GAZA CITY: Israel pummelled Gaza with artillery fire and air strikes on Friday as it targeted Palestinian militant tunnels to try to stop persistent rocket attacks on Israeli towns.
And Israel faced a widening conflict, as deadly violence erupted across the West Bank amid a massive aerial bombardment in Gaza and unprecedented unrest among Arabs and Jews inside the country.
The West Bank clashes, described as among the most intense since the second intifada that began in 2000, left 11 people dead from Israeli fire, the Palestinian health ministry said, as overall fatalities from strikes on Gaza rose to 126.
The Israeli operation included 160 aircraft as well as tanks and artillery firing from outside the Gaza Strip, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.
Palestinian rocket barrages against southern Israel swiftly followed on the fifth day of the most serious fighting between Israel and Gaza militants since 2014.
Egypt was leading international efforts to secure a ceasefire amid fears the conflict could spread. Security sources said neither side appeared amenable so far but a Palestinian official said negotiations had intensified on Friday.
Gaza’s ruling Hamas group launched the rocket attacks on Monday, aiming at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, in Jerusalem.
Violence has since spread to cities where Jews and Israel’s minority Arab community live side by side and there have been clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where health officials said five Palestinians had been killed on Friday.