United Kingdom

Hamas confirms several of its top commanders have been killed in airstrikes

Hamas confirmed that several of its top commanders were killed in air strikes on the Gaza Strip today as Israel launched massive bombardments in retaliation for hundreds of missiles fired at its cities.

Israel has vowed to bring 'total, long-term quiet' to the region despite growing international alarm at the numbers of civilian casualties being sustained in its barrages on densely populated areas. 

The Palestinian death toll rose to 43 on Wednesday, including 13 children and another 230 people wounded.

Hamas said the commander of its Gaza City Brigade, Bassem Issa, was among those 'martyred' in the strikes.

Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, named another three slain Hamas officers: Jamaa Tahla, responsible for the improved accuracy of the group's rockets; Jamal Zabeda, chief of 'special projects' in the munitions department; and Hazzem Hatib, head engineer in the munitions wing.

The militants have launched more than 1,000 rockets at civilian targets in Israel since Monday, killing five civilians, including an Arab-Israeli girl in the city of Lod in the early hours of this morning.  

'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,' Defence Minister Benny Gantz said today.

Gantz issued the fresh warning from the southern town of Ashkelon where two Israeli women were killed by Hamas rockets on Tuesday.

The United Nations has warned the two sides they risk a 'full-scale war' if there is not an urgent ceasefire. 

'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 UN Special Envoy to the Middle East tweeted.   

Just after daybreak, the Israeli Air Force unleashed dozens of strikes within the course of a few minutes with what appeared to be bunker buster bombs targeting underground Hamas infrastructure.   

The Israeli Defence Forces later dispatched two infantry brigades to the area of a downed militant drone, indicating preparations for a possible ground invasion. 

Boris Johnson condemned the spiralling conflict this morning hours after his former counterpart Donald Trump blamed 'weak' Joe Biden for allowing things to escalate.

'I am urging Israel and the Palestinians to step back from the brink and for both sides to show restraint,' the Prime Minister said. 'The UK is deeply concerned by the growing violence and civilian casualties.' 

Despite international condemnation for the bloodshed, the worst since the 2014 war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for ceasefire, vowing last night to 'step up' attacks.  

Israeli artillery fires shells at the Gaza border on Wednesday after the defence chief vowed to bring 'total, long-term quiet' to the Gaza Strip

A fire rages at an oil refinery in the southern town of Ashkelon which has been heavily targeted by hundreds of Hamas rockets fired since Monday

Black smoke billows after a series of Israeli airstrikes targeted Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip early on Wednesday. According to military experts, the plumes of smoke seen rising suggest the Israelis are deploying bunker buster bombs, targeting underground infrastructure 

A Palestinian man looks out at a destroyed tower block in Gaza this morning following a night of heavy bombardments by the Israeli Air Force 

An Israeli tank deployed to provide mobile artillery at the Gaza border on Wednesday as the IDF ramps up its operation against Hamas

Israeli troops shield their ears and faces as the howitzer pumps shells towards Gaza at the border on Wednesday

A Palestinian woman walks in front of a destroyed building on Wednesday after it was shelled by the Israeli Defence Force 

Smoke rises during an Israeli air strike on suspected Hamas targets in Gaza City on Wednesday

Palestinian rescuers evacuate an elderly woman from a building following Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday 

Israeli men carry Torah scrolls from a synagogue in the city of Lod which was torched last night amid rioting. Netanyahu personally visited the central city in the early hours of Wednesday to declare a state of emergency

Hamas militants and their allies have fired more than 1,000 missiles at Israel, though many have been shot down by the Iron Dome defence system, while others have landed inside Gaza. The Israeli towns of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Yehud have been struck, as well as the most populous city, Tel Aviv. In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Air Force has targeted suspected Hamas strongholds in Gaza City as well as the southern settlements Rafah and Khan Yunis

Palestinian women check the damage inside their apartment on Wednesday morning after it was bombed by the Israelis

Smoke billows from an Israeli bombardment at sunrise on Khan Yunish in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday

A Palestinian father carries his children away from their home to head to a safer neighbourhood after a bombardment warning on Wednesday

A Palestinian man takes pictures of the aftermath of a bombardment on Wednesday morning as a mound of dirt lies in the street beside mangled cars in Gaza City 

Smoke billows from an Israeli air strike on a tower block in Gaza as it collapses. The destruction of apartment apartment towers was among several tactics used during the 2014 war that are now the subject of an investigation by the International Criminal Court into possible war crimes. Israel is not a member of the court and has rejected the probe.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in turn that 'if Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it'. 

The tensions began a month ago in Jerusalem, where heavy-handed police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Muslim neighbourhoods ignited protests and clashes with police. On Monday, a riot on Temple Mount left hundreds of Palestinians wounded before Hamas started launching rockets.

The International Criminal Court at the Hague announced this morning it was looking at possible 'crimes' committed as the ferocious cross-border engagement entered its third day. 

'I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute (which founded the ICC)', Fatou Bensouda tweeted. 

More than a hundred Hamas rockets were launched at Israel's most populous city, Tel Aviv, last night after a tower block in Gaza suspected of being a Hamas headquarters was destroyed by an Israeli air strike.

TRUMP: 'WEAK' BIDEN TO BLAME FOR CONFLICT 

Former US President Donald Trump blamed his successor Joe Biden's 'weakness' for the renewed clashes in the Middle East. Writing on his website Trump, he said: 

'When I was in office we were known as the Peace Presidency, because Israel's adversaries knew that the United States stood strongly with Israel and there would be swift retribution if Israel was attacked. 

'Under Biden, the world is getting more violent and more unstable because Biden's weakness and lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks on our allies. 

'America must always stand with Israel and make clear that the Palestinians must end the violence, terror, and rocket attacks, and make clear that the U.S. will always strongly support Israel's right to defend itself. 

'Unbelievably, Democrats also continue to stand by crazed anti-American Rep. Ilhan Omar, and others, who savagely attack Israel while they are under terrorist assault.'

The IDF have assassinated several top militant commanders, including Hassan Kaogi, head of the Hamas intelligence department, in their airstrikes. 

In a statement, the army said it carried out a 'complex and first-of-its-kind operation.' Those targeted, it said, were 'a key part of the Hamas "General Staff"' and considered close to the head of the group's military wing. 

Hamas later confirmed they had lost several of their top brass, including its military chief in Gaza City, Bassem Issa. 

The Israelis accuse the Palestinian fighters of using their own people as human shields, but the civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip have only hardened the position of the extremists who have launched hundreds more missiles. 

In Israel's central city of Lod, a girl and her father were killed in the early hours of Wednesday by rocket fire from Gaza. Israel's foreign ministry identified the girl as 16-year-old Nadin Awad, an Arab Israeli.

Her cousin, Ahmad Ismail, told public broadcaster Kan that he was near Nadin when she was killed alongside her father Khalil Awad, 52.

'I was at home, we heard the noise of the rocket. It happened so quickly. Even if we had wanted to run somewhere, we don't have a safe room,' Ismail told Kan. 

Lod also saw riots after thousands of mourners joined a funeral for an Arab man killed by a suspected Jewish gunman the previous night.

The crowd fought with police, and set a synagogue and some 30 vehicles, including a police car, on fire, Israeli media reported.

Paramedics said a 56-year-old man was seriously hurt after his car was pelted with stones. 

The Israeli President Reuven Rivlin described it as a 'pogrom' carried out by a 'bloodthirsty Arab mob,' after Netanyahu declared a state of emergency in the mixed Jewish-Arab city.

'The sight of the pogrom in Lod and the disturbances across the country by an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob, injuring people, damaging property and even attacking sacred Jewish spaces is unforgivable,' Rivlin said. 

Yair Revivo, mayor of the city, last night called for army back-up to help secure the area, saying 'civil war' was breaking out.

'This is Kristallnacht in Lod,' said Revivo, in reference to the Nazi pogrom against German Jews in 1938.

'I have called on the prime minister to declare a state of emergency in Lod. To call in the IDF. To impose a curfew. To restore quiet. There is a failure of governance. 

'This is a giant incident - an Intifada of Arab Israelis. All the work we have done here for years [on coexistence] has gone down the drain.' 

Netanhayu made a pre-dawn tour of the city to declare a state of emergency.

'We will not tolerate this; we need to restore calm,' Netanyahu said in Lod. 'If this isn't an emergency situation, I don't know what is. We are talking about life and death here.'   

A thick black column of smoke and red flames rise into the sky over Gaza on Wednesday during Israeli bombardments

A Palestnian family flee their home on Wednesday to head to a safety from Israeli airstrikes as rubble fills the street

A fire rages at sunrise in Khan Yunish in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning as Israel's bombardment of Hamas targets continues

Israeli artillery in action as the escalation continues between Israeli army and Hamas at the Gaza border

A colossal crater blown into a Gaza street is seen on Wednesday beside wrecked shops and homes in nearby tower blocks

An overturned car lies in the street filled with debris after a tower block was levelled in Gaza by Israeli warplanes last night

Smoke billows over Gaza on Wednesday as the Israeli bombardments continued throughout the night and into dawn

A Palestinian boy walks past rubble on a street in Gaza City on Wednesday after bombardments by the Israeli Air Force throughout the night 

Display mannequins from a damaged clothing shop are scattered amid the debris outside the heavily-damaged Al-Jawhara Tower in Gaza on Wednesday morning 

Cars are wrecked by rubble after buildings collapsed last night in Gaza during the Israeli barrages

An Israeli security officer comforts a man in the town of Holon near Tel Aviv during rocket attacks by militants in Gaza on Tuesday night

Two Palestinian women survey the damage to their bombed out flat in Gaza City on Wednesday morning 

Asked whether the actions of the police against protesters may have played a role, he shut down the suggestion, saying: 'These events have no excuse; this is fundamental hate.'  

It comes after the PM, speaking after two women were killed in Hamas strikes yesterday, said he 'deplored' the deaths in Israel, adding that the country's military would 'further increase both the intensity and the rate' of its own air strikes against Gaza.

'Hamas will be hit in ways that it does not expect,' Netanyahu said. 'We have eliminated commanders, hit many important targets and we have decided to attack harder and increase the pace of attacks.' 

The homes of three Hamas commanders were destroyed overnight on Wednesday.

A significant barrage had begun by 3am, with Israel firing into the Gaza Strip.

'In response to HUNDREDS of rockets in the last 24 hours, the IDF has struck a number of significant terror targets and terror operatives across the Gaza Strip, marking our largest strike since 2014,' the IDF confirmed. 

'We are currently striking more terror targets in Gaza.' 

In Israel, five people including three women have been killed. 

One of the three women was in her 60s and another in her 80s, and died during Hamas rocket attacks earlier on Tuesday.

The third woman, aged 50, was killed on Tuesday evening when a rocket hit a building in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion.

Israel's Iron Dome aerial defence system is activated to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip towards the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on Wednesday

Missiles are fired from Israel's Iron Dome defence system to shoot down Palestinian missiles fired at the southern city of Ashdod on Wednesday

A rocket is intercepted by the Iron Dome over the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. The IDF say they have been able to intercept around 85 to 90% of the missiles 

Mourners carry the coffin of Israeli Arab Khalil Awaad and his daughter Nadine,16, during their funeral in the village of Dahmash near the Israeli city of Lod on Wednesday. They were killed last night by rockets fired from Gaza

A picture taken with a drone shows the funeral of Palestinian man Hussien al-Titi, who was killed during stone-throwing clashes with Israeli forces, at Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank

People inspect the rubble of a damaged building which was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Wednesday

Palestinians react over the death of relatives outside a hospital in Beit Lahia following a series of Israeli airstrikes on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip early on Wednesday

The mother of Palestinian Rasheed Abu Arra, who was killed during clashes with Israeli forces, reacts during her son's funeral in the town of Aqqaba near Tubas, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Wednesday

The renewed confrontation, following weeks of tensions and clashes in the contested Jerusalem, was sparked on Monday evening when Hamas fired a barrage of missiles towards Jerusalem. 

It continued into the early hours of Wednesday morning, with more rockets being fired by the Islamist group into Tel Aviv, and by Israel into Gaza.

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump posted to his website, saying that America 'will always strongly support Israel's right to defend itself' as he criticised Biden over the growing crisis. 

An Israeli military helicopter and fighter jet fly over Ashkelon in southern Israel on Wednesday

Earlier, the White House had said Biden was being briefed on the escalating situation.    

Israel's Iron Dome defence system continued to struggle with the volume of rockets being fired from Gaza on Tuesday evening, after an Israeli air strike caused a 13-storey residential building to collapse in Gaza City. 

Residents of the collapsed residential block and the surrounding area had been warned to evacuate the area around an hour before the air strike, according to witnesses, and there were no reports of casualties two hours after it collapsed.

Shortly after the attack, Hamas - the Islamist group that rules inside Gaza - and the Islamic Jihad group said they would respond by firing rockets at Tel Aviv, which they did by firing  210 rockets towards Beersheba and Tel Aviv in response to the bombing of the tower buildings in Gaza City.

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.

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

Video broadcast on Israeli Channel 12 television showed interceptor missiles rising above the runways.

'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.' 

A column of thick black smoke rises into the sky over Gaza City on Wednesday morning as the Israeli bombardment rages on

An Iron Dome aerial defence system battery is seen in the foreground as fire rages early on Wednesday at Ashkelon's refinery, which was hit by Hamas rockets

Thick columns of black smoke rise into the sky over Gaza on Wednesday amid renewed Israeli bombardments

Smoke rises across the horizon over Gaza on Wednesday as the Israeli Air Force continued pounding targets in the city

An Israeli man walks past the remains of a rocket fire by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas from the Gaza Strip in the southern town of Ashkelon

Clouds of dark smoke are seen rising over Gaza City on Tuesday night after an Israeli air strike

A fire rages inside Ashkelon's oil refinery on Wednesday morning in the southern Israel after it was struck by Hamas rockets 

Devastation in Gaza on Wednesday after Israeli air strikes continued to target the Hamas leadership who live among innocent civilians

Pictured: Smoke rises from the streets of Gaza after Israeli air strikes were launched amid tit-for-tat strikes against Hamas

Rockets are launched towards Israel from Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement on Wednesday

A man pulls his luggage while passing the rubble of a destroyed building which was hit by Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Wednesday

The mother of Palestinian Rasheed Abu Arra, who was killed during clashes with Israeli forces, mourns her son alongside other women, in the town of Aqqaba near Tubas, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Wednesday

People walk amid the rubble of a destroyed residential building which was hit by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on Wednesday

The sound of the outgoing rockets could be heard in Gaza. As the rockets rose into the skies, mosques across Gaza blared with chants of 'God is great,' 'victory to Islam' and 'resistance.'

One rocket struck a bus in the central city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv. Medics said three people, including a five-year-old girl, were wounded and the bus went up in flames.

Israel said it had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza, and dispatched infantry and armour to reinforce the tanks already gathered on the border, evoking memories of the last ground incursion into Gaza to stop rocket attacks, in 2014.

More than 2,100 Gazans were killed in the seven-week war that followed, according to the Gaza health ministry, along with 73 Israelis, and thousands of homes in Gaza were razed.

The U.N. Security will hold emergency consultations Wednesday on the escalating violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

The U.N. Mideast envoy, Tor Wennesland, is expected to brief the 15 council members virtually at the closed meeting, which is being called at the request of China, Tunisia and Norway.

China holds the council presidency this month and its U.N. mission confirms plans for the second emergency meeting in three days. It is an indication of growing international concern about the conflict and where it might lead.

Smoke rises over Gaza City on Wednesday as Israel continues to strike suspected Hamas strongholds 

A wounded Israeli man in Giv'atayim, Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday after a rocket attack struck a residential area 

Palestinian boys walk past the wreckage of a clothing store in central Gaza on Wednesday

A crater in a street in Gaza on Wednesday morning after Israeli bombardments throughout the early hours 

Smoke billows from an Israeli air strike on the Hanadi compound in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on Tuesday night

Smoke and flames rise after Israeli warplanes conducted airstrikes in Gaza City in the early hours of Wednesday

A heavily damaged house is pictured in a residential area in the city of Yehud, in central Israel, on Wednesday following a rocket strike launched by militants in Gaza

Smoke rises form an oil refinery in the southern Israel on Wednesday after it was targeted by Hamas rockets

Palestinians wave the Hamas flag during the funeral of Rashid Abu Ara, 16, who was killed during clashes with Israeli troops in village of Aqaba near Nablus, in the north of the occupied West Bank on Wednesday

Palestinian special operations forces fire Kalashnikov assault rifles in salute for Ahmed Daraghmeh, a member of Palestinian intelligence services who was killed by Israeli forces the previous day at the Zaatara (Tapuach) junction south of Nablus in the West Bank

Palestinians wave the Hamas flag during the funeral of Rashid Abu Ara, 16, who was killed during clashes with Israeli troops in village of Aqaba near Nablus, in the north of the occupied West Bank on May 12

The U.N.'s most powerful body has not yet taken any action.

China, Tunisia and Norway proposed a draft statement at Monday's meeting expressing 'grave concern' at escalating tensions and calling on Israel to cease evictions.  

Egypt was been trying to broker a cease-fire into Tuesday, but the cycle of violence was gaining momentum. 

Even before the Israeli deaths, the Israeli military said it was sending troop reinforcements to the Gaza border and the defence minister Benny Gantz ordered the mobilisation of 5,000 reserve soldiers.

But contrary to Egypt's efforts, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei urged Palestinians to 'build up power' on state television, saying 'Zionists (Israel) only understand the language of force'. 

Iran and Israel consider one-another arch enemies, with Iran refusing to recognise the existence of Israel as a state since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Iranian state TV on Tuesday quoted Khamenei as saying that it was a duty of every state to take a stand and condemn this 'evil, criminal, brutal and cruel' action by Israel. 

Khamenei also said Palestinian need to be empowered in order to 'force' Israel to accept their rights.

'They should make themselves powerful, resist and confront so as to force the other party to withdraw from crime and surrender to what's right and fair,' Khamenei said. 

Iran backs anti-Israel militant groups across the region, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. 

In the U.S., the White House said on Tuesday that Biden was being briefed daily on developments in Jerusalem and Gaza, and has directed his team to engage intensively with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials as well as leaders throughout the Middle East.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that Biden's team is communicating a clear and consistent message in support of de escalation.

'That is our primary focus,' she said, adding that Biden supports Israel's 'legitimate right to defend itself and its people' and at the same time condemns ongoing 'rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups including against Jerusalem.' 

She added that the Biden administration 'will also continue to support a two state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.'

But on his own website, Trump posted a message saying that 'America must always stand with Israel and make clear that the Palestinians must end the violence, terror, and rocket attacks, and make clear that the U.S. will always strongly support Israel's right to defend itself.'

Trump criticised Biden, saying: 'Because Israel's adversaries knew that the United States stood strongly with Israel and there would be swift retribution if Israel was attacked. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours Lod early on Wednesday. He declared a state of emergency in the central city as police accused Arab residents of waging 'wide-scale riots'

Burnt out cars in the Israeli city of Lod this morning after rioting by Arab Israelis, prompting Netanyahu to declare a state of emergency 

'Under Biden, the world is getting more violent and more unstable because Biden's weakness and lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks on our allies.' 

Tuesday also saw a pipeline belonging to an Israeli state-owned energy company hit in a rocket attack from Gaza, an Israeli government official and an energy sector official told Reuters.

Video broadcast by Channel 12 showed flames rising from what appeared to be a large fuel vat near the Israeli Mediterranean city of Ashkelon, south of Tel Aviv.

Operations at a power plant in Ashkelon were not interrupted, Channel 13 TV said.  

In Israel, residents of Ashkelon have been running to shelters as air raid sirens wail. 

'At around 5am, we were woken by sirens. We had to hide in the wardrobe because there is no shelter in the house,' said Shelly Belayev, whose building was heavily damaged, its facade blackened and an apartment devastated. 

'There was a very strong explosion, I have never heard a sound like it. I quickly realised the missile fell here,' she said. 

'I went outside, I was in shock.'

Israel's Iron Dome aerial defence system is activated to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip over the southern Israeli city of Ashdod

People gather at the site of a levelled tower block in Gaza City last night after an Israeli airstrike

An Israeli girl is comforted by her father next to their damaged home in the city of Yehud, central Israel, after it was struck by a rocket from Gaza last night

Israeli security forces walk past extinguished burnt vehicles in Holon near Tel Aviv, last night after rockets were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement

Pictured: Rockets are launched from Gaza city, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, in response to an Israeli air strike on a 12-storey building in the city, towards the coastal city of Tel Aviv, on May 11, 2021

Pictured: Smoke and flame rise after Israeli warplanes conducted airstrikes in Gaza City, Gaza on May 12, 2021

Pictured: Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel, May 11, 2021. Rocket fire was so relentless that Israel's Iron Dome rocket-defence system seemed to be overwhelmed on Tuesday

Pictured: Smokes rise from buildings as Israeli fighter jets continue to pound a Palestinian building called 'Hanady' at Al-Rimal neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip, on May 11, 2021

Pictured: Israeli firefighters check out damaged vehicles in the Israeli town of Holon near Tel Aviv, on May 11, 2021, after rockets are launched towards Israel from Gaza. Hamas has vowed to turn Israel into 'a hell' after rockets fired from Gaza killed two Israeli women today following a night of cross-border strikes

Pictured: A bomb drops near a Palestinian building called 'Hanady' at Al-Rimal neighbourhood as Israeli fighter jets continue to pound in the Gaza Strip, on May 11, 2021

By late Tuesday, the violence extended to Tel Aviv, which came under fire from a barrage of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. The outgoing volleys set off air raid sirens across the city, and the main international airport quickly closed 

Since the sirens began late Monday, barrages of rockets launched from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave have rained down on the coastal city, located just north of the Gaza Strip.

The deluge continued on Tuesday, with Hamas' armed wing the Qassam Brigades saying it had fired 137 rockets on Ashkelon and nearby Ashdod within just five minutes during the afternoon. 

Islamic Jihad, an ally of Hamas, announced on Tuesday that two of its commanders were killed during continued Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. 

Sources within the group said the strikes in central Gaza, also 'wounded eight people, including a woman and her two children.'

On Tuesday, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) claimed it had killed a top Hamas Commander in a statement , saying: 'We just killed the commander of the Hamas anti-tank missile unit, Iyad Fathi Faik Sharir. He was in charge of carrying out anti-tank missile attacks on Israel. Our aircraft are currently striking additional terror targets'. 

Other high-profile Hamas targets are also said to have been killed. One was identified as Samah Abed al-Mamlouk, who the IDF said was in a hideout along with other operatives. He is said to have been in charge of the Islamic Jihad's rocket arsenal.

A wounded Palestinian boy is transported to hospital after an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Tuesday afternoon

Fire billows from Israeli air strikes in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday morning. At least 26 Palestinians - including nine children - were killed, most by airstrikes, health officials in Gaza reported.

Rockets are fired from Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, towards Israel on Tuesday

Smoke billows and sparks fly from Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on Tuesday as Israel and Hamas exchanged heavy fire

Palestinians flee with their children as civilians are evacuated from a building being targeted by an Israeli bombardment in Gaza

A huge explosion from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Tuesday causes sparks to fly into the air as a cloud of black smoke rises above the city 

Israeli firefighters extinguish a car which caught on fire after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel 

Smoke and flames billow into the air as Israeli warplanes drop bombs on the Gaza strip on Tuesday morning. It comes after militants launched more than 200 rockets at Israel, injuring six civilians 

Another - Hassan Abu al-Atta - was also killed. He is thought to have been a deputy commander of Islamic Jihad's Gaza Brigade. He was killed when the IDF struck an eight-storey building in Gaza's Rimal neighbourhood. 

The United Nations said it was 'deeply concerned' over the escalation of violence in the region, warning Israel that Palestinians must be allowed the freedom to congregate and protest. 

'We condemn all violence and all incitement to violence and ethnic division and provocations,' spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. 

He added: 'No force should be used against those exercising their rights peacefully.' When use of force is necessary, it should comply fully with international human rights standards, he added. 

Colville said the office of UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet was particularly concerned about the impact of the violence on children. 

'Detained children should be released,' Colville said. 'Things need to calm down.' 

How clashes in Jerusalem and a bloody end to Ramadan led to 1,000 Hamas rockets in 60 hours and ferocious Israeli bombardments in the Gaza Strip 

This is a recap of the last few bloody days of violence between Israel and Palestinians, sparked by a years-long bid by Jewish settlers to take over Arab homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

- Bloody end to Ramadan -

Clashes erupt on Friday as Muslims pack the Al-Aqsa mosque compound - Islam's third holiest site - to pray on the last Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Violence had been building in the Holy City and occupied West Bank for the previous week.

Palestinians hurl stones, bottles and fireworks at police who fire rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades. The site is also sacred to Jews as the location of two biblical-era temples.

More than 220 people, mostly Palestinians, are wounded.

- Second night -

On Saturday violence flares elsewhere in east Jerusalem.

Some 121 Palestinians are wounded overnight, the Palestinian Red Crescent says, while 17 Israeli police officers are hurt.

The Middle East Quartet - the US, Russia, EU and the UN - express 'deep concern' over the violence.

- Court case delay -

Much of the recent unrest stems from the long-running legal effort by Jewish settler groups to evict several Palestinian families from their homes, in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

A lower court ruling earlier this year backing the settlers' decades-old claim infuriated Palestinians.

But a Supreme Court hearing on a Palestinian appeal is postponed by the justice ministry in light of 'the circumstances'.

- Third night -

As Pope Francis joins calls for an end to the violence, Palestinians and Israeli police face off again overnight Saturday and on Sunday evening in east Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defends Israel's response to the protests.

- March cancelled -

In fierce clashes on Monday morning at the mosque compound, the Palestinian Red Crescent says at least 395 Palestinians are wounded, with more than 200 hospitalised.

Fears of further chaos eases temporarily when the planned 'Jerusalem Day' march to celebrate the Jewish state's 1967 capture of the Old City is cancelled.

- Dramatic escalation -

But Hamas then threatens to up the ante, unless Israel pulls its security forces out of the compound.

Militants in Gaza fire more than 200 rockets towards Israel.

Israel responds with 130 strikes by fighter jets and attack helicopters on 'military targets' in the Hamas-run enclave.

Twenty-eight Palestinians - including 10 children - are killed in the exchange of fire.

Islamic Jihad said two of its commanders were among those killed.

Israel said two people were killed Tuesday in an intense rocket bombardment of the coastal town of Ashkelon north of Gaza, with Netanyahu vowing to intensify attacks in reply.

- 1,050 rockets in 60 hours -

In the north of the occupied West Bank a Palestinian is killed and another wounded by Israeli army gunfire.

In the evening, a 12-storey building in Gaza where several top Hamas commanders had offices is completely destroyed in an Israeli air strike.

In retaliation, Hamas says it has launched 130 rockets towards Tel Aviv, where air raid sirens ring out.

Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv halts flights.

With 35 Palestinians and five Israelis now killed since Monday, Israel says Wednesday that it has been the target of some 1,050 rocket attacks over the last 60 hours.

It said 850 have either landed in Israel or been intercepted by its Iron Dome air defence system, while 200 fell short coming down in Gaza. 

By AFP 

Football news:

Scotland coach Clarke: There were a lot of good moments during the group stage, but no points scored
England are the most boring group winners in history. Two goals were enough! And at the World Cup, the Italians once became the first even with one
Dalic - to the fans after reaching the Euro playoffs: You are our strength, and we will be your pride
Modric became the youngest and oldest goalscorer in Croatia at the Euro
Czech Republic coach Shilgava: We came out of the group and fought with England for the first place. We got what we wanted
Gareth Southgate: England wanted to win the group and continue to play at Wembley-and it succeeded
Luka Modric: When Croatia plays like this, we are dangerous for everyone