestinian issues.
John Kerry said the prospect of a peace deal based on a two-state solution was in grave jeopardy as Israeli settlement building on occupied land was a major problem.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he was disappointed with the speech, which he said was “unbalanced” and “obsessively focused” on settlements.
John Kerry had “paid lip service to the unremitting Palestinian campaign of terrorism” against Israel, he said.
He added that the conflict centered on the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, but John Kerry “does not see the simple truth”.
Earlier, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted in support of Israel, saying he would not allow it to be treated with “disdain and disrespect”.
Image source Wikimedia
He urged Israel to “stay strong” until he assumed office next month.
France, which will host an international conference to lay down the framework for a future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in Paris in January, indicated support for John Kerry’s position.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said John Kerry’s speech was “clear, committed and courageous”.
Following the speech, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suggested he was ready to resume peace negotiations if Israel stopped activity within its settlements.
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said President Mahmoud Abbas was “fully confident” that a “just, comprehensive, and lasting solution” could be reached.
He said: “If the Israeli Government agrees to cease settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, and to implement the agreements signed by the two sides, the Palestinian leadership will be willing to resume negotiations.”
Last week, the United States chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlement construction, leading to an angry response from Israel.
The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
More than 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
In his speech, John Kerry said that despite Israeli claims to the contrary, UN condemnation of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied land was in line with American values.
John Kerry said: “The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. That future is now in jeopardy.
“The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.
“The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described as more committed to settlements than any Israel’s history, are leading in the opposite direction. They are leading towards one state.”
Israel has postponed a vote to authorize construction of almost 500 new homes in Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Israeli committee’s decision apparently follows a request from PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
The move also comes ahead of a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by Secretary of State John Kerry.
On December 23, the US chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to settlement construction.
The decision to abstain infuriated Benjamin Netanyahu, whose spokesman said on December 27 he had “ironclad information” from Arab sources that the White House had helped draft the language of the resolution and “pushed hard” for its passage.
Image source Wikimedia
However, a US state department spokesman said the accusation was “just not true”, but he hoped the resolution would “serve as a wake-up call” for Israel.
More than 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
The UN resolution passed on December 23 stated that the establishment of settlements “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”.
Benjamin Netanyahu responded over the weekend by summoning the ambassadors of the US and the 14 countries on the Security Council who voted in favor of the resolution, recalling Israel’s ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, cutting aid to Senegal, and canceling a visit by Ukraine’s prime minister.
The Jerusalem Planning and Housing Committee had indicated it would press ahead with a planned vote on authorizing 492 new homes in the settlements of Ramat Shlomo and Ramot.
However, on December 28, planning committee member Hanan Rubin said the vote had been postponed.
Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to lay out his vision for ending the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and address what a senior state department official described as “misleading critiques” of the Obama administration by the Israeli government.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said the resolution “paves the way” for the upcoming conference on Middle East peace in France on January 15.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has summoned American Ambassador Dan Shapiro amid a growing row after the US eased the passage of a UN resolution against Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, took the unusual step of calling the US ambassador to his office.
The move comes after Israel summoned ambassadors from countries which voted for the December 23 resolution.
The reprimands came after Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to take retaliatory steps for what he called a “shameful” act by the UN.
The resolution, which harshly criticized Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, passed when the US abstained instead of using its veto.
Image source Wikimedia
Israel has accused the US, its closest ally but a frequent critic of settlements, of engineering the vote – a charge Washington has denied.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: “From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, co-ordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed.
“Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”
The UN resolution – the first since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy – said the settlements had “no legal validity” and constituted “a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution”.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama have had a difficult relationship during President Obama’s two terms and Israel had feared that Washington would take such a measure in the final weeks of Obama’s presidency.
Donald Trump tweeted that the vote was a “big loss” for Israel which “will make it much harder to negotiate peace”, vowing “we will get it done anyway”.
The president-elect promised that “things will be different” at the UN after he takes office on January 20.
Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his foreign ministry to summon the ambassadors of 10 countries which voted in favor of the resolution and which have embassies in Israel.
The reprimand on Christmas Day, when most embassies are closed, is unusual and a sign of the seriousness with which Israel is taking the matter.
In remarks on December 24, Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would work to get the resolution rescinded, adding that allies in the US Congress and the incoming administration had promised to “fight an all-out war” against the measure.
The prime minister said he had already halted Israeli funding to five UN institutions “that are especially hostile to Israel”, and warned of further steps to come.
In the wake of the vote, Israel recalled its ambassadors from New Zealand and Senegal, which both put forward the resolution, and canceled planned visits to Israel by the foreign ministers of Senegal and Ukraine, which had voted for the text.
The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians.
More than 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem – land the Palestinians want for a future state.
The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has described the UN call to end settlement activity on occupied land as “shameful”.
The prime minister stressed that Israel would not abide by December 23vote at the 15-member UN Security Council.
However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman said the resolution was a “big blow to Israeli policy”.
The resolution was passed after the US refused to veto it, breaking with long-standing American practice.
Washington has traditionally sheltered Israel from condemnatory resolutions.
The Egyptian-drafted resolution had been withdrawn after Israel asked President-elect Donald Trump to intervene, but it was proposed again by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela.
The UN resolutin, approved by 14 votes to zero, with only the US abstaining, demands that Israel immediately “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”.
Image source Wikimedia
It says Jewish settlements are a “flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”.
The issue is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians.
About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms.
“At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half-a-million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall <<occupied territory>>.”
He said the Obama administration “not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes”, and added that he looked forward to working with Donald Trump.
Israel also announced its ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal had been ordered to return for consultations and that it was cutting all aid programs to Senegal.
It has no diplomatic ties with Malaysia and Venezuela.
A spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas said: “The Security Council resolution is a big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements and a strong support for the two-state solution.”
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, said: “The Council’s action, while long overdue, is timely, necessary and important.”
Samantha Power, the US envoy to the UN, said the resolution reflected the “facts on the ground” that settlement growth had been accelerating.
Criticizing Benjamin Netanyahu, she said: “One cannot simultaneously champion expanding settlements and champion a two-state solution that would end the conflict.”
However, Samantha Power said the US had not voted in favor of the resolution because it was “too narrowly focused” on settlements.
She added that even if all settlements were dismantled, both sides would still have to acknowledge “uncomfortable truths” and make “difficult choices” to reach peace.
Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted after the vote: “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th.”
On December 22, Donald Trump had urged the council to reject the motion, saying: “Peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”
Israeli authorities have begun a major security operation in Arab areas of occupied East Jerusalem, after a surge in attacks by Palestinians.
Entrances to Jabal Mukaber, a district where three men accused of killing three Israelis on October 13 came from, have been blocked by police on October 14.
The Israeli military also deployed hundreds of soldiers to assist.
Later, police said they had shot dead a man who attempted to stab a guard on the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Since the beginning of October, seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in shooting and stabbing attacks, the Israeli authorities say.
At least 30 Palestinians have also been killed, including assailants, and hundreds have been injured, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
On October 13, Israel’s security cabinet authorized police to close or surround “centers of friction and incitement” in Jerusalem.
It also announced that the homes of Palestinians who attacked Israelis would be demolished within days and never rebuilt, and that their families’ right to live in Jerusalem would be taken away.
On October 14, a police spokeswoman told the AFP news agency that checkpoints were being set up at “the exits of Palestinian villages and neighborhoods in East Jerusalem”.
Israeli newspapers later reported that several entrances to Jabal Mukaber had been blocked by police, with neither people nor vehicles allowed in or out. Several more areas were expected to be closed off by the end of the day.
Human Rights Watch warned that locking down parts of East Jerusalem would “infringe upon the freedom of movement of all Palestinian residents rather than being a narrowly tailored response to a specific concern”.
“The checkpoints are a recipe for harassment and abuse,” said Sari Bashi, the group’s Israel/Palestine country director, in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it was preparing to deploy six companies to assist police. Three hundred soldiers are already providing additional security under police command.
The security cabinet’s decisions were made after the bloodiest day in Jerusalem since the latest wave of unrest began in early October.
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