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Israel-Gaza death toll rises as UN warns of ‘full-scale war’

Jerusalem / The exchange of airstrikes and rocket fire between militant groups in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli Defense Forces continued Wednesday, with the death toll rising and as the United Nation’s Middle East envoy warned of “full-scale war.”

Militant groups in Gaza have launched 850 rockets from the coastal enclave towards Israeli territory since Monday, in addition to 200 unsuccessful launches, while Israel has carried out around 500 bombings, according to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

A military spokesman said Wednesday that the troops are acting “under the same guidelines” as in the 2014 conflict during the current escalation of violence that has now resulted in the death of 35 Palestinians, including 12 minors, and five people, including a teenager, in Israel.

In its attacks against targets of Islamist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the IDF is trying to reduce “collateral damage” and “minimize” civilian casualties, he said.

So far, among those killed in the enclave are 12 children and three women, while Israel estimates that it killed at least 20 militiamen, in the worst cross-border violence in years.

During the night, the exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza did not stop. Combat aircraft carried out a second attack on a 14-story building in Gaza City, which houses the offices of spokesmen and members of the Hamas political ranks, after which al-Qassam Brigades – Hamas’ military arm – launched a new burst of at least 100 rockets towards the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, and central and southern Israel.

A high percentage of projectiles fired from Gaza was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

“Our fighter jets, with the ISA, neutralized key figures of Hamas’ intelligence: Hassan Kaogi, head of the Hamas military intelligence security department & his deputy Wail Issa, head of the military intelligence counterespionage department,” the IDF said on Twitter early Wednesday.

It also bombed the homes of the group’s high-ranking militiamen, including Basa Misa, a brigade commander in the town of Khan Younis, and Rafah Salameh, head of the intelligence apparatus.

In the early hours of Wednesday, during the violence that began early Tuesday, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, demanded both sides “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 (…) Stop the violence now,” he wrote on Twitter.

His message came after UN Secretary General António Guterres said the “spiraling escalation must cease immediately.”

“Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and calibrate their use of force. The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israeli population centres is unacceptable,” said Guterres’ spokesman Stéphane Dujarric in a statement.

The violence between the sides began on Monday due to riots and protests in Jerusalem, which have spread to Arab communities in Israel, where demonstrations flared up again Tuesday. (May 12, 2021, EFE)

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