West Bank Erupts in Protest 05/15 10:10
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Turmoil from the battle between Israel and
Hamas spilled over into the West Bank on Friday, sparking the most widespread
Palestinian protests in years as hundreds of young demonstrators in multiple
towns clashed with Israeli troops, who shot and killed at least 11 people.
Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued into early Saturday, when
an airstrike on a house in Gaza City killed at least seven Palestinians -- the
highest number of fatalities in a single hit. That strike came a day after a
furious overnight barrage of tank fire and airstrikes that wreaked destruction
in some towns, killed a family of six in their house and sent thousands fleeing
The Israeli military said the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some
80 tons of explosives over the course of 40 minutes and succeeded in destroying
a network of tunnels used by Hamas to elude airstrikes and surveillance.
Israel appeared determined to inflict as much damage as possible on Gaza's
Hamas rulers before international efforts for a cease-fire accelerated. Since
Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has
pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 126 people have been
killed, including 31 children and 20 women; in Israel, seven people have been
killed, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier.
Houda Ouda said she and her extended family ran frantically into their home
in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, seeking safety as the earth shook in the
"We even did not dare to look from the window to know what is being hit,"
she said. When daylight came, she saw the destruction: streets cratered,
buildings crushed or with facades blown off, an olive tree burned bare, dust
The latest airstrike targeted a three-story house on the edge of a refugee
camp. Said Alghoul, who lives nearby, said Israeli warplanes dropped at least
three bombs on the home without warning residents in advance.
"I could not endure and ran back to my home," he said. Rescuers called a
bulldozer to dig through the rubble for survivors or bodies.
Shortly afterward, Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel
in response to the airstrike.
The conflict, which was sparked by tensions in Jerusalem during the past
month, has reverberated widely. Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish
populations have seen daily violence, with mobs from each community clashing
and trashing each other's property. New clashes broke out Friday in the coastal
city of Acre.
In the occupied West Bank, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Nablus and other
towns and cities, hundreds of Palestinians protested against the Gaza campaign
and Israeli actions in Jerusalem. Waving Palestinian flags, they trucked in
tires that they set up in burning barricades and hurled stones at Israeli
soldiers. At least 10 protesters were shot and killed by soldiers. An 11th
Palestinian was killed when he tried to stab a soldier at a military position.
In east Jerusalem, online video showed young Jewish nationalists firing
pistols as they traded volleys of stone with Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah,
which became a flashpoint for tensions over attempts by settlers to forcibly
evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes.
On Israel's northern border, troops opened fire when a group of Lebanese and
Palestinian protesters on the other side cut through the border fence and
briefly crossed. One Lebanese was killed. Three rockets were fired toward
Israel from neighboring Syria, but they either landed in Syrian territory or in
empty areas, Israeli media said. It was not immediately known who fired them.
The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian "intifada," or
uprising, at a time when the peace process has been virtually nonexistent for
years. The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with
Palestinian protests against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions and Israeli police
measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old
City revered by Muslims and Jews.
Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, in an apparent attempt to
present itself as the champion of the protesters. In the conflict that spiraled
from there, Israel says it wants to inflict as much damage as it can on Hamas'
military infrastructure in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Hamas would "pay a very heavy
price" for its rocket attacks. Israel called up 9,000 reservists Thursday to
join its troops massed at the Gaza border.
An Egyptian intelligence official said Israel had turned down an Egyptian
proposal for a one-year cease-fire that Hamas had accepted. The official, who
was close to Egypt's talks with both sides, spoke on condition of anonymity to
discuss the internal negotiations.
On Friday, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for
Israel-Palestinian affairs, Hady Amr, arrived in Israel as part of an attempt
by Washington to de-escalate the conflict.
U.S. President Joe Biden gave a show of support to Netanyahu in a call a day
earlier, saying "there has not been a significant overreaction" in Israel's
response to Hamas rockets. He said the aim is to get a "significant reduction
in attacks, particularly rocket attacks."
Hamas has fired some 2,000 rockets toward Israel since Monday, according to
the Israeli military. Most have been intercepted by anti-missile defenses, but
they have brought life to a standstill in southern Israeli cities, caused
disruptions at airports and have set off air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and
Rafat Tanani, his pregnant wife and four children, ages 7 and under, were
killed after an Israeli warplane reduced their four-story apartment building to
rubble in the neighboring town of Beit Lahia, residents said. Four strikes hit
the building, Rafat's brother Fadi said. The building's owner and his wife also
"It was a massacre," said Sadallah Tanani, another relative. "My feelings
When the sun rose Friday, residents streamed out of the area in pickup
trucks, on donkeys and on foot, taking pillows, blankets, pots and pans and
bread. Thousands took shelter inside 16 schools run by the United Nations
relief agency UNWRA, agency spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said.
Mohammed Ghabayen, who took refuge in a school with his family, said his
children had eaten nothing since the day before, and they had no mattresses to
sleep on. "And this is in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis," he said. "We
don't know whether to take precautions for the coronavirus or the rockets or
what to do exactly."
Israeli military officials cheered the operation as a successful blow
against the tunnel network. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman,
said 160 warplanes operated in a "synchronized manner" for about 40 minutes as
part of the operation.
He said the military aims to minimize collateral damage in striking military
targets. But measures the military takes in other strikes, such as warning
shots to get civilians to leave, were not "feasible this time."
Military correspondents in Israeli media said the military believed dozens
of militants were killed inside the tunnels. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad
militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the Israeli
military said the real number is far higher.
"We turned the tunnels which they thought were death traps for our soldiers
into traps for them." Reserve Air Force Col. Koby Regev said on Israeli