Israel-Gaza: Deaths mount as Israel-Gaza violence worsens

Violence in Gaza and Israel shows no sign of abating amid continued rocket fire and air strikes, and civil unrest among Jewish and Israeli Arab mobs.

Deaths continue to mount, with at least 83 people now killed in Gaza and seven in Israel.

A BBC reporter in Gaza said it had been the “longest and most difficult night since the 2014 war”. Israel said it had been targeted with 1,600 rockets.

Israel is now mulling a possible ground operation in Gaza.

It has sent reinforcements to the border.

This is now the worst violence since 2014, fuelled initially by weeks of Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem which led to clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. This spiralled into an incessant exchange of Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes.

Read the latest updates here from Gaza and Israel
Jewish and Arab mobs spread violence
What is going on between Israel and the Palestinians?

The fear among civilians on both sides is taking its toll.

Najwa Sheikh-Ahmad, a Gaza mother, said of Wednesday night: “You cannot sleep… In any moment your home might be your grave.

“You cannot be secure. As a mother it’s very terrifying, it’s very exhausting for my feelings, for my humanity,” she told the BBC’s Today programme.

In Israel, an apartment block was destroyed in the city of Petah Tikva shortly after residents had gone to their bomb shelters.

“We heard an alarm and suddenly there was a bang. Smoke entered the shelter, and the neighbour next to me who was sitting on a chair flew back,” one resident told the news website Ynet.
Palestinians assess the damage in Gaza after a night of air strikes by Israeli forcesimage copyrightGetty Images
image captionPalestinians assess the damage in Gaza after a night of air strikes by Israeli forces

Mohammed Abu Rayya, a doctor living in Gaza told the BBC: “[There are] a lot of deaths, a lot of wounded – children, old women and old men. We cannot sleep at home, we are not feeling safe. Air strikes all over Gaza. There are not any places safe.”

The strength and limitations of Hamas’s arsenal
Violence explodes in the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod
Children terrified as locals scramble for cover

Authorities in Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, say many civilians have died, including 17 children.

Israel says dozens of those killed in Gaza were militants, and that some of the deaths are from misfired rockets from Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they had struck Hamas targets more than 600 times. They said they had targeted homes and businesses used by militants and a school Hamas was using “to hide a terror tunnel”.
A family in Israel takes shelter under a bridge in Tel Aviv after rockets were fired from Gazaimage copyrightGetty Images
image captionA family in Israel takes shelter under a bridge in Tel Aviv after rockets were fired from Gaza

In the Israeli city of Sderot, a young boy was killed when rocket fire from Gaza hit his home, and shrapnel penetrated the shelter he was hiding in.

The escalating conflict has prompted international airlines, including KLM, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, to suspend services to Israel.

Earlier on Thursday, incoming flights were diverted south from Tel Aviv’s main Ben Gurion airport to Ramon airport amid a flurry of rocket launches.
Image shows the death toll in the clashes
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Ground offensive

On Thursday, the Israeli army will put forward plans for a possible ground offensive in Gaza, which needs to be approved by army chiefs and various levels of government before any operation begins.

Jeremy Bowen: Old grievances fuel new fighting
Israel-Gaza violence dominates Arab media

Israel has also called up 10 reserve border patrol companies to help tackle the worst unrest between Arab and Jewish communities for many years.

Israeli political leaders have appealed for calm, following the wave of street violence. President Reuven Rivlin described the outbreaks of rioting in several towns and cities as “senseless civil war”.

More than 400 people have been arrested, with some as young as 13 years old, Israeli police said.
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Israel’s ‘civil war’

In the West Bank, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli forces, who fired back with bullets
Police vehicles were torched in the central town of Kafr Kassem, AFP news agency reports
There were incidents in the towns of Lod, Acre and Haifa, where Jewish mobs attacked lone Arab men and torched cars
Camera crews broadcast the moment live on public television when a crowd of Jewish Israelis attacked a driver in Bat Yam
Tova Levy, who fled her home in Lod, told the BBC: “I started seeing messages that there was a mob coming out of one of the local mosques. And they started burning things… [It was] really, really shocking”
In Acre, a 37-year-old Jewish man was seriously injured when he was pelted with stones. Israel’s Channel 12 television station is reporting the man is a high school teacher who went out looking for his students to stop them taking part in the riots

Why Lod’s mayor is warning of civil war

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US President Joe Biden has said he hopes the violence will end “sooner than later” but a ceasefire does not appear immediate.

A senior Hamas official said the group was ready for a “reciprocal” ceasefire if the international community pressures Israel to “suppress military actions” at the disputed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
People gathered at the Al-Aqsa mosque waving the Palestinian flagimage copyrightReuters
image captionThousands have gathered at the Al-Aqsa mosque for Eid al-Fitr, days after it was the scene of clashes between Israeli police officers and Palestinians

Large crowds gathered again at the mosque on Thursday, to mark the first day of the Eid al-Fitr Muslim festival, which signifies the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

However, Israeli military spokesman Hilda Zilberman said Israel was not seeking a ceasefire at the current time, the Times of Israel reports.
Map showing Israel and the Gaza Strip
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What caused the violence?

The fighting between Israel and Hamas was triggered by days of escalating clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at a holy hilltop compound in East Jerusalem.

The site is revered by both Muslims, who call it the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), and Jews, for whom it is known as the Temple Mount. Hamas demanded Israel remove police from there and the nearby predominantly Arab district of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families face eviction by Jewish settlers. Hamas launched rockets when its ultimatum went unheeded.

Palestinian anger had already been stoked by weeks of rising tension in East Jerusalem, inflamed by a series of confrontations with police since the start of Ramadan in mid-April.

What makes Jerusalem so holy?
The Israel-Palestinian conflict explained

Map showing key holy sites in Jerusalem
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It was further fuelled by the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers and Israel’s annual celebration of its capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, known as Jerusalem Day.

The fate of the city, with its deep religious and national significance to both sides, lies at the heart of the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict. Israel in effect annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 and considers the entire city its capital, though this is not recognised by the vast majority of other countries.

Palestinians claim the eastern half of Jerusalem as the capital of a hoped-for state of their own.

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