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Israeli-Palestinian Crisis: Live Updates and Video

An Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday.
An Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday.Credit…Youssef Massoud/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A new round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, set off by tensions over the holy city of Jerusalem, escalated on Wednesday as Israel assassinated several Hamas commanders and the militants responded with a new barrage of rockets aimed at cities across southern Israel.

The exchange followed dozens of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip overnight and several nighttime waves of rockets at Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and Israel’s main international airport. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, the Islamist militant group.

The hostilities have united Palestinians in anger across disparate parts of the occupied territories and within Israel, where there has been major street unrest in Arab communities. They are venting frustration in part over the displacement of Palestinians from land in East Jerusalem and over longstanding discrimination.

Palestinian discontent has festered for years in the absence of peace talks between the two sides, and with little international pressure on Israel to compromise or grant any concessions to Arabs under occupation.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, visiting the southern city of Ashkelon near Gaza on Wednesday, suggested that the Israel Defense Forces’ campaign against Gaza militants was not about to end.

The military “will continue to strike and will bring complete quiet for the long term,” he said. “There is currently no end date.”

Israel’s latest operation targeted the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas and one of several Palestinian militant factions in active in Gaza. The Israeli military said a joint operation of soldiers and intelligence officers across Gaza had simultaneously killed the commanders, who were close to Muhammed Deif, the leader of the Qassam Brigades.

Without Qassam’s soldiers, Hamas would struggle to control Gaza. Its leaders have long been the targets of Israeli assassinations, and Mr. Deif was himself wounded in one attempt in 2006.

The site where rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed in Holon, near Tel Aviv, on Tuesday evening.Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The wave of unrest and riots has spread across Arab-populated towns in Israel and parts of the occupied West Bank. Two days of Israeli strikes on Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas, have killed at least 53 Palestinians, including 14 children, and wounded more than 300 people in Gaza by Wednesday afternoon, according to Palestinian health officials.

Rockets fired by militants from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, a smaller Palestinian group, targeted the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and Lod, among others. At least six people were killed and at least 100 were injured, according to Israeli health officials. One Israeli was killed was on Wednesday morning by an anti-tank missile near the Gaza perimeter.

The violence was fueled by a police raid on an Islamic religious site in Jerusalem on Monday. By Tuesday, the conflict had broadened, with civilians on both sides paying a price. The speed of the escalation appeared to take Israelis by surprise.

“Hamas and Islamic Jihad have paid, and will pay, a very heavy price for their aggression,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address to Israelis late Tuesday. “This campaign will take time,” he said.




The police raided

Al Aqsa Mosque

on Monday to

disperse crowds

and protesters.

Palestinian militants fired

hundreds of rockets toward

Jerusalem and at coastal

Israeli cities, killing at

least three people.

Israel launched at

least 130 retaliatory

airstrikes at Gaza,

killing at least 30

Palestinians.

The police raided

Al Aqsa Mosque on

Monday to disperse

crowds and protesters.

Palestinian militants fired

hundreds of rockets toward

Jerusalem and at coastal

Israeli cities, killing at

least three people.

Israel launched at

least 130 retaliatory

airstrikes at Gaza,

killing at least 30

Palestinians.

Israeli forces and

Palestinian militants

exchanged hundreds

of strikes at multiple

locations in

Gaza and Israel.

Police raided Al Aqsa

Mosque on Monday to disperse crowds and protesters.

The police raided Al Aqsa

Mosque on Monday

to disperse crowds

and protesters.

Palestinian militants fired

hundreds of rockets toward

Jerusalem and at coastal

Israeli cities, killing at

least three people.

Israel launched at

least 130 retaliatory

airstrikes at Gaza,

killing at least 30

Palestinians.


The Israeli military, prepared for the latest eruption of cross-border fighting with militant groups in Gaza, designated a code name for its operation just hours after the deadly violence began: Guardians of the Walls, a reference to the ancient ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian militant groups had their own code name for their campaign: Sword of Jerusalem.

Compounding the sense of crisis inside Israel, protests and riots resumed on Tuesday night in mixed Jewish-Arab towns and Arab population centers across the country as Palestinian citizens of Israel expressed solidarity with Gaza and frustration over discrimination against Arabs within Israel.

Palestinian citizens of Israel rioted in the mixed city of Lod, setting fire to a synagogue and dozens of cars. A popular Jewish-owned fish restaurant went up in flames in the city of Acre, and television images showed a Jewish mob stoning Arab vehicles in the city of Ramla.

Arab Israelis during a funeral in the Israeli city of Lod on Tuesday.
Arab Israelis during a funeral in the Israeli city of Lod on Tuesday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The International Criminal Court’s main prosecutor said on Wednesday that she was closely watching Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, for potential new war crimes in the current conflict.

“I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute,” the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement. She was referring to the court’s statute on crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Ms. Bensouda’s office said in March, before the latest conflict erupted, that it had begun an investigation into mutual accusations of war crimes by Israel and Palestinian militant groups. That decision, which infuriated Israeli leaders, was largely welcomed by the Palestinian leadership and its supporters.

The court had already started a preliminary investigation six years earlier, on the heels of the 50-day Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014. It covers alleged crimes since June 13, 2014, shortly before the start of that fighting.

Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court, which is based in The Hague, and it has maintained that the court has no jurisdiction over the area in question. But the court ruled that its jurisdiction extended to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, Ms. Bensouda said that her office would continue to monitor the situation and address “any matter that falls within its jurisdiction.” The prosecutor’s office will investigate all sides to assess whether there is individual criminal responsibility under the statute, she added.

“I echo the call from the international community for calm, restraint and a stop to the violence,” she added.

Violence is escalating in Gaza and Israel, with Israel carrying out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and militants in Gaza firing rockets into Israel.

President Biden, as vice president in 2016, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in Jerusalem.
President Biden, as vice president in 2016, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in Jerusalem.Credit…Pool photo by Debbie Hill

President Biden took office with little interest in pursuing an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement for understandable reasons: Predecessors in both parties had failed in their attempts.

Bill Clinton hosted an Israeli-Palestinian summit during his first year in office. Barack Obama appointed a Middle East peace envoy on his second full day. Donald J. Trump vowed even before being inaugurated to secure an Israel-Palestinian peace deal that “no one else has managed to get.” George W. Bush, who took up the cause later in his presidency, also faced frustration.

Even before the latest explosion of violence in Israel and Gaza, analysts agreed that such a peace deal looked hopeless in the near term, and Mr. Biden and his senior advisers have largely accepted that status quo.

He has issued familiar endorsements of a two-state solution while making little effort to push the parties toward one. But as spiraling riots, rocket attacks and airstrikes in Jerusalem and over Gaza threaten to escalate into a major conflict, calls are growing from within the Democratic Party for Mr. Biden to play a more active role.

“The problem with the Middle East,” said Martin S. Indyk, a special envoy for Israel-Palestinian negotiations during the Obama administration, “is that you can try to turn your back on it, but it won’t turn its back on you.”

Smoke from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.
Smoke from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.Credit…Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock

With dozens dead and hundreds injured, the initial two days of the renewed conflict brought fear and loss to millions in Gaza and Israel, but the escalating crisis has bolstered the political fortunes of Hamas, the Islamist militant group that runs the Gaza Strip, and of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

A senior political leader for Hamas struck a triumphant tone on Tuesday over how rapidly the clashes in Jerusalem on Monday had expanded into a broader problem for Israel, as it faced rocket attacks from Gaza that threatened Israeli cities.

“We have managed to create an equation linking the Jerusalem and Gaza fronts,” the leader, Ismail Haniya, said in a speech recorded in Qatar and aired on a Hamas-affiliated television channel. “They are inseparable. Jerusalem and Gaza are one.”

Since coming to power in Gaza in 2007, Hamas has lost popularity because of what many Gazans see as its authoritarian approach and poor governance.

For Hamas, the conflict has allowed it to revitalize its claims to the leadership of Palestinian resistance and has framed its rocket attacks as a direct response to the Israeli police raids on the Aqsa Mosque compound, a religious site in East Jerusalem. In the process, the group presented itself as a protector of Palestinian protesters and worshipers in the city.

For Mr. Netanyahu, the conflict — along with the divisions it fosters among the opposition parties currently negotiating a coalition to topple him from power — has given him half a chance of remaining prime minister, just days after it seemed as if he might be on the way out.

“It is the story of every previous war between Israel and Hamas,” said Ghassan Khatib, a politics expert at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank. Both governments “come out of it victorious, and the public of Gaza comes out of it as losers.”

Hamas said that a number of its militants in Gaza had been killed and that others had been reported missing in an Israeli attack.

The Israeli military said that its Gaza targets had included the weapons manufacturing sites of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group, as well as military facilities and two tunnels. A Hamas battalion commander who was at home in a residential apartment building was also targeted, according to the military.

Neither the location nor the condition of the person said to be a battalion commander was immediately clear. But Gaza health officials said that the bodies of three civilians had been removed from the ruins of the building.

Two of them — Amira Soboh, 58, and her son Abdelrahman, 17, who had cerebral palsy — were said to be members of a family living three floors below the apartment of the person alleged to be a commander. They were killed by falling rubble, said Ms. Soboh’s older son, Osama Soboh.

Mr. Soboh, a 31-year-old civil servant, questioned why Israel had targeted a civilian building. “It’s not a military barracks — it’s not posing any danger to Israel,” he said. “This was an old woman with a child with cerebral palsy.”

Israeli security forces deployed at the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on Monday.
Israeli security forces deployed at the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on Monday.Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The latest outburst of violence in the Middle East erupted after weeks of rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians around the Old City of Jerusalem and particularly at the Aqsa Mosque compound — one of Islam’s holiest sites and a frequent flash point of Israeli-Arab clashes.

Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, has cast itself as the Palestinian defender of the contested city of Jerusalem. It has issued threats and ultimatums demanding that the Israeli police withdraw from the site and release any protesters who were arrested.

On Monday, the Israeli police raided the mosque compound to disperse crowds and stone-throwing protesters with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-tipped bullets. More than 330 Palestinians were wounded, at least three critically, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. At least 21 police officers were wounded.

The Aqsa Mosque, in the heart of the Old City, is part of an internationally recognized heritage site sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews. The site, which Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary, has been a flash point between Israelis and Palestinians since the 1967 war, when Israel captured East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, from Jordan.

The compound, home to two ancient temples, is Judaism’s holiest site. The first temple was built by King Solomon, according to the Bible, and was later destroyed by the Babylonians. The second stood for nearly 600 years before the Roman Empire destroyed it in the first century.

An Islamic trust run by Jordan administers the site, as it did before the 1967 war. But the Israelis control access to the site, and religious tensions have occasionally exploded into violence there.

In 1990, deadly riots erupted after a group of Jewish extremists sought, unsuccessfully, to lay a cornerstone for a temple to replace the two destroyed in ancient times.

In 2000, a visit to the site by the right-wing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, who later became prime minister, led to an angry Palestinian backlash that swelled into their second uprising, or Intifada.

In 2017, a deadly shooting at the site led the Israeli authorities to restrict access and install metal detectors, enraging Muslim worshipers and causing a crisis with Jordan. The crisis eased after Israel dismantled the extra security.

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