Violence between Israelis and Palestinians entered its fourth day as rocket attacks on Israeli cities and airstrikes in the Gaza Strip continued early Thursday and casualties climbed on both sides.
Sirens blared through the night across Israel with at least one rocket striking a suburb of Tel Aviv, causing injuries and significant damage, according to Israeli officials.
In Gaza, residents awoke to pillars of smoke rising from sites bombed by the Israeli army, which said it had conducted overnight operations against the militant Hamas group, which controls Gaza.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said the death toll rose to 69 Palestinians, including 16 children, the Associated Press reported.
Seven Israelis, including a teenage girl, had also died as of Wednesday, the AP said.
On Wednesday evening, local media reported the death of a young boy from Sderot who suffered shrapnel wounds from a rocket that penetrated his family’s bomb shelter.
Clashes also continued overnight on the streets of Israeli cities between Jewish and Arab Israelis, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce he would deploy the military to quell the “anarchy.”
“What is happening in Israel’s cities over the past few days is unacceptable,” Netanyahu said on Twitter of the worst Jewish-Arab violence inside Israel in decades. “We have seen Arab rioters set fire to synagogues and vehicles and attack police officers. They are attacking peaceful and innocent citizens.”
The prime minister also alluded to an incident on Wednesday in which video footage showed a group of Jewish nationalists dragging a man who they believed to be Arab out of his car and beating him in the central city of Bat Yam.
“This is something that we cannot accept; it is anarchy,” Netanyahu said. “Nothing justifies this and I will tell you that nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs and nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews.”
Netanyahu said he had ordered police to adopt “emergency powers,” and intended to “bring in military forces according to the existing law and we will pass an additional law if necessary.”
Not long after he spoke, police reported two people injured in a shooting in the central city of Lod, according to the Associated Press. The mixed Arab-Jewish town has become a center of unrest following a fatal shooting earlier this week and remains under heavy police patrol and nighttime lockdown.
As the violence continues, the International Criminal Court’s main prosecutor said she is closely watching Israel and Hamas for potential war crimes.
“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 in a statement posted on Twitter Wednesday, referring to the court’s statute on crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The current conflict was triggered after clashes earlier this month in Jerusalem among Palestinians, Israeli police and right-wing Jews. Tensions have been running high, in part, because of efforts by Israeli settlers to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
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