Israel diverts flight from Ben Gurion airport amid rocket volleys

Jersualem: Israel diverted an incoming flight away from Ben Gurion Airport on Thursday and foreign carriers suspended services to the international gateway, amid a volley of rocket attacks from Palestinian militants.

El Al Israel Airlines flight 332 was turned away from the airport near Tel Aviv to land at Ramon Airport near Eilat, said aviation tracker Avi Scharf, an editor with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said.

American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have suspended flights to Israel in light of the escalating violence.

The volleys were part of the rockets Hamas launched at Tel Aviv and toward Jerusalem. Israel vowed to keep pummelling the Islamist faction in Gaza despite a prediction by US President Joe Biden that their fiercest hostilities in years might end soon.

There was no immediate word of casualties from the pre-dawn salvo, which set off sirens as far as northern Nahalal, 100 km from Gaza, sending thousands of Israelis to shelters.

At least 67 people have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave’s health ministry. Seven people have been killed in Israel, medical officials said.

With world powers demanding de-escalation of a conflict beginning to recall the Gaza war of 2014, Washington planned to send an envoy, Hady Amr, for talks with Israel and Palestinians.

“My expectation and hope is this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself,” Biden said on Wednesday after speaking to Netanyahu. Biden did not explain the reasons behind his optimism.

Netanyahu’s office said he told the US president that Israel would “continue acting to strike at the military capabilities of Hamas and the other terrorist groups active in the Gaza Strip”.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed a senior Hamas commander and bombed several buildings, including high-rises and a bank, which Israel said was linked to the faction’s activities.

Smoke is seen from a collapsed building after it was hit by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City.Credit:AP

Hamas signalled defiance, with its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, saying: “The confrontation with the enemy is open-ended.”

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem during the fasting month of Ramadan.

These escalated ahead of a court hearing – now postponed – that could lead to the eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers.

For Israel, the targeting of the two major cities posed a new challenge in the confrontation with Hamas, regarded as a terrorist group by Israel and the United States.

Street violence

A Palestinian source said truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations had made no progress to end the violence.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and said Washington “was exerting efforts with all relevant parties to reach calm,” the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said. Abbas is a Hamas rival whose authority is limited to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israeli riot police try to block a Jewish right-wing man as clashes erupted between Arabs, police and Jews, in the mixed town of Lod, Israel.Credit:AP

“All of Israel is under attack. It’s a very scary situation to be in,” said Margo Aronovic, a 26-year-old student, in Tel Aviv.

The fatalities in Israel include a soldier killed while patrolling the Gaza border and five six civilians, including two children and an Indian worker, medical authorities said.

US energy corporation Chevron said it had shut down the Tamar natural gas platform off the Israeli coast as a precaution. Israel said its energy needs would continue to be met.

At least two US airlines cancelled flights from the United States to Tel Aviv on Wednesday and Thursday.

Israel, whose Ben Gurion Airport briefly suspended operations on Monday after a rocket barrage on Tel Aviv, said national airline El Al stood ready to provide supplemental flights.

‘Anarchy’ condemned

Netanyahu has condemned the “anarchy” of Jewish-Arab violence in cities across the country after a day of tumultuous unrest.

Netanyahu said on Wednesday (Thursday AEST) that “nothing justifies” Jews attacking Arabs or Arabs attacking Jews. He vows to restore order after two days of violence unchecked by police.

In his words: “It doesn’t matter to me that your blood is boiling. You can’t take the law in your hands.”

Shortly after he spoke, police reported two people injured in a shooting in the restive city of Lod.

Despite large police mobilization under a state of emergency and a nighttime curfew, Lod was the scene of street battles between Jewish and Arab mobs Wednesday night.

Reuters

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