Heavy smoke and fire surround Al-Sharouk tower as it collapses during an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City on May 12, 2021.
Qusay Dawud/Getty Images
  • Israeli airstrikes have levelled multiple residential buildings in Gaza, videos show.
  • Israel said that Hamas used the buildings.
  • Critics have questioned whether targeting large buildings violates international law.
  • See more stories on Business Insider SA's home page.

The Israeli military levelled multiple apartment buildings in Gaza with airstrikes this week amid escalating violence that's killed dozens of Palestinians, marking the worst fighting in the region since the 50-day war in 2014.

Israel has said it's targeting buildings where Hamas - the militant group that controls Gaza - stores weapons or has offices. Civilians were warned to evacuate before the strikes, Reuters reported.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday said hundreds of strikes had already been carried out and that "buildings will continue to crumble." Gantz on Wednesday signalled the air campaign was poised to escalate.

"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.

Videos shared on social media showed the buildings collapsing as a result of the Israeli strikes.

In 2014 as well, Israel targeted and destroyed large buildings in Gaza and was criticised as a result. Both sides faced allegations of war crimes over tactics employed in the conflict that year.

This week's actions have renewed criticism of Israel over the targeting of large buildings, raising questions about proportionality and respect for human rights.

At least 56 Palestinians, including 14 children, have been killed since the airstrikes began Monday. Rockets fired at Israel from Gaza have killed at least six people, including a soldier and child.

A senior Hamas commander was among those killed in the strikes thus far.

"This is just the beginning," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the strike that killed the Hamas commander. "We'll hit them like they've never dreamed possible," he added.

Meanwhile, the UN on Wednesday issued a warning that the ongoing conflict has the potential to escalate into a "full-scale war."

As the Israeli military pummelled Gaza with airstrikes, over 1,000 rockets were fired by militants at Israel, though officials said 85% to 90% were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defence system, per NBC News.

The latest rash of violence in the region is linked to both historic and current factors. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and general treatment of Palestinians, including the economically devastating blockade on Gaza, remains at the centre of the tensions. Top human rights groups have increasingly condemned Israel's treatment of Palestine as a form of apartheid.

The planned evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in east Jerusalem has been the more recent catalyst for the violence, among other incidents such as an Israeli police raid on an important Muslim holy site that injured hundreds on Monday.

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