After another night of intense bombardment by Israeli forces, Palestinians and Israelis on Friday surveyed a landscape marred by violence that has spread from the West Bank to Israel to Gaza and back to the West Bank, leaving scores dead, mostly Palestinians.
Most of the death and destruction have occurred in Gaza, the already impoverished territory controlled by the militant Palestinian group Hamas, where officials said 120 people had died, scores of buildings were destroyed, and electricity water were running critically short.
More than 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza this week, and eight Israelis, including a soldier, have been killed, Israeli officials said on Friday.
A Hamas spokesman told Al Jazeera on Friday that the group was open to a “calming” of hostilities, and that Egypt and Qatar were leading efforts to mediate with Israel.
But the rocket barrage appeared to slow overnight, as Israeli jets and drones once again pounded targets in the territory, joined for the first time by artillery stationed at its perimeter. Israeli forces said their main target was the tunnel network used by Hamas to move people and weapons, and they claimed to have killed 75 Hamas operatives since Monday.
Israel deployed as many as 160 aircraft at a time in the overnight attacks, a military spokesman said. Early Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “This operation will continue as long as it takes to restore peace and security to the state of Israel.”
Violence erupted in several places on the West Bank on Friday, as Israeli soldiers fired on demonstrators, some of whom threw stones and lit fires. Palestinian officials said 11 people had been killed.
Fighting flared again overnight in Israeli towns where Muslims and Jews have coexisted for years, but now eye each other fearfully. That violence, with assaults and arson on both sides, has been the most surprising turn and, to many Israelis, the most troubling.
Mr. Netanyahu on Friday emphasized the violence in one direction over the other.
“What is happening across Israeli towns is very serious, groups of lawless rioters coming from the Arab public go out and hurt Jews for being Jews,” he said in Lod, the Israeli town hardest hit by communal violence.
“This has to end, and the reaction of the leaders of the Arab public has so far been too weak,” he added. “Everyone should be condemning every form of violence of Arabs against Jews and also of Jews against Arabs.”
The latest round of Israeli-Palestinian unrest began Monday after clashes between protesters and the Israeli police at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Hamas then began firing into Israel with the increasingly potent rockets it has built with the aid of Iran, and Israel responded with air attacks on Hamas and other militant targets in Gaza.
The violence came as Muslims celebrated the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the feast of Eid al-Fitr that follows.
Many nations have called for peaceful resolution, and American and Egyptian officials have been trying to broker a cease-fire. The United States and other Western countries insisted that the rocket attacks from Gaza must stop and refrained from placing blame on Israel.
“Palestinians — including in Gaza — and Israelis equally deserve to live in dignity, safety and security,” President Biden said in statement marking Eid. “No family should have to fear for their safety within their own home or place of worship.”
Relations between Israel and the Arab world have thawed in recent years, and Arab countries’ criticism of Israel this week has been more muted than in past conflicts.
But the two entrenched sides did not appear ready to cede ground.
“The Americans are talking to me, the Egyptians are talking to me,” Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, said during a video meeting with local council heads, “but I remain focused on the reason we went out on this campaign: to make Hamas and Islamic Jihad pay a price.”
Israel on Thursday activated 7,000 military reservists and canceled leaves for soldiers in combat units, prompting speculation about an invasion of Gaza like the incursion in 2014 that left more than 2,000 people dead. The Israeli military said early Friday morning that its ground forces had attacked Gaza, suggesting an incursion, but it later clarified that the troops were firing from within Israel, and that none had entered the territory.
The crisis has come at a time when Israel’s political leaders are struggling to form a government after four inconclusive elections in two years. Mr. Netanyahu’s attempt to build a majority coalition in the Israeli Parliament failed, and his rival, Yair Lapid, had been invited to try to form a government.
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — Violence erupted between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators in cities and towns across the West Bank on Friday, with 11 Palestinians killed and more than 200 injured, about 20 of them seriously, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Clashes took place in and around Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron and several other locations across the region. Arab and Israeli media reported that demonstrators threw rocks and lit fires, and that Israeli troops responded with gunfire and tear gas, with one person shot while attempting to stab a soldier.
The health ministry said most of the injuries were caused by live gunfire.
In all, it was the worst and most widespread bloodshed on the West Bank in a week of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
People in the Palestinian town of Ni’lin, west of Ramallah, said that the violence was started by Israelis from nearby settlements, who entered the town accompanied by soldiers and set fire to shops while Muslims were at Friday Prayer.
“They also threw stones at houses and they were saying death to the Arabs and we don’t want you next to us,” said Mohammad Amira, whose brother was wounded by gunfire.
After weeks of demonstrations by Arabs in Jerusalem, Israeli police raided the Aqsa mosque there, one of the holiest sites in Islam, injuring hundreds of protesters and enraging many Palestinians. The focus of the unrest quickly shifted to rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli bombardment of that territory, where most of the casualties have been, and then to the West Bank on Friday.
“It’s because of Jerusalem and the Aqsa mosque,” said Jihad Khalil, who lives in Ni’lin. “The Aqsa mosque is a red line.”
There were scattered reports of clashes in other places far from Gaza, as well. A few rockets were fired at the Golan Heights from Syria. And at a pro-Palestinian protest in Lebanon, on Israel’s northern border, a man was fatally shot by an Israeli soldier when he tried to cross a security fence, according to Lebanese authorities.
Gaza is controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which directs much of the violence aimed from there at Israel. Hamas is implacably opposed to Israel and stockpiles rockets and other weapons with aid from Israel’s enemy, Iran.
The West Bank is a very different story. It is under Israeli military occupation and partially governed by the Palestinian Authority, which cooperates closely with Israel and often works to suppress anti-Israel unrest.
Rami Nazzal and
Before the current crisis, Gazans already lived in what one United Nations human rights official called a “toxic slum”: a jagged strip of land blockaded indefinitely by Israel and Egypt whose roughly two million residents endured daily power outages of up to 16 hours and running water that worked only every other day.
Now, they are down to about five hours of electricity per day and half their usual water supply, according to an Israeli security official. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of briefing rules, said the shortages were partly because Israel has closed the border crossing through which most of Gaza’s fuel arrives, but also because Hamas, the militant group that governs the area, shot off rockets that damaged power lines. That claim could not be independently confirmed.
The official said that the power lines to two Gaza sewage treatment plants were damaged or down, and the U.N.’s humanitarian aid coordination agency said that a water desalination plant was not operational, cutting 250,000 residents off from water. About 150,000 people in Gaza City had limited access to water because the power cuts were affecting the piped supply, the agency added.
Gaza usually gets roughly a quarter of its electricity from Israel, with another portion coming from a power plant in the territory that relies on fuel from Israel, plus donated fuel from Qatar and aid groups. Before the current conflict, that left the area perpetually short of half to two-thirds of its power needs, meaning residents had no more than eight consecutive hours of electricity, according to Gisha, a Gaza-focused advocacy group. Those who could afford it turned to diesel generators to cover the gap.
Eager to push back on the idea that Israel alone is responsible for Gazans’ deteriorating living conditions, senior officials at the Israeli defense agency that deals with the West Bank and Gaza, , known as COGAT, said that Hamas was using Gaza residents as a “human shield.”
“Instead of focusing on welfare and economy,” the head of the agency’s civil department, Col. Elad Goren, said on Wednesday, “it’s focusing on violence and incitement.”
The lack of power was starting to affect hospitals, which were already at full capacity because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Gisha group said. The Gaza Health Ministry on Friday called on Israel to open a border crossing for patients to receive treatment and medical personnel and supplies to enter.
As the Israel Defense Forces strike Gaza with jets, drones and artillery, a key target has been a network of tunnels beneath the Palestinian-controlled territory that the militant Islamic group Hamas is known to use for deploying militants and smuggling weapons.
A spokesman for the Israeli military described the complex network as a “city beneath a city.”
The tunnels were also the main rationale that Israel gave for its ground invasion of Gaza in 2014. Israel’s leaders said afterward that they had destroyed 32 tunnels during that operation, including 14 that penetrated into Israeli territory.
At the time of that fighting, the Israel Defense Forces took reporters into a 6-foot-by-2-foot underground passage running almost two miles under the border to show the threat posed by the tunnels, and the difficulty that Israel has in finding and destroying them.
Here is an excerpt from what The New York Times reported then:
Tunnels from Gaza to Israel have had a powerful hold on the Israeli psyche since 2006, when Hamas militants used one to capture an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was held for five years before being released in a prisoner exchange.
The tunnels can be quite elaborate. The tunnel toured by journalists was reinforced with concrete and had a rack on the wall for electrical wiring. It also featured a metal track along the floor, used by carts that removed dirt during the tunnel’s construction, that could be used to ferry equipment and weapons, the Israeli military said.
Israeli officials acknowledge that it is a difficult technological and operational challenge to destroy all of the subterranean passageways and neutralize the threat they pose. The tunnels are well hidden, said the officer who conducted the tour, and some tunnels are booby-trapped.
The conflict is taking a growing toll as Israeli military strikes, Palestinian rocket attacks and street violence continue.
As violence between Israel and the Palestinians has grown this week, misinformation about the situation has circulated on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media outlets.
The false information has included videos, photos and clips of text purported to be from government officials in the region. And the lies have been amplified as they have been shared thousands of times on Twitter and Facebook, spreading to WhatsApp and Telegram groups that have thousands of members, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
The effect is potentially deadly, disinformation experts said, inflaming tensions when suspicions and distrust are already running high.
“A lot of it is rumor and broken telephone, but it is being shared right now because people are desperate to share information about the unfolding situation,” said Arieh Kovler, a political analyst and independent researcher in Jerusalem who studies misinformation.
SDEROT, Israel — It was 1:30 p.m. on Friday in Sderot, and Ido Avigal, 5, was being laid to rest a few miles to the north. He had been killed in what officials termed a freak incident two days earlier when a rocket from Gaza made a direct hit on the building next door to his aunt’s apartment, where he was visiting with his mother and older sister.
When that rocket struck on Wednesday evening, he was sheltering in a fortified safe room meant to protect residents from this exact threat. But a piece of shrapnel managed to puncture the thick, steel shutter and the thick glass window of the shelter, mortally wounding the boy. Ido’s mother and his sister were also injured while inside the room.
It was the first such case of a death in a fortified safe room that military officials could recall.
In the current round of fighting, which began on Monday, Gaza militant groups have fired more than 2,000 rockets into Israel, with more than 600 aimed at Sderot, the Israeli military said. Israel has pummeled Gaza with hundreds of airstrikes and artillery fire.
On Friday, Palestinian officials said 120 people had been killed in the attacks, including 31 children in Gaza. On the Israeli side, seven civilians, including Ido, and one soldier had been killed, Israeli officials said.
In the early 1990s, after Israel came under attack by Scud missiles from Iraq, all newly built homes were required to be constructed with a safe room made from reinforced concrete. Built to technical specifications that have been upgraded over the years, the protective spaces are supposed to withstand blast and shrapnel from conventional weapons, as well as offer some protection against chemical and biological attacks. These rooms include windows since they also serve as a functional part of the home.
An initial investigation found that the safe room where Ido was hiding had been built to the proper specifications, according to Colonel Dayan. The penetration by the shrapnel was probably caused by the angle at which the rocket hit, he said, adding that the only new recommendation for now was to sit low down in safe rooms, below the window line.
At Ido’s funeral on Friday, his father, Asaf Avigal, eulogized him. “I’m sorry I did not take the shrapnel in your place,” Mr. Avigal said, according to Israel’s N12 news channel. “A few days ago, you asked me: ‘Dad, what will happen if the siren goes off while we are outdoors?’ I told you that so long as you were with me you would be protected. I lied.”
As United States and Egyptian mediators headed to Israel to begin de-escalation talks, the antagonists were weighing delicate internal considerations before agreeing to discussions on ending the violence.
But even before the mediators got to work, Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appeared to have calculated that brute force was required first.
Early Friday, Israeli ground troops shelled Gaza — a potentially major move of escalation against the Hamas militants who have been launching hundreds of rockets at Israel.
For the Palestinians, the indefinite postponement of elections last month by the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, created a vacuum that Hamas is more than willing to fill. Hamas argues that it is the only Palestinian faction that, with its large stockpile of improved missiles, is defending the holy places of Jerusalem, turning Mr. Abbas into a spectator.
President Biden has spoken to Mr. Netanyahu and repeated the usual formula about Israel’s right to self-defense. The American leader also dispatched an experienced diplomat, the deputy assistant secretary of state Hady Amr, to urge de-escalation on both sides.
The Biden administration has resisted calls at the United Nations Security Council for an immediate discussion of the crisis, arguing that Mr. Amr and other diplomats need at least a few days to work toward a possible solution.
A proposal to convene an urgent meeting on Friday by the 15-member council was effectively blocked by the United States, diplomats said. Criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians is widespread among members of the United Nations, and the United States has often stood alone in defending Israel, its key Middle East ally.
In Washington, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, when asked about American objections to a Security Council meeting, told reporters on Thursday that “we are open to and supportive of a discussion, an open discussion, at the United Nations,” but wanted to wait until early next week.
“This, I hope, will give some time for the diplomacy to have some effect and to see if indeed we get a real de-escalation,” Mr. Blinken said.
AMMAN, Jordan — Thousands of protesters in Jordan, Israel’s eastern neighbor, marched toward the border on Friday morning, chanting slogans in solidarity with the Palestinians and waving Palestinian flags as Jordanian riot police surrounded them.
“We are here. Either we go down, or they will have to carry us back,” they chanted, videos posted to social media showed. “To Palestine, to Palestine. We are going to Palestine. We are going in millions as martyrs to Palestine.”
Arriving in buses and cars, the protesters called on Jordan’s government to open the border, where it has stepped up security in recent days amid the growing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Before the protesters could reach the demarcation line, however, the riot police blocked their path, social media videos and photos at the scene showed.
Jordanians have been protesting near the Israeli Embassy in Amman for several days, some of the largest expressions of solidarity for the Palestinians in a region that has otherwise reacted mildly if at all to the outbreak of violence. Protesters have called on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador.
Jordan’s 1994 treaty normalizing relations with Israel produced a chilly-at-best peace between the two countries, and the latest conflict has strained it further. This week, Jordan summoned the Israeli chargé d’affaires in Amman to condemn Israeli “attacks on worshipers” around the Aqsa Mosque compound in the walled Old City of Jerusalem, which played a major role in setting off the current conflict.
An earlier version of this item misstated Jordan’s location in relation to Israel. Jordan is an eastern neighbor. It is not to the west.
Deadly conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has in the past sparked protests and intense flare-ups of anger in Europe, sometimes leading to anti-Semitic acts, particularly in 2014, when Israel invaded the Gaza Strip.
And with the current conflict intensifying and more protests being organized, officials in France and Germany are taking steps to avoid a repeat.
France banned a pro-Palestinian protest planned for this weekend in Paris, sparking an intense political debate and an unsuccessful court challenge from the organizers of the demonstration, and the government has deployed police around the country in anticipation of other protests and possible violence.
In Germany, where protesters this week attacked synagogues, burned Israeli flags and marched through the streets chanting slurs against Jews, law enforcement readied for several demonstrations in Berlin on Saturday and officials said that anti-Semitism would not be tolerated.
Felix Klein, a German official tasked with countering anti-Semitism, said: “It is appalling how obviously Jews in Germany are being held responsible here for actions of the Israeli government in which they are completely uninvolved.”
He called on Muslim associations to “distance themselves from violence against Jews and attacks on their places of worship, to call for nonviolence and to exert a de-escalating influence on the Muslim community in Germany.”
President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have both condemned the rocket attacks on Israel and stressed that the country has a right to defend itself. On Friday, a statement from Mr. Macron’s office said he had also expressed worries about civilian casualties in Gaza in a phone call with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The ban on the weekend protest planned for Paris was requested by France’s interior ministry. The police authorities complied, citing the “sensitive” international context, as well as the risk of “troubles to public order” and acts of violence against synagogues or Israeli interests in the French capital.
“There can be no hateful demonstration, no anti-Semitic demonstration in France,” Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, told reporters in Lille on Friday. He said that police would be widely deployed in Paris and elsewhere in France to contain any unrest and protect France’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe.
Protests were also planned in large cities such as Marseille, Strasbourg and Lyon.
In 2014, radical protesters on the fringes of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France vandalized Jewish businesses, clashed with police and chanted “Death to Jews,” This week, French authorities repeatedly cited those events to justify the protest ban.
“We must not relive the vile scenes of 2014 in the streets of Paris,” Mr. Darmanin said, adding that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was concerning to many French people but that “it must not be exported” to French territory.
Political parties on the right and center supported the ban, and Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris, called it a “wise decision.”
But organizers of the protest filed an emergency motion in court, arguing that there had been many peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstrations since 2014 and accusing the French government of being too favorable toward Israel. On Friday evening, the court upheld the ban.
“France guarantees the freedom of expression and of protest, and Palestine should not be an exception,” said Walid Atallah, a spokesperson for the association that organized the protest, which was initially planned to commemorate the Nakba, or “catastrophe” of 1948, referring to the hostilities surrounding the establishment of Israel and the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis.
“Bombs are landing on a population’s heads, dozens of civilians are killed, and we wouldn’t be allowed to say that we don’t agree?” Mr. Atallah told the Agence France-Presse.
Many among left-wing opposition to Mr. Macron said the ban was excessive and unfair. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the head of the leftist France Unbowed party, said that France was “the only country in the world where all demonstrations in support of Palestinians and in protest of the far-right Israeli government are banned.”
“It is obviously with the sole goal of provoking incidents in order to stigmatize this cause,” Mr. Mélenchon wrote on Twitter, echoing many critics of the ban, who say that it will only serve to inflame tensions and push the police to clash with protesters.
There is no simple answer to the question “What set off the current violence in Israel?”
But in an episode of The Daily this week, Isabel Kershner, The New York Times’s Jerusalem correspondent, explained the series of recent events that reignited violence in the region.
In Jerusalem, nearly every square foot of land is contested — its ownership and tenancy symbolic of larger abiding questions about who has rightful claim to a city considered holy by three major world religions.
As Isabel explained, a longstanding legal battle over attempts to forcibly evict six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem heightened tensions in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of violence.
The always tenuous peace was further tested by the overlap of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with a month of politically charged days in Israel.
A series of provocative events followed: Israeli forces barred people from gathering to celebrate Ramadan outside Damascus Gate, an Old City entrance that is usually a festive meeting place for young people after the breaking of the daily fast during the holy month.
Then young Palestinians filmed themselves slapping an ultra-Orthodox Jew on a light rail, videos that went viral on TikTok.
And on Jerusalem Day, an annual event marking the capture of East Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, groups of young Israelis marched through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to reach the Western Wall, chanting, “Death to Arabs,” along the way.
Stability in the city collapsed after a police raid on the Aqsa Mosque complex, an overture that Palestinians saw as an invasion on holy territory. Muslim worshipers threw rocks, and officers met them with tear gas, rubber tipped bullets and stun grenades. At least 21 police officers and more than 330 Palestinians were wounded in that fighting.
Listen to the episode to hear how these clashes spiraled into an exchange of airstrikes that has brought Israeli forces to the edge of Gaza — and the brink of war.
GAZA CITY — The taxi was loaded with everything the family would need for Eid al-Fitr, a holiday of feasts and cookies and new clothes that Israeli airstrikes on Gaza had, even before the assault by ground forces on Friday, transfigured into a time of explosions and fear.
In their four suitcases, the al-Hatu family — mother, father, son and daughter — had made sure to pack kaak filled with date paste, the biscuits traditionally shared among friends and family during Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
But they also brought enough clothing and food for several days — no one knew when it might be safe to go back home. Until then, to try to escape the airstrikes, they were going to stay with another daughter, on Al Mughrabi Street, a five-minute drive away.
They had all agreed: It would feel safer if they were all together, said the son, Mohammed al-Hatu, 28.
They were still unloading the taxi driver’s white Skoda sedan outside their temporary home shortly before noon on Wednesday when the first drone attacked.
Mr. al-Hatu’s sister had already lugged one suitcase inside. Mr. al-Hatu, who had been carrying another, staggered into the doorway of the building, bleeding, and collapsed.
Out on the street, their father, Said al-Hatu, 65, and the taxi driver lay dead. A few yards away, their mother, Maysoun al-Hatu, 58, was alive, but desperately wounded.
“Save me,” she begged Yousef al-Draimly, a neighbor who had rushed downstairs, he recounted. “I need an ambulance. Save me.”
An ambulance came, but Ms. al-Hatu did not make it.
Less than a minute after the first strike, a second drone strike ruptured the street, killing two more men: a worker at a laundry on the block and a passer-by. Another man, a barber whose shop was next to the laundry, was so badly wounded that his leg had to be amputated.
On Thursday, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, and the fourth day of the worst conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in years, Gaza City was silent with fear, except when it was loud with terror: the sudden smash of Israeli airstrikes, the whoosh of militants’ rockets arcing toward Israel, the shouts of people checking on one another, the last moans of the dying
Palestinian militants have fired some 1,800 rockets from Gaza at Israel this week, far more than in previous clashes, according to Israeli officials, who on Thursday expressed surprise at the size of the barrage and the range of some of the rockets.
Israel’s “Iron Dome” antimissile system has shot down many of the rockets, and many others have struck places where they could do little damage. But some of the rockets, which are unguided, have hit populated areas, blowing up buildings and cars and killing seven people in Israel.
The increasingly sophisticated arsenal of rockets is the primary weapon of Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. Other groups there, like Islamic Jihad, also have them. Israeli intelligence estimates there are 30,000 rockets and mortar projectiles stockpiled in Gaza.
Hamas was believed before this week to have rockets with ranges approaching 100 miles, and many more with shorter ranges. Israel’s largest cities, Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, as well as its primary airport, Ben Gurion airport, are within 40 miles of Gaza. The airport has been closed to incoming passenger flights because of the danger, with flights diverted to Ramon airport to the southeast.
But rockets have also been fired at Ramon, more than 110 miles from the nearest part of Gaza. A Hamas spokesman said the rockets aimed at that airport were a new type that could travel 155 miles, putting all of Israel within range of Gaza. The claim could not be verified, and it was not clear how many of the new rockets the group had.
In the past, many of the rockets fired from Gaza were smuggled in from Egypt, or assembled locally from smuggled parts. But in recent years, most have been made in Gaza, with technical assistance from Iran that Hamas has openly acknowledged.