Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared a state of emergency in Lod as intense rioting has erupted in the Arab-Jewish city amid escalating tensions between Israel and Palestine. Citing local media, The Times of Israel reported that three synagogues and numerous shops have been set on fire in Lod, and dozens of cars have been set alight.
Some residents are reportedly avoiding using public shelters during rocket sirens, out of fear they could be attacked by mobs.
Netanyahu has declared the state of emergency in Lod after the meeting between top security and legal officials. This is the first use of emergency powers over an Arab community in Israel since the end of the military administration over the Arabs of Israel in 1966.
Meanwhile, air-raid sirens sound in two communities in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, following a half-hour lull in rocket fire from Gaza.
Lod Mayor Yair Revivo said he has asked the Prime Minister to declare the state of emergency in the city and called for deploying the military to control the chaotic situation.
“I have called on the Prime Minister to declare the state of emergency in Lod. To call in the IDF. To impose a curfew. To restore quiet… 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,” he said.
Following this, Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered battalions of Border Police assisting the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to go to Lod and other mixed population towns experiencing unrest, The Times of Israel reported.
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, urged both sides to stop the violence, saying that the situation was escalating towards a “full scale war”.
“Stop the fire immediately. We are escalating towards a full scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of de-escalation. The cost of war in Gaza is devastating and is being paid by ordinary people. The UN is working with all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now,” he tweeted.
On Tuesday, Hamas said that it fired 137 rockets in around five minutes in an apparent attempt to overwhelm the Iron Dome missile defence system. Less than an hour later, the two women were killed in an apparently separate attack.
Over 630 rockets were fired at Israel from Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon, 200 of which were intercepted by Iron Dome missile defence batteries while 150 others fell short of their targets and landed inside the Strip, according to the army.
The country has been embroiled in conflict over the impending eviction of dozens of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s neighbourhood.
Over 70 Palestinians in total are set to be evicted from Sheikh Jarrah in the coming weeks to be replaced by right-wing Jewish Israelis. The Palestinians live in houses built on land that courts have ruled were owned by Jewish religious associations before the establishment of Israel in 1948.