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Cyprus ‘deeply concerned’ over escalation of Middle East violence

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Cyprus Foreign Ministry has expressed deep concern over the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas, with at least 35 killed in Gaza and five in Israel in the worst exchanges for years.

The Foreign Ministry tweeted it was “deeply concerned by the latest escalation of violence, and the barrage of rockets fired indiscriminately from #Gaza against civilian population in Israel.”

“This is totally unacceptable and must end now. We urge restraint on all sides, calling on them to engage in de-escalatory efforts,” the Ministry added.

Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza into Wednesday as the Islamist group, and other Palestinian militants fired multiple rocket barrages at Tel Aviv and Beersheba.

One multi-storey residential building in Gaza collapsed, and another was heavily damaged after Israeli airstrikes repeatedly hit them.

Israel said its jets had targeted and killed several Hamas intelligence leaders.

Other strikes targeted what the military said were rocket launch sites, Hamas offices and the homes of Hamas leaders.

It was the heaviest offensive between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in Gaza and 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.

Israelis ran for shelters or flattened themselves on pavements in communities more than 70 km up the coast and into southern Israel amid sounds of explosions as interceptor missiles streaked into the sky.

In the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod, near Tel Aviv, two people were killed after a rocket hit a vehicle in the area.

Hamas’s armed wing said it fired 210 rockets towards Beersheba and Tel Aviv in response to the bombing of the tower buildings in Gaza City.

Israel’s military says that around a third of the rockets have fallen short, landing within Gaza.

The violence followed weeks of tension in Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the compound revered by Jews as Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

These escalated in recent days ahead of a – now postponed – court hearing in a case that could end with Palestinian families evicted from East Jerusalem homes claimed by Jewish settlers. (source agencies)