More bloodshed as violence rocks Gaza, Israel and West Bank

·4-min read

Israeli planes renewed air strikes in Gaza early on Saturday and Hamas militants responded by firing rockets into Israel as their battle entered a fifth night and US and Arab diplomats sought an end to the violence.

An Israeli air raid in Gaza City killed at least 10 Palestinians, mostly children, in the deadliest single strike since the battle with Gaza's militant Hamas rulers erupted earlier this week.

An Israeli man was also killed when a rocket fired from Gaza hit his building in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, police and medics said.

The latest bloodshed comes a day after Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people during widespread Palestinian protests on Friday in the occupied West Bank.

The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising at a time when there have been no peace talks in years.

Palestinians were set to mark Nakba (Catastrophe) Day on Saturday, when they commemorate the estimated 700,000 people who fled or were driven from their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. That raised the possibility of even more unrest.

>> Gaza conflict upsets fragile balance between Arab and Jewish Israelis

At least 139 people have been killed in Gaza since Monday, including 39 children and 21 women, and 1,000 others wounded, Palestinian medical officials said.

Early on Saturday, an air strike on a three-story house in a refugee camp in Gaza City killed eight children and two women from an extended family.

Mohammed Abu Hatab told reporters his wife and five children had gone to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday with relatives. She and three of the children, aged 6 to 14, were killed, while an 11-year-old is missing. Only his 5-month-old son Omar is known to have survived.

“There was no warning," said Jamal Al-Naji, a neighbour living in the same building. “You filmed people eating and then you bombed them?" he said, addressing Israel. "Why are you confronting us? Go and confront the strong people!”

Among the eight dead in Israel were a soldier patrolling the Gaza border and six civilians, including two children, Israeli authorities said.

Israel launched day-long attacks on Friday to destroy what it said were several kilometres (miles) of tunnels, launch sites and weapons manufacturing warehouses used by the militants in an effort to halt the rocket attacks.

Across central and southern Israel, from small towns bordering Gaza to metropolitan Tel Aviv and southern Beersheba, people have adjusted to sirens wailing, radio and TV broadcast interruptions and the beeps of cellphones bearing red alerts that send them rushing for cover.

Cross-border hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have been accompanied by violence in mixed communities of Jews and Arabs in Israel. Synagogues have been attacked and street fights have broken out, prompting Israel's president to warn of civil war.

US envoy arrives

Ahead of a session of the UN Security Council on Sunday to discuss the situation, Biden administration envoy Hady Amr, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israel and Palestinian Affairs, flew in on Friday.

The US Embassy in Israel said the aim was "to reinforce the need to work towards a sustainable calm".

Egypt was leading regional efforts to secure a ceasefire, with Cairo leaning on Hamas and others, including the United States, trying to reach an agreement with Israel.

The foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan discussed efforts to end the Gaza confrontation and to prevent "provocations" in Jerusalem, Egypt's foreign ministry said.

"The talks have taken a real and serious path on Friday," a Palestinian official said. "The mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations are stepping up their contacts with all sides in a bid to restore calm, but a deal hasn't yet been reached."

The United Arab Emirates on Friday called for a ceasefire and negotiations while offering condolences to all victims of the fighting, citing the promise of September accords that made the UAE and Bahrain the first Arab states in a quarter century to establish formal ties with Israel.

Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, launched the rocket attacks on Monday, in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site, in East Jerusalem.

The Israeli military said more than 2,000 rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel since the start of the conflict, around half of them intercepted by missile defence systems and 350 fell into the Gaza Strip.

Civil unrest between Jews and Arabs in Israel itself dealt a strong blow to efforts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opponents to unseat the Israeli leader after a series of inconclusive elections, giving rise to expectations Israelis will go to the polls for an unprecedented fifth time in just over two years.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)

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