Erdogan, Putin discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Israeli security forces at the scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon

Israeli security forces at the scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed Israeli attacks against the Palestinians during a phone conversation, Turkey's presidential office said in a statement Wednesday.

The situation escalated when Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City - the third-holiest site in Islam - and wounded hundreds of Palestinian worshippers during several days of violence.

A senior US official separately said to expect further high-level contacts, including with Jordan and Egypt, although Washington does not speak to Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group. 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 worldwide concern that the situation could spiral out of control.

Consensus was needed from all 15 members to publish a joint statement and the USA mission was the only one that refused to back it, the diplomats said.

In response to a query on the matter, a spokesperson for the USA mission said, "The United States is engaging constructively to ensure any action by the Security Council is helpful in de-escalating tensions". "Stop the violence now", he wrote.

Renewed rocket fire and rioting in mixed Jewish-Arab towns has fueled growing fears that deadly violence between Israel and Palestinians could descend into full-scale war.

"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", Gantz said in the southern city of Ashkelon which has been hit by Palestinian rocket fire.

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

Blinken described scenes of dead Palestinian civilians, including children, as "harrowing" but defended Israel's assault on Gaza in response to rocket fire by Hamas militants.

The draft underwent a number of amendments per requests from the U.S. and United Kingdom, whose representative made sure it included a condemnation of the firing of incendiary devices and rockets from Gaza, a diplomat said.

But Blinken said there was a "very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets - in fact, targeting civilians - and Israel's response defending itself".

Demonstrators on Tuesday also rallied to denounce the ongoing crackdown at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, as well as Israeli plans to forcefully expel Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

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There appeared no imminent end to the violence. But now, Netanyahu has warned that fighting could "continue for some time".

Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern section as a capital of a future state.

As he did on Monday, the UN's Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland briefed member states on the latest developments in Israel and Gaza during Wednesday's session, which was requested by the Chinese, Norwegian and Tunisian missions.

Erdogan said the worldwide community should teach Israel a "strong and deterrent" lesson to stop its "reckless attacks" on Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Palestinians.

Gaza has for years had limited access to the outside world because of a blockade led by Israel and supported by Egypt, who both cite security concerns over Hamas for the restrictions.

The UN Security Council held another emergency meeting Wednesday on worsening hostilities between Israel and Palestinians, again without agreeing on a joint statement due to opposition from the United States, Israel's key ally, according to diplomats.

State Department spokesman Ned Price urged calm and "restraint on both sides", saying: "The loss of life, the loss of Israeli life, the loss of Palestinian life, It's something that we deeply regret".

He added: "We are urging this message of de-escalation to see this loss of life come to an end".

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 Israeli ground incursion into Gaza 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 by Israeli forces.

Smoke billows following Israeli air strikes on Gaza City, on May 12, 2021. A 26-year-old Palestinian was killed Tuesday in clashes with Israeli troops in a refugee camp near the city of Hebron. A multi-story residential and office building was heavily damaged by the strikes. Residents in the building and surrounding area were warned to evacuate before the building was destroyed. Residents and journalists working in the building had already left.

Bassem Issa is the highest-ranking military figure in Hamas to be killed by Israel since 2014, according to The Associated Press.

The rocket fire forced Israel to suspend flights at its main airport of Ben Gurion, near Tel Aviv.

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