Gaza: Building collapses following Israeli airstrikes
Meanwhile, a restaurant in the city of Acre was destroyed in an arson attack, and in Jaffa, also close to Tel Aviv, police used stun grenades to disperse protesters. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in Lod, after reports emerged on Tuesday of Arabs setting fire to a synagogue and Jews stoning a car that was being driven by an Arab resident.
Lod Mayor Yair Revivo lamented to Israel’s Channel 12 News: “We have lost control of the city and the streets.”
Garbage bins, knocked over and set ablaze, could be seen nearby.
Security officials said they had reassigned 16 border police companies to Lod from the occupied West Bank to deal with the violence.
Police arrested dozens of people overnight in Lod as well as in majority-Arab towns in central and northern Israel, including Umm al-Fahm along the West Bank border and Jisr al-Zarqa along the Mediterranean coast.
The town’s mayor, Samir Mahamid, said: “We condemn that our people’s solidarity and cohesion with our brethren in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip is being channelled through acts of sabotage to public and private property, as is now happening at Umm al-Fahm’s entrance.”
Israeli media reported Uri Buri, a popular Jewish-owned fish restaurant in the mixed coastal city of Acre, had been set ablaze. Footage aired by Channel 12 showed the restaurant’s exterior blacked and burned, and its windows smashed.
In Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, Arab protesters clashed with police firing stun grenades to disperse them.
Clashes at Al-Aqsa on Monday morning were the immediate backdrop to the tension in Arab towns and surge in fighting between Israel and Hamas, which has left at least 35 people in Gaza, and at least five in Israel dead.
Israel launched dozens of airstrikes in Gaza on Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday, which Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets from Gaza into Israel.
Neighbourhoods with Arab residents, including Lod and Jaffa, were among those in which sirens were triggered by rockets fired from Gaza.
Two Lod residents were killed on Wednesday after a vehicle in the area was hit by a rocket, Israeli police said.
In Haifa and Jaffa, and in the Arab city of Nazareth, Arab protesters have flown Palestinian flags and chanted slogans in support of Palestinians facing eviction from an East Jerusalem neighbourhood under a long-running legal case.
Arab citizens of Israel were among the thousands of Palestinians who have clashed in recent days with Israeli police around Jerusalem’s Old City, the most sensitive site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A spokesman for Gaza’s Hamas militants, Abu Ubaida, encouraged Arab citizens to “rise up” against Israel.
In a speech on Wednesday, he said: “The Qassam Brigades is close to you, as it draws the map of the homeland with its rockets, and with its resistance, against our enemy and yours.”
Israel carried out hundreds of air strikes in Gaza into the early hours of Wednesday, as the Islamist group and other Palestinian militants fired multiple rocket barrages at Tel Aviv and Beersheba.
One multi-story residential building in Gaza collapsed and another was heavily damaged after they were repeatedly hit by Israeli air strikes.
Israel said its jets had targeted and killed several Hamas intelligence leaders early on Wednesday. Other strikes targeted what the military said were rocket launch sites and Hamas offices.
The clashes are the worst between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in Gaza, and have prompted international concern that the situation could spiral out of control.
UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland tweeted: “Stop the fire immediately. “We’re escalating towards a full scale war.
Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of de-escalation.
“The cost of war in Gaza is devastating & is being paid by ordinary people. UN is working w/ all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now.”
This is a developing story, more to follow…