Israel-Gaza: Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta shares 'grave concern' over escalating violence

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has expressed "grave concern" at the escalation of violence in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Gaza, saying it is unacceptable and needs to stop.

At least 65 people have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave's health ministry, amid the most serious outbreak of fighting in several years. Six people have been killed in Israel, medical officials said.

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

Israel says its jets have targeted and killed several Hamas intelligence leaders, while other strikes targeted Hamas offices and the homes of Hamas leaders.

The military action follows unrest involving Israeli police and Palestinian protesters near Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.

The outbreak of fighting is the most intense aerial exchange between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in Gaza, and has prompted international concern that the situation could spiral out of control.

Mahuta says the launching of rockets towards Israel by Hamas "is unacceptable and must stop".

"The growing death toll and the large numbers of casualties, including children, from Israeli airstrikes and Gazan rockets is unacceptable," she says.

"Senior officials met with the Israeli Ambassador yesterday. Officials underlined the concerning loss of life and strongly urged Israel to de-escalate to prevent the prospect of a widening conflict. They also raised their concern at the continued violation of international law and forced evictions occurring in East Jerusalem.

"The launching of rockets towards Israel by Hamas is unacceptable and must stop. At the same time any response from Israel should be restrained and must avoid civilian casualties. All sides have a responsibility to de-escalate, stop the violence and prevent further suffering and loss of life."

Mahuta adds that New Zealand is ready to assist "in any constructive way we can" to support an urgent de-escalation of the situation.

The UN has been clear on its view of the violence escalation. United Nations Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said it needed to stop immediately.

"We're escalating towards a full-scale war," he wrote on Twitter.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US is also concerned about the violence. 

"We condemn ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem," she told reporters. "We also stand against extremism that has inflicted violence on both communities."

The UK has also called for an "end to [the] targeting of civilian populations" while Australia said it's "deeply concerned" by the violence.

"We need an immediate de-escalation on all sides," UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Gaza City brigade commander and 15 other members of the Islamist militant group were killed in airstrikes.

"This is just the beginning. We'll hit them like they've never dreamed possible," he said.

Reuters / Newshub.