Death toll continues to rise in Gaza as the increasing number of air strikes by Israel leaves a trail of destruction in the blockaded Palestinian territory.

Smoke and a ball of fire rise above buildings in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza, during an Israeli air strike, on May 12, 2021.
Smoke and a ball of fire rise above buildings in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza, during an Israeli air strike, on May 12, 2021. (AFP)

The death toll from Israeli air strikes on Gaza has climbed to 67, including 17 children, as the UN warned of "full-scale war". 

Gaza's Health Ministry said on Wednesday six women were among the victims, while a total of 388 people were injured.

Israel's Defence Minister Benny Gantz vowed more attacks on embattled Gaza before considering a ceasefire.

"The army will continue to attack to bring a total, long-term quiet. Only when we reach that goal will we be able to speak about a truce," Gantz said.

At least six people have died in Israel since the start of Israeli military action on Gaza, one of them a soldier hit by a missile fired from Gaza. 

Israeli warplanes also shelled a building near the headquarters of the Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza. Meanwhile, the coast of northern Gaza was shelled by Israeli boats.

This is the heaviest offensive between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in Gaza and has prompted international concern that the situation could spiral out of control.

Gazans' homes shook and the sky lit up from Israeli attacks, outgoing rockets and Israeli air defence missiles intercepting them. At least 30 explosions were heard within a matter of minutes just after dawn on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Israel kills two in West Bank as tension rises between Jews, Palestinians 

UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland tweeted: "Stop the fire immediately. We're escalating towards a full-scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of de-escalation.
"The cost of war in Gaza is devastating & is being paid by ordinary people. UN is working with all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now," he wrote.

Hamas' Gaza commander killed

Palestinian group Hamas confirmed that its Gaza commander was killed in an Israeli air strike on Wednesday.

Bassem Issa was the highest-ranking military figure in Hamas to be killed Israel since 2014. Wednesday's statement was the first time Hamas acknowledged the death of militants in this round of fighting with Israel.

The armed wing of Hamas said Issa was killed “along with a few of his fellow brothers of leaders and holy fighters”.

Israel’s internal security agency said a series of air strikes had killed Issa as well as  the head of rocket development and cyber warfare, the head of rocket production, and the Hamas engineering chief.

READ MORE: Israel kills two in West Bank as tension rises between Jews, Palestinians

A Palestinian man stands near the remains of a tower building which was destroyed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, May 12, 2021.
A Palestinian man stands near the remains of a tower building which was destroyed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, May 12, 2021. (Reuters)

READ MORE: No phrase distorts reality more than 'Israel's right to self-defence'

Israel's attacks on Gaza follow weeks of violence against Palestinians amid spiking tensions in Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 – a move that has never been recognised by the international community.

The Israeli police deployed heavy-handed tactics against Palestinian worshippers in and around Al Aqsa Mosque in the last week, on the compound revered by Jews as Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

Another flashpoint  in recent days has been a court case that could end with Palestinian families evicted from occupied East Jerusalem homes in Sheikh Jarrah claimed by Jewish settlers. 

If the court rules for the settlers, Palestinians living in the neighbourhood would be displaced for a second time, the first when they were moved into Sheikh Jarrah as refugees by Jordan in the 1950s.

Palestinians protesting in solidarity with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah have been targeted by Israeli forces.

Six Israelis killed in rocket attack

Six people in Israel, including the soldier, were killed by rocket fire since Tuesday, while 45 others have been injured.

Two of those who died on Wednesday were Palestinians, a father and daughter, hit by rocket fire in the city of Lod.

Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service said a 50-year-old woman was killed when a rocket hit a building in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion, and that two women had been killed in rocket strikes on Ashkelon on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Children among 28 Palestinians killed in Israeli air raids on Gaza

Occupied West Bank violence

Violence flared once again on Wednesday in the occupied West Bank, where one 16-year-old Palestinian boy in Aqqaba and one 26-year-old in a refugee camp near Hebron were killed by Israeli gunfire. 

Arab-Jewish towns in Israel also faced violent disturbances over Israeli air strikes in Gaza and clashes in Jerusalem. 

Police arrested dozens of people overnight in Lod and in majority-Arab towns in central and northern Israel, including Umm a Fahm along the West Bank border and Jisr aZarqa on the Mediterranean coast.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in Lod, near Tel Aviv, after reports emerged on Tuesday of Jews stoning a car that was being driven by an Arab resident and of Arabs allegedly setting fire to a synagogue.

READ MORE: Israel's aggression on Palestine hurts the credibility of some Arab states

READ MORE: Busting the myth of Palestinian ‘human shields’ in Gaza

Source: TRTWorld and agencies