Hamas has said it fired more than 100 rockets at the Israeli city of Tel Aviv after an Israeli air strike destroyed a tower block in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The 13-storey residential tower in Gaza City collapsed after Israeli air strikes targeted the building on Tuesday. There were no reports of casualties among the residents, who reportedly vacated the Hanadi tower before it was hit.
Video footage showed three plumes of thick smoke rising from the tower, its upper storeys still intact until it collapsed to the ground. The tower houses an office that is used by the political leadership of Hamas, which rules Gaza.
Shortly after the strike, Hamas said it launched dozens of rockets towards Tel Aviv.
Sirens and explosions were heard in the city, located some 45 miles (70 kilometres) north of Gaza.
The Israel Airports Authority said it had halted take-offs at Tel Aviv airport “to allow defence of the nation’s skies”.
“We are now carrying out our promise,” Hamas’s armed wing said. “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.”
At least 35 people have been reported killed since hostilities between Israel and Hamas escalated on Monday. The Gaza health ministry said that 32 Palestinians were killed in Israeli air raids on the coastal territory. Israeli medics said that three people in Israel were killed in rocket attacks.
The fighting between Israel and Gaza’s armed factions comes after Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Monday for a third consecutive day, firing rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at Palestinian worshippers at Islam’s third holiest site in the final days of the holy month of Ramadan.
Tensions have also soared over a now-delayed court ruling relating to the eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes, claimed by Israeli settlers, in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
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.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would step up the strength and frequency of strikes on Gaza, a territory of 2 million people, in response to the rocket attacks.
Israel said it had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza, and dispatched infantry and armour to reinforce the tanks already gathered on the border.
The head of Hamas said the group was “ready” if Israel escalates violence.
“If (Israel) wants to escalate, we are ready for it, and if it wants to stop, we’re also ready,” Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s leader who currently lives outside the strip, said in a televised address.