Since the conflict flared up on Monday, Israel’s bombing of Gaza has killed 67 people, including 17 children, according to Palestinian authorities.
Israel’s death toll stands at an estimated seven, according to the country’s military.
Hundreds have been injured on each side.
A military spokesman said the Israeli forces were preparing for “various contingencies”.
Israel deployed ground troops into the Gaza Strip in the 2014 war, which this conflict is already threatening to eclipse.
Civic unrest has also erupted in a number of Israeli cities between Arab and Jewish citizens.
In Acre, a lynching attempt by an Arab mob left a Jewish man critically wounded, according to Israeli media reports.
In Bat Yam, graphic video showed a Jewish right-wing mob trying to lynch an Arab driver. He was wounded and taken to hospital, according to Israeli media reports.
“We are very, very worried about this deterioration,” Israeli lawmaker Aida Touma-Suleiman in Acre told CNN’s Hala Gorani in a live interview on late Wednesday evening (local time).
“I am locked in my house, it’s happening in front of my house, and there is no way to go out. The tear gas is filling the houses, and the situation is insecure. There has been attacks on Arab citizens in different cities today.
“I’m really, really worried about this city (Acre). The same is happening in Haifa. The same is happening in Lod. There are different attacks on different citizens.”
The Israeli-Arab lawmaker went on to say: “I’m not sure that the police (are) able or even willing to control the situation.”
Fuelled by controversy over planned evictions of Palestinian families in Jerusalem, and restrictions at a popular East Jerusalem meeting point as Ramadan began, conflict between Israelis and Palestinians boiled over this week, escalating rapidly into one of the worst rounds of violence between the two sides in the last several years.
“We’re escalating towards a full-scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of de-escalation,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland said.
Militants in Gaza have fired more than 1000 rockets into Israel since the latest flareup began Monday afternoon, and Israel has launched devastating airstrikes in Gaza.
Fury over the situation has fuelled fierce protests in the central Israeli city of Lod, where Israeli police reported on Wednesday (local time) that people were throwing rocks at passing cars and blocking roads into the early hours.
The mayor of Lod, Yair Revivo, said decades of coexistence had been “trampled.”
He said Arab-Israeli rioters had been “burning synagogues, Talmud Torah, dozens of vehicles, burning garbage containers, destroying Israeli flags and worse, lowering the Israeli flag and hoisting the Palestinian flag, on a night of riots that injured policemen and residents who found themselves besieged.”
Meanwhile an Arab-Israeli resident of Lod, Wael Essawi, told CNN that a mosque was stormed by Israeli police and Jewish residents during prayers on Tuesday night before tear gas was fired and cars were set ablaze.
“We couldn’t do anything but we opened the windows so we can breathe … it was very intense,” Essawi said.
Another resident, Khaled Zabarqah, said that following a Palestinian demonstration on Monday against Israeli policies in Jerusalem, thousands were hit with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets before Israelis started throwing stones and beating the group.
“My 15-year-old daughter was woken up by the sound of stones being thrown at her bedroom window, I was then woken up by her terrified screams,” Zabarqah said.
“There was nothing we could do but protect and defend ourselves with any tools we have, it’s either we defend ourselves or we get killed.”
On Tuesday, a 25-year-old Arab-Israeli man was shot and killed in the city by a 34-year-old Jewish man, who fired on protesters after they targeted him with rocks, according to police.
Police arrested two suspects in connection with another shooting also in Lod.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today slammed the violence in Israeli cities as “unacceptable” and said he had ordered the police to adopt emergency powers, to reinforce with Border Police units, and to impose curfews where necessary.
“Nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs and nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews,” he said in a statement.
“To the citizens of Israel I say that I do not care if your blood is boiling. You cannot take the law into your own hands. You cannot grab an ordinary Arab citizen and try to lynch him – just as we cannot watch Arab citizens do this to Jewish citizens.”
Israel’s Arab minority makes up about 20 percent of the population and are the descendants of Palestinians who stayed in the country after the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, when an estimated 700,000 fled or were driven from their homes. They have citizenship, including the right to vote, but face widespread discrimination.
Arab citizens speak Hebrew and are well-represented in Israel’s medical profession and universities, but they largely identify with the Palestinian cause, leading many Israelis to view them with suspicion.
Fathers shelter newborns amid rocket strikes
Israeli officials have shared a harrowing photo showing the human impact of the recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East.
In the image posted to the Israel Defence Force’s (IDF) Instagram page, fathers are seen cradling their newborns in the hallway of a Tel Aviv maternity ward.
Authorities advised new parents to take the children out of their cribs and guard them in the fortified halls while rockets rained down from above.
The IDF claimed the babies are the “innocent victims of terror” as they are born to the sounds of air raid sirens echoing throughout the country.
“During a barrage of rockets from Gaza into central Israel, children were born to the warning sound of sirens,” the post read.
“The infants in the maternity ward were taken from their cribs and held in a fortified hallway while rockets rained over the hospital.
“These are the innocent victims of terror.”
Thousands of Israeli’s spent the night in bomb shelters and health officials are concerned for those in hospital departments like the maternity wards who don’t have that level of protection.
Gaza has no air defence system and few bomb shelters to offer the Palestinian people protection.
Palestinian health ministry spokesman, Ashraf al-Qidra said the people of Gaza were in a “state of panic” due to the ongoing Israeli bombardment.
He said Israel had deliberately targeted civilian homes and crowded residential neighbourhoods, adding that 43 per cent of the victims of strikes in Gaza were children and women.
– With CNN, Associated Press