GAZA CITY: Palestinians react over the death of relatives outside a hospital in Beit Lahia following a series of Zionist airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early yesterday. – AFP

JERUSALEM: Relentless rocket fire and rioting in mixed Jewish-Arab towns fueled growing fears yesterday that the violence in Palestine that has claimed 56 lives could spiral into “full-scale war”. Defense Minister for the Zionist forces Benny Gantz vowed more attacks on Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza to bring “total, long-term quiet” before considering a ceasefire.

Islamist militants have launched more than 1,000 rockets since Monday, said the occupation army, which has launched hundreds of air strikes on Islamist groups in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza. Hamas meanwhile confirmed that several of its top commanders were killed in Zionist strikes, including its military chief in Gaza City, Bassem Issa.

The most intense hostilities in seven years have killed at least 48 people in Gaza, including 14 children, three Palestinians in the West Bank. The bloodshed was triggered over the weekend after Jewish settlers tried to steal Palestinian homes and then occupation forces attacked Muslims praying in the sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque.

As world powers voiced growing alarm and the UN Security Council readied for another emergency meeting on the bloody crisis, the UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland warned that “we’re escalating towards a full-scale war”. Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod, where police said “wide-scale riots erupted among some of the Arab residents”. There were fears of widening civil unrest as protesters waving Palestinian flags burnt cars and properties, including a synagogue, clashed with police and attacked Jewish motorists in several Jewish-Arab towns.

‘Step back from the brink’
Zionist forces launched hundreds of air strikes at Gaza, the blockaded strip of two million people that Hamas controls. At least 230 Palestinians have been wounded. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged both sides to “step back from the brink”.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, voiced concern at the escalation and said “crimes” may have been committed. Bensouda announced in March that she had opened a full investigation into the situation in the occupied territories, infuriating the Zionist regime, which not a member of The Hague-based court. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh threatened to step up its operation.

Violence also flared in the occupied West Bank, where three Palestinians were killed, including two shot in clashes near Nablus and near Hebron. In Gaza City, people sifted through debris after a Zionist air strike destroyed a 12-storey building near the coast. Hamas said the tower block had been a residential building. AFP reporters said it also housed the offices of several Hamas officials.

Five members of a single family were killed by an strike in northern Gaza Tuesday, including young brothers Ibrahim and Marwan, who were filling sacks of straw at the time. “We were laughing and having fun when suddenly they began to bomb us. Everything around us caught fire,” their cousin, also called Ibrahim, told AFP. “I saw my cousins set alight and torn to pieces,” said the 14-year-old, breaking down in tears. – Agencies