Diplomats are scrambling to broker a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas after the violence broadened on Friday across Gaza , the West Bank and Jerusalem.
In Gaza thousands of Palestinians packed their bags and fled their homes after Israel unleashed a further barrage of artillery fire and airstrikes on the north of the strip in an operation to “clear militant tunnels”.
Israeli planes renewed airstrikes in Gaza early on Saturday and Hamas militants responded by firing rockets into Israel.
At least 132 Palestinians, including 32 children and 21 women, have been killed, with 950 injuries, Gaza health ministry officials said.
At least eight people in Israel have been killed by Hamas rocket fire, including two children.
Meanwhile in the occupied West Bank, Israeli fire killed at least 10 Palestinians. Widespread protests took place across the West Bank, with hundreds of protesters in several towns burning tyres and throwing stones at Israeli troops.
Within Israel, violence also surged in mixed Arab-Jewish cities for a fourth night.
In the flashpoint city of Lod, Jewish and Arab residents battled even after some 500 security forces were deployed and a state of curfew imposed.
At the borders, Palestinian and Jordanian protesters attempted to storm multiple crossing on Israel’s eastern border.
To the north, a Lebanese man was shot dead as he joined a crowd of protesters, wielding Hezbollah flags, which successfully penetrated the border fence into Israel.
On Friday night, the Israeli military reported that rocket fire had been launched from Syria, with two landing within the country.
It followed three rockets fired from Lebanon likely by Palestinian factions the day before.
Alarmed by the rising instability, the Biden administration envoy Hady Amr flew into Israel on Friday, ahead of a session of the UN Security Council meeting on Sunday.
The US Embassy in Israel said the aim of his trip was “to reinforce the need to work toward a sustainable calm”.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Washington was focused on ending the crisis diplomatically, adding that Israel had a right to self-defence.
Egyptian mediators were also reportedly shutting between the warring factions as Cairo took the lead in regional efforts to secure a ceasefire.
The foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan discussed efforts to end the Gaza confrontation and to prevent “provocations” in Jerusalem, Cairo said.
But there appeared little hope of an immediate deal.
Instead, Israel ratcheted up its deadly aerial assault of Gaza, targeting several kilometres worth of underground tunnel networks, rocket production and storage facilities.
The operation targeted what Israelis military refer to as the “metro” tunnel complex with 160 aircraft as well as tanks and artillery firing from outside the Gaza Strip.
It included a bank that, Israel said, handled the day-to-day cash flow of Hamas and its armed wing.
An Israeli military official said they delivered a “severe blow to the underground capabilities to Hamas” and successfully killed well over 75 Hamas operatives as well as Islamic Jihad leaders.
There have also been further clashes between Jews and Israel’s minority Arab community in mixed cities across Israel. Police said they had arrested at least 23 people over the unrest.
Video footage showed open gunfights and street battles in places such as Jerusalem and Haifa.
In Tel Aviv, Palestinian citizens of Israel told The Independent they were running nightly patrols to guards their mosques fearing Jewish extremists were roving the neighbourhoods.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres also appealed for an immediate ceasefire.
“Fighting has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.
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