Israeli planes conducted dozens of air strikes on Gaza on Tuesday raising the death toll to 212 and opened a new front with Lebanon.
The Israeli military claimed late on Monday that Hamas and other Palestinian groups had fired about 3,350 rockets from Gaza – 200 of them on Monday alone – and that Israeli air and artillery strikes had killed at least 130 militants.
The Israeli military said it also shelled Lebanon in response to six failed rocket launches from southern areas in the neighbouring country.
Meanwhile, Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll at 212, including 61 children and 36 women, since hostilities began last week. About 1,500 Palestinians have been wounded. Ten Israelis have died, including two children, while at least 300 have been wounded.
Amid seemingly fruitless diplomatic efforts to stop the violence, the top US military officer, Army General Mark Milley, warned that the violence could spread.
“My assessment is that you risk broader destabilisation and you risk a whole series of negative consequences if the fighting continues,” Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters before landing in Brussels on Monday for talks with NATO allies. “It’s in no one’s interest to continue fighting.”
Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave continued overnight. Soon after dawn, missiles struck two buildings in Gaza City, sending plumes of thick smoke into the air.
Militants in the Strip fired rockets early on Tuesday that set off sirens in southern Israeli cities, sending thousands running for bomb shelters.
However, a Reuters correspondent also reported a lull in overnight rocket fire from Gaza, an enclave home to two million Palestinians.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged all sides to protect civilians.
Although stressing that Israel had the right to defend itself, Blinken said he had not seen any evidence from Israel about its suggestion that Hamas was operating out of a building housing media outlets – including the US-based Associated Press – which was destroyed in an Israeli missile strike at the weekend.
Hamas denied having offices in the building. “These are false allegations and an attempt to justify the crime of targeting a civilian tower,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
Egypt and UN mediators also stepped up diplomatic efforts, while the UN General Assembly will meet to discuss the violence on Thursday.
The Biden administration approved the potential sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, and congressional sources said on Monday that US lawmakers were not expected to object to the deal.