Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians widens

Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians escalated on several fronts as it grappled with escalating communal riots in its towns and mass protests across the occupied West Bank while extending its bombardment of Gaza by a sixth day.

Despite the worsening crisis and the diplomatic efforts of the US and regional governments, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Friday that Israel’s assault on Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, was “not yet finished”.

As the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza rose to 136, including 55 women and children, US and regional governments have struggled to negotiate a ceasefire. Ten Israelis were killed, including a child and a soldier.

Israel rejected a second Hamas truce offer, a Western diplomat told FT. Hady Amr, the top US State Department official for Israeli and Palestinian affairs, was in Tel Aviv overnight, as the UN sought to end the two-hour fighting on Sunday to ease hostilities.

During a sixth day, Israeli jets pounded the surrounded Gaza Strip, home to 2 million Palestinians, and a woman and her four children were killed overnight when their home in a refugee camp was hit, said local health officials.

Israeli warplanes hit another high-rise building in Gaza City, where news agencies such as Al Jazeera and the Associated Press have their offices, an PA reporter said at the scene. Israel sent warnings to evacuate the building, Al Jazeera reported.

An Arabic-speaking spokesperson for Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 12 that “Hamas is fully responsible for the deaths of civilians in Gaza.” The spokesperson said the militants had placed military targets in densely populated neighborhoods.

Despite the Israeli shelling, which has been escalated to include artillery and tank fire, Hamas has fired about 2,500 rockets deep into Israel.

Hamas fired around 1,800 rockets deep into Israel © Getty Images

On Friday evening, Hamas fired 200 rockets at Ashdod and Beersheva.

In the West Bank, Israeli security forces killed 11 Palestinians after angry protests erupted in the occupied territory on Friday, local health officials said.

The unrest in the West Bank could worsen considerably, an aide to Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told the FT after nearly 80 protests on Friday. Some turned violent when Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers.

A mass Palestinian protest was scheduled for later Saturday, to mark the 73rd anniversary of the founding of Israel, which Arabs are calling the Nakba, or disaster.

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 war, is home to some 650,000 Jewish settlers, including at least 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The territory, which is the seat of Fatah, the rival Palestinian faction of Hamas, had remained relatively calm until yesterday.

In addition to its campaign against Hamas, Israel struggles to contain the worst domestic communal violence in years as groups of Jewish minority Israeli Arab men and Jews have attacked each other and destroyed property in rural areas. mixed Israeli towns.

Israeli police arrested nearly 900 people as they tried to stem riots in towns with mixed Jewish and Arab populations, as communal conflicts revealed a deep rift within the Jewish state.

Around 15,000 police officers fought to impose a nighttime curfew in towns like Lod, Haifa and Jaffa, where an Arab house was set on fire.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has been dominated for more than a decade by fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian factions in the occupied territories. But community violence has sparked new tensions.

Israeli Arabs make up about a fifth of the Jewish state’s population, carry Israeli passports and vote in the country’s elections. But they say they suffer from institutional and social discrimination and their sympathy for the Palestinian cause has made them a target for right-wing Israeli politicians.

This week, Israel redeployed several thousand West Bank police to Israeli towns and villages as it stepped up efforts to stem internal unrest.

The crisis erupted after weeks of tension in and around Jerusalem, which escalated last week after police used rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades against Palestinian protesters inside the compound. al-Aqsa mosque.

More than 600 Palestinians were injured and footage of police using force against protesters at Islam’s third holiest site – long a flashpoint in the Arab-Israeli conflict – inflamed Arab anger.

The al-Aqsa Mosque is located in a complex – known to Muslims as the Haram ash-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews like the Temple Mount – it’s sacred to both religions.

As tension mounted, Hamas entered the fray on Monday, firing rockets at Israel and demanding that Jewish settlers in Israel-occupied East Jerusalem stop harassing Arab residents who were awaiting expulsion orders from courts. Israelis.

Israel responded by launching its largest military campaign against Hamas since its 2014 war with the Islamist group.

The impoverished territory is now reduced to about five hours of electricity a day and will likely run out of fuel by Sunday, according to an Israeli security official.

In an attempt to stifle Hamas’ access to resources, Israel has, since 2007, imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip.

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