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West Bank Erupts in Huge Protests by Palestinians as Israel Bombing of Gaza Continues

An airstrike on a house in Gaza City on Saturday killed at least 7 Palestinians — the highest number of fatalities in a single hit.
West Bank Erupts in Huge Protests by Palestinians as Israel Bombing of Gaza Continues

Image Courtesy: AP

Gaza City (Gaza Strip):  The Israel-Palestine turmoil spilled over into the West Bank, sparking the most widespread Palestinian protests in years as hundreds of young demonstrators came out on the streets. Israeli troops 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 their homes.

The Israeli military claimed the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tonnes 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 Hamas before international efforts for a cease-fire accelerated. Since Monday night, Hamas reportedly fired hundreds of rockets into Israel after it 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 darkness.

 “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 covering everything.

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.

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.

At least 10 protesters were shot and killed by soldiers. An 11th Palestinian was killed when he allegedly 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 neighbouring Syria, but these 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 non-existent 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, revered by Muslims and Jews.

Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Hamas would “pay a very heavy price” for its rocket attacks. Israel called up 9,000 reservists on 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 ceasefire 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.

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