A 13-storey residential Gaza block collapsed on Tuesday after one of several dozen air strikes. Late into the night, Gazans reported their homes shaking and the sky lighting up with near-constant Israeli strikes.
Israelis ran for shelters in communities more than 70 kilometres up the coast amid sounds of explosions as Israeli interceptor missiles streaked into the sky. Israel said hundreds of rockets had been fired by Palestinian militant groups.
Israel threatened yet more air strikes and has tanks massed on the border of Gaza in the worst escalation in violence since 2019. Israel last invaded Gaza in 2014 to stop rocket attacks.
Video footage showed three plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the tower, its upper storeys still intact as they fell.
The tower houses an office used by the political leadership of Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
Electricity in the area around the building went out and residents were using flashlights.
Shortly after the attack, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group said they would respond by firing rockets at Tel Aviv.
Air raid sirens and explosions were heard around the city and Channel 12 television said there had been a direct rocket hit on a building in the suburb of Holon. Israel halted all flights from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.
“We are now carrying out our promise,” Hamas’ armed wing said in a statement.
“The Qassam Brigades are launching their biggest rocket strike against Tel Aviv and its suburbs, with 130 rockets, in response to the enemy’s targeting of residential towers.”
Israel masses tanks on Gaza’s border
Hours earlier, Israel had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza and massed tanks on the border as rocket barrages hit Israeli towns for a second day, deepening a conflict in which at least 28 people in the Palestinian enclave and two in Israel have been killed.
Residents of the block and people living nearby had been warned to leave the area about an hour before the air strike, according to witnesses.
It was not immediately clear if the building had been fully evacuated or if there were casualties.
The most serious outbreak of fighting since 2019 between Israel and armed factions in Gaza was triggered by clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque on Monday.
The holy city of Jerusalem has been tense during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with the threat of a court ruling evicting Palestinians from homes claimed by Jewish settlers adding to the friction.
28 Palestinians and two Israelis killed
On Tuesday, before the block collapsed, the Gaza health ministry said at least 28 Palestinians, including 10 children, had been killed and 152 wounded by Israeli strikes since Hamas on Monday fired rockets towards Jerusalem.
Israel’s ambulance service said two women had been killed in rocket strikes on the southern city of Ashkelon.
The International Committee of the Red Cross urged all sides to step back, and reminded them of the requirement in international law to try to avoid civilian casualties.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel but also said he was concerned at the threat of forced eviction of Palestinian residents in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.