Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Gaza and Palestinian militants have fired multiple rocket barrages at Tel Aviv and the southern city of Beersheba in the region’s most intense hostilities in years.
At least 49 people have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave’s health ministry. Six people have been killed in Israel, medical officials said.
In Gaza, a multi-story residential building collapsed after Israel warned its occupants in advance to evacuate, and another was heavily damaged, after they were hit in the air strikes.
Israel said its warplanes had targeted and killed several of the Islamist group Hamas’s intelligence leaders. Other strikes hit what the military said were rocket launch sites, Hamas offices and the homes of Hamas leaders.
The heaviest offensive between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in the Hamas-ruled enclave has increased international concern that the situation could spiral out of control.
“Israel has gone crazy,” said a man on a Gaza street, where people ran out of their homes as explosions rang out.
Many Israelis also spent a sleepless night, with sirens sounding at 3am in Tel Aviv, heralding several waves of rocket strikes in Israel’s heartland.
UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said the United Nations was working with all sides to restore calm. Egypt made calls overnight to Palestinian leaders to urge restraint.