Israel declares state of emergency in Lod

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 12 2021 07:50 AM | Updated as of May 12 2021 08:04 AM

Israel declares state of emergency in Lod 1
Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 10, 2021. Picture taken with slow shutter speed. Amir Cohen, Reuters

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in the central city of Lod as police accused Arab residents of waging "wide-scale riots".

Netanyahu made the announcement in a statement saying reinforcements were being deployed to the city, where Israeli police said "wide-scale riots erupted by some of the Arab residents and endangering communities." 

The announcement comes after an Israeli Arab was killed in Lod the night before as violence soared between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian militants Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Israel's economic hub Tel Aviv on Tuesday in retaliation for an Israeli strike that destroyed a tower block in Gaza, as the foes traded their heaviest fire for several years.

The sharp escalation, triggered by violence in Jerusalem, has killed at least 30 Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip and three Israelis, and wounded hundreds more.

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"This is just the beginning" of Israel's strikes, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed that "if Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it."

The UN envoy for Middle East Peace, Tor Wennesland, warned that Israel and Hamas were heading towards "full scale war".

In the crowded, Israeli-blockaded enclave of Gaza, 10 children and one woman were among those killed since Monday night.

A further 203 people were reported wounded from the ongoing Israeli air strikes, many rescued from the smoldering ruins of buildings.

In Israel, sirens sounded as Hamas rockets rained down, and some of those unable to make it to underground shelters took cover under bridges.

"It was scary," said Haim Roy Ben Shlomo, 38, resident of Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, adding he had heard "several loud shots, or booms, above our heads."

An Israeli woman was killed as rockets hit Rishon Letzion on the coastal city's southern edge, while in nearby Holon, AFP footage showed a burnt-out bus as rescue workers cleaned up debris.

The rocket fire forced Israel to suspend flights at its main airport of Ben Gurion, near Tel Aviv.

'HELL'

In Gaza, people sifted through debris after an Israeli air strike destroyed a 12-storey building.

Hamas, which controls the Palestinian territory, said the tower block had been a residential building. AFP reporters said it also houses offices of several Hamas officials.

Hamas threatened to turn the nearby Israeli city of Ashkelon into "hell", and rockets fired by militants in Gaza killed two women there.

At one stage the group claimed to have fired more than 100 rockets in under five minutes to overwhelm air defenses.

At least 100 Israelis were injured in Tuesday's escalation.

Israel's army said more than 600 rockets had been fired since Monday from Gaza towards Israel mainly by Hamas, which rules Gaza, and the Islamic Jihad group. 

Many landed inside Gaza or were taken out by Israel's Iron Dome air defense system.

© Agence France-Presse