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Fresh rocket attacks on Israeli cities — As it happened

May 12, 2021

Rocket attacks were launched on Israeli cities throughout Wednesday after the country's military carried out airstrikes that hit targets in Gaza.

Fire following an air strike in Gaza
Israeli air strikes in Gaza continued through the night WednesdayImage: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
  • Top rabbi appeals for calm after Jewish, Arab riots
  • Russia seeks urgent Quartet talks
  • At least 65 people have been killed in Gaza, seven dead in Israel
  • Boy, six, dies in Sderot rocket strike
  • US, EU warns Israel on civilian casualties
  • Israel's Shin Bet says it has killed 16 senior Hamas figures

Live updates ended

This live updates article has now been closed. For continued coverage please see here: Israel-Gaza violence: Israel pledges to keep up airstrikes — live updates

Palestinian PM slams lack of response from the UN

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh criticized the UN Security Council for failing to produce a joint statement on the situation after a second meeting on Wednesday.

"Failure to condemn Israel in the UN gives it the green light to commit more crimes," he said in a tweet.

The US has so far blocked statements proposed by the council that have called on Israel to halt evictions in Jerusalem.

Sirens sound in northern Israel as Hamas fires more rockets

The sirens were heard as far north as the city of Nazareth, Israeli media reported, suggesting that Hamas as significantly extended the range of its rockets.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries and sirens do not necessarily mean that rockets actually reached that far.

The Israeli Defense Forces said that rocket fire from Gaza had also set off warning sirens in central and southern Israel.

Netanyahu decries violence in Israeli cities, considers sending in army

The Isreali prime minister condemned the rioting and violence in mixed Arab-Israeli cities, calling it "anarchy."

"Nothing can justify an Arab mob assaulting Jews, and nothing can justify a Jewish mob assaulting Arabs," he said in a video statement in reference to reports of attacks on individuals by both Arab and Jewish Israelis.

He also said that supported giving police more powers and was looking into the option of sending military forces into cities to "bring back order and rule."

Israeli police said that they had made 374 arrests on Wednesday following rioting in several cities, local media reported.

Biden says Israel has to right to defend itself

US President Joe Biden said he has spoken to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. 

"My expectation and hope is this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself," he told reporters at the White House.

Top rabbi calls for calm

One of Israel's two chief rabbis called for calm after reports of attacks by Jews on the country's Arab minority.

"We must not be dragged into provocations and inflicting harm on people or property," Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said in a statement. "The Torah of Israel grants no license for taking the law into one's hands and acting violently."

Russia seeks urgent Quartet talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called for an urgent meeting of the Middle East Quartet in order to halt violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Speaking alongside United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the top diplomat said: "Today we've come to the common opinion that the most pressing task is to convene the Quartet of international mediators -- Russia, the United States, the UN and the EU."

The Quartet, which was established in 2002, is a grouping of international powers that was set up to preserve the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Child dies after rocket strike on Sderot

Israeli paramedics say a 6-year-old boy was killed in a rocket strike on an apartment building in the southern city of Sderot and five other people wounded.

United Hatzalah, a volunteer paramedic organization, said they were unable to save the child due to the severity of his injuries.

Hamas said the deadly rocket strike was a response to the destruction of a 14-story building in Gaza after Israeli fighter jets dropped two bombs on it. Israel said the Al-Farouk tower housed the Hamas intelligence services.

Smoke rising after Israeli airstrikes in Khan Yunis in Gaza
Israel has said it has been targeting high-ranking Hamas officials in GazaImage: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli strikes have now destroyed three tower blocks in Gaza, two of which have been completely flattened.

Ex-US envoy to Israel warns of 'full-scale war'

Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel and Egypt, told DW's Laila Harrak that Israel and Palestine were on track for another war.

"We're in a mad rush to full-scale war and it's a war that neither Hamas nor Israel really wants," he said. 

"We've seen this movie before in 2014, and that war went on for almost two months with hundreds and hundreds of casualties."

Times of Israel reports further strikes on Ashkelon

Emanuel Fabian, a reporter with the Times of Israel newspaper, has tweeted pictures of what he describes as the latest missile attacks on the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

EU dismayed at civilian casualties

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he is "dismayed at the large numbers of civilian deaths and injuries, including children" in Iatest Israel-Hamas fighting.

He called "the indiscriminate launching of rockets" at Israeli civilians "unacceptable".

US warns Israel on civilian casualties

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israel on Wednesday to avoid civilian deaths, while defending the Jewish state's right to attack Gaza in response to Hamas rocket fire.

A shot of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system taking out Hamas rockets
Israeli cities were bombarded on Wednesday and ThursdayImage: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

"I think Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything they possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people," Washington's top diplomat said.

France says world powers must avert fresh Middle East conflict

World powers must do all they can to avoid a new conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, according to France's foreign minister.

"The cycle of violence in Gaza, in Jerusalem but also in the West Bank and several cities in Israel risk leading to a major escalation," Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament. "Everything must be done to avoid a conflict."

Russia urges Israel to cease settlement building

Sergei Vershinin, a Russian deputy foreign minister, called on Israel on Wednesday to "immediately" stop all settlement activities in the Palestinian Territories.

The RIA news agency quoted Vershinin as saying that the "status quo of Jerusalem's sacred sites" must be respected.

Energy giant shuts natural gas platform amid fighting

The Israeli government told the Chevron energy giant to shut down the Tamar natural gas platform off the coast of Ashkelon, the firm said in a statement.

"In accordance with instructions received from the Ministry of Energy, we have shut-in and depressurised the Tamar Platform," Chevron said in a statement.

Israel insisted that its energy needs would continue to be met.

Turkey tells Russia that Israel needs a lesson

Turkish president Recep Tayip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that world powers need 'to give Israel a strong and deterrent lesson."

According to a statement released by the Turkish presidency, Erdogan also proposed that an international protection force to help the Palestinians be considered.

A separate readout by the Kremlin said that "serious concern was expressed about the continuing clashes and the growing number of people killed and wounded."

Germany says Israel has 'right to self-defense'

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin "condemns these incessant rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli cities in the strongest terms", adding that they "could not be justified".

"Israel has the right to self-defence against these attacks," he added. 

Israel says it has killed 16 Hamas figures

The Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, says its forces killed 16 senior Hamas figures in an air strike on Wednesday.

Hamas has not commented on the Israeli statement.

Officials said amongst the dead are Bassim Issa, a veteran Hamas brigade commander for Gaza City, Hamas cyber and missile technology chief Jomaa Tahla and 13 members of the faction's weapons manufacturing staff.

Ex-Knesset speaker: Both Netanyahu and Hamas are illegitimate 

Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, and ex-interim President of Israel, has spoken to DW about what led to the current situation, and why there is no obvious way out of the crisis.

"There are no proportions in wars," he said. "War is an unproportional measure and the situation is not to be judged immediately. It is what led to it and what led to it is actually an interesting joint motivation — a common denominator between Hamas and Netanyahu's conservative government. Both do not want to give power to the Palestinian authority and make peace with it."

"The Hamas wants to take over the Palestinian authority," Burg continued, "and promote its religious and political agenda. And Netanyahu does not want to compromise, sit down and have a reconciliation with the Palestinian authority because it will lead eventually to a Palestinian state."

And regarding the ongoing violence Burg said: "Every citizen, be it a citizen in Gaza or Jerusalem, has the right to live in peace."

Netanyahu's hold on power has been hanging by a thread of late as he struggles to form a government and Burg says this means he is in no position to lead Israel into conflict. "Netanyahu... four times in the last year and a half, the majority of the Israelis said we do not want you as prime minister."

"Both the Israeli right-wing government and the Hamas religious government are illegitimate forces."

Israel: Attack to achieve 'total, long-term quiet'

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said attacks on Palestinian militant groups in Gaza would continue until they bring "total, long-term quiet" and that such military action would preclude any ceasefire agreement.

"The army will continue to attack to bring a total, long-term quiet," he said. "There is no end date and we will not receive moral sermons from any organization on our right to protect the citizens of Israel."

"Only when we reach that goal will we be able to speak about a truce."

A fire rages at sunrise in Khan Yunish following an Israeli airstrike on targets in the southern Gaza Strip
An end to violence in the Gaza Strip does not appear imminent Image: Youssef Massoud/AFP/Getty Images

Netanyahu: 'Hamas will pay a very heavy price'

There appears to be no imminent end to the violence as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that militants would pay a "very heavy" price for their actions.

"We are at the height of a weighty campaign," Netanyahu said in televised remarks alongside his defense minister and military chief. "Hamas and Islamic Jihad paid ... and will pay a very heavy price for their belligerence ... their blood is forfeit."

Netanyahu's words come as the UN's special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, warned of a possible "full-scale war" if there isn't an" immediate" cessation of the violence.

PM Johnson urges restraint from both sides

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged Israelis and Palestinians "to step back from the brink," as he called on "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," Johnson said on Twitter.

Johnson's message comes after a heavy night of shelling in the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of at least 35 people, fueling fears of a descent into full-scale war.

ICC talks of 'possible crimes

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has voiced "great concern" over the escalation of violence in the region and suggested "crimes" may have been committed. 

"I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute," Fatou Bensouda said on Twitter.

The Rome Statute, which was founded by the ICC, contains four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression, noting those crimes "shall not be subject to any statute of limitations."

'Three weeks' that led to conflict

DW's Tania Krämer also expanded on the recent events that led to the outbreaks of violence, and now conflict.

"A lot of things have happened here in the past three weeks," she said. "All of this was preceded by weeks of protests and demonstrations in East Jerusalem, by mainly young Palestinians, over restrictions put in place by the Israeli police during Ramadan. Also the issue of evictions in the Palestinian neighborhood, pending evictions in East Jerusalem — there were a lot of protests. And also a very strong showing of far-right Israeli extremists, so this together made it a very volatile situation."

On Monday, celebrated by Israelis as Jerusalem Day, Krämer said that "there were very heavy confrontations on the holy site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and that led to Hamas entering the picture, issuing some sort of ultimatum that it would attack Israel."

There is also the ongoing issue of political uncertainty in Israel, as Krämer explained: "Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minster, has failed to form a government and we are waiting for his rivals to try and form the next coalition government."

DW's Tania Krämer on the escalating crisis in the Middle East

Death toll increases after 'intensive' barrage of rockets

DW's Jerusalem correspondent, Tania Krämer, spoke of another night of "intensive airstrikes" as the Israeli army said there had been over 1,000 rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel since Monday.

Krämer confirmed many of the details regarding the overnight barrage, as she told DW television Israeli armed forces launched attacks towards Gaza in the past hours. She said the attacks were "targeting mainly government buildings or police stations, and intelligence stations. We also understand there was a targeted strike on a Hamas intelligence leader, so the latest figures from Gaza, from the Ministry of Health — 35 people were killed, among them children."

She also spoke of strikes coming in the opposite direction "since the early morning [on Wednesday] — very heavy rocket barrages from Gaza towards central Israel, including Tel Aviv, and also the international airport, and two people were killed in the city of Lod."

And the protests which began on Saturday showed no signs of letting up either. Krämer added: "We also have seen overnight demonstrations in the occupied West Bank also in Jerusalem and also in Palestinian communities overnight."

Police headquarters also targeted

More details are emerging over the circumstances surrounding the Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip that targeted the homes of senior members of Hamas, with the territory's police headquarters also under fire.

Warplanes "completed a series of raids, hitting homes that belonged to high-ranking members" of Hamas, the Israeli military said, with the militant group responding by adding that a key police building had also been destroyed.

Map: Israel - Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jerusalem, Lod, Tel Aviv

Israel kills Hamas militants in Gaza

The Israeli Defense Forces said fighter jets killed two key intelligence figures from Hamas — Hassan Kaogi, head of the military security department, and his deputy Wail Issa, head of military counterespionage.

Local media also reported that two Hamas operatives who had been involved in firing rockets in Gaza were killed by Israeli airstrikes.

Two civilians killed by rocket fire outside Tel Aviv

A girl was killed by a direct hit on the car she was in and a 40-year-old man was declared dead later at a hospital following rocket strikes, Israeli media reported. It is unclear if the two were killed by the same rocket. 

Several rockets landed in the town of Lod, a mixed Arab-Israeli city close to Tel Aviv, after Hamas said it had fired over 100 rockets from Gaza towards the area. 

A burned car following a rocket attack in Lod, Israel
A burned car in Lod following rocket attacks early Wednesday. The car is not known to have been connected to the two deathsImage: Ahmed Gharabli/AFP

Tel Aviv on red alert as Hamas fires rockets

Sirens rang out in Tel Aviv early Wednesday morning after the armed branch of Hamas said in a statement that it was "in the process of firing 110 rockets" toward Israel's largest city. 

The Israel Defense Forces said families in Tel Aviv had been woken up and taken to bomb shelters. 

Hamas also said it had launched 100 rockets at the southern town of Beer-Sheva. 

Israeli airstrike strikes second Gaza tower block

The Associated Press reported that Israeli aircraft struck a high-rise building in Gaza City early Wednesday morning. 

The nine-story building houses residential apartments, medical production companies and a dental clinic.

Warning shots were reportedly fired from drones in advance, and there have been no immediate reports of casualties.

Hamas-affiliated media reported that the building was "significantly damaged." 

The AP reported smoke and debris had reached its office in Gaza, which is located 200 meters away from the attacked building. 

The airstrike comes after a 13-story building in Gaza was flattened by an Israeli airstrike on Tuesday.

A Palestinian woman carrying her son
A Palestinian woman and her son evacuate after their tower building was hit by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza CityImage: Mohammed Salem/REUTERS

State of emergency declared in mixed Arab-Israeli city

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed to the Israeli city of Lod on Tuesday night after implementing a local state of emergency.

Police accused Arab residents in the city of engaging in "wide-scale riots." Authorities also sent in security reinforcements, the Times of Israel newspaper reported.

Fifth day of tension and conflict

What started as protests over contested evictions in an East Jerusalem neighborhood has turned into a larger conflict between Israel and the Hamas militants ruling Gaza.

World leaders have called for an end to the violence as tensions between the two sides continue to rise.

ab, jsi/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)