Israeli warplanes bombard a high-rise building in besieged Gaza followed by a barrage of Hamas rockets on Tel Aviv, sparking fears of a lengthy fighting.

Smoke rises from a residential building after it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in blockaded Gaza on May 11, 2021.
Smoke rises from a residential building after it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in blockaded Gaza on May 11, 2021. (AFP)

A deadly confrontation between Israel and Gaza sparked by weeks of Israeli aggression in occupied Jerusalem has escalated as Israel unleashed new air strikes on Gaza, flattening a 13-storey building there followed by a barrage of rockets at Israeli capital by Gaza's resistance groups. 

Death toll climbed to nearly 35, including children, on Tuesday in Gaza which has seen Israeli attacks from land, air, and sea. At least 220 others were injured.

Rocket fire from Hamas, which said its attacks were meant to force Israeli forces out of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, killed at least three Israelis. 

A 13-storey residential block in besieged Gaza collapsed after being struck by an Israeli air strike, witnesses said.

Video footage on Tuesday night showed three plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the building, its upper storeys still intact as they fell. 

Electricity in the surrounding area went out, and residents were using flashlights.

Residents of the building and people living nearby fled the area. 

So far there have been no reports of casualties.

Late into the night, Gaza residents reported their homes shaking and the sky lighting up with near-constant Israeli strikes.

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

Rockets land in Tel Aviv

Shortly after the attack, Hamas said they would respond by firing rockets at Tel Aviv. Several people were reported wounded in Tel Aviv. 

The Israel Airports Authority said it had halted take-offs at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport "to allow defence of (the) nation's skies."

Air raid sirens and explosions were heard around the city, and the skies were lit up by the streaks of multiple interceptor missiles launched towards the incoming rockets.

Pedestrians ran for shelter, and diners streamed out of Tel Aviv restaurants while others flattened themselves on pavements as the sirens sounded.

"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."

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 the southern city of Ashkelon.

But the Israeli military said many of the rockets fired from Gaza had fallen short and that Israel's Iron Dome air defences had intercepted the bulk of those that made it across the border.

Israel targets blockaded Gaza from land, air and now sea after unleashing gunboats that struck beaches, journalist Nizar Sadawi reported from the Palestinian enclave. 

READ MORE: Israel kills 20 Palestinians in Gaza, wounds hundreds in Al Aqsa raid

'Just the beginning'

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to continue attacks on Palestinians in Gaza.

In a nationally televised speech late on Tuesday, he said Hamas "have paid, and will pay a heavy price."

He said Israel will press ahead with an intensified operation, but said "it will take time" to complete the mission.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said that Israeli strikes so far on Palestinians were "just the beginning."

"There are many targets," to hit in Gaza, Gantz said following Israeli strikes on hundreds of sites in the territory since Monday evening.

"This is just the beginning," he said. 

Hamas chief Ismael Haniya said Gaza is "ready" if Israel seeks escalation.

Palestinians are victorious in the battle to defend Jerusalem and Al Aqsa Mosque, he said.

Israeli energy pipeline hit in rocket attack 

An energy pipeline between the Israeli cities of Eilat and Ashkelon was hit in a rocket attack from Gaza, Israel's Channel 12 TV said.

An energy sector official confirmed to Reuters news agency that an Israeli pipeline had been struck, without providing details.

Video broadcast by Channel 12 showed flames rising from what appeared to be a large fuel container. 

READ MORE: What it's like to be Palestinian in Jerusalem

'Full-scale war'

Israel and Palestine are heading towards a full-scale war, the UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process has warned.

"Stop the fire immediately. We’re escalating towards a full-scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of de-escalation," Tor Wennesland wrote on Twitter.

"The cost of war in Gaza is devastating and is being paid by ordinary people. UN is working w/ all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now," he said.

AU condemns Israeli 'bombardments' in Gaza

Israel has sent around 80 warplanes to bomb Gaza and massed tanks and gunboats, deepening further the conflict.

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. 

The White House condemned the rocket attacks, and said Israel had a legitimate right to defend itself, but that the primary US focus was on de-escalation.

The chairman of the African Union commission condemned Israeli "bombardments" in the Gaza as well as "violent attacks" by Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.

Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat "reiterates that the Israeli army's actions, including the continued forced, illegal evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, are in stark violation of international law and further heighten tensions in the region," the AU said in a statement.

Hamas was forced to retaliate

Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem have been calling on Hamas to retaliate after Israel attacked unarmed worshippers in Al Aqsa Mosque, Palestinian academic Azzam Tamimi told TRT World.

 "The Israelis were being called upon by Palestinians and international community to stop provoking and attacking worshippers," he said, adding that PM Netanyahu continued to pursue violence for his own political interest. 

"Palestinians resistance groups in Gaza had no choice. That was, as far as they are concerned, their national Islamic duty. Al Aqsa is not just any place in the world, it's the third holiest mosque on the face of the earth," Tamimi said.

READ MORE: Israeli aggression in Jerusalem inspires unity across Palestine

Source: TRTWorld and agencies