Airstrikes and Protests Escalate as U.S. Steps Up Mediation

Nathan Law

Here’s what you need to know: Video transcript Back transcript Israel Strikes Gaza Tower Housing A.P. and Other News Outlets An Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces said it gave […]

Video

transcript

transcript

Israel Strikes Gaza Tower Housing A.P. and Other News Outlets

An Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces said it gave an advanced warning for civilians to evacuate.

“Defeating Hamas does not only serve Israel’s interest, it serves the interests of all those who seek peace, stability, security in the Middle East.” “We are shocked and horrified that the Israelis would target the building that housed A.P.’s bureau in Gaza. They long knew that A.P.’s bureau was there, and they targeted it. Now, fortunately, we had a warning, and we were able to get our journalists out. We narrowly escaped a huge loss of life. We had 12 journalists in that building. And those brave journalists not only got out, but they were able to salvage much of our equipment because it’s important that we continue to tell this story. You see, that building provided the best vantage point for the world to see the events in Gaza, and now that building is destroyed.”

An Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces said it gave an advanced warning for civilians to evacuate.CreditCredit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

The violence in Gaza entered a seventh consecutive day on Sunday, hours after President Biden spoke to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and protests erupted anew in the occupied West Bank.

Before dawn Sunday, Israeli strikes destroyed the home of Yehya Sinwar, the leader of the Hamas militant group in Gaza, and damaged one of the main roads leading to Shifa Hospital, the largest in the crowded coastal strip. On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent high-rise in Gaza Ciy that housed media outlets including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

In separate calls on Saturday, Mr. Biden conferred with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, about efforts to broker a cease-fire. While supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas militants, Mr. Biden urged Mr. Netanyahu to protect civilians and journalists.

Hours after the call, Mr. Netanyahu posted a speech to Facebook in which he vowed to continue attacks on Hamas until Israel’s security is guaranteed.

“You know and I know: No country would tolerate this,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Israel has responded forcefully to these attacks, and we will continue to respond forcefully until the security of our people is reinstated and restored.”

With American, Egyptian and Qatari officials attempting to negotiate a pause, an American envoy, Hady Amr, landed in Israel for two days of talks with Israeli and Arab counterparts.

On Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces said its fighter jets struck a media tower in Gaza housing the offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, because it also contained military assets belonging to Hamas. The I.D.F. said it had provided advance warning to civilians in the building to allow evacuation.

Gary Pruitt, the chief executive of the A.P., said he was “shocked and horrified” by the attack and called on Israeli authorities to present evidence of Hamas’ presence in the building.

Demonstrations broke out again in the West Bank on Saturday, Nakba Day, an annual commemoration of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948. In Ramallah, the administrative center of the West Bank, a siren sounded for 73 seconds to mark the years since the dispersal.

The protests in the West Bank illustrated how widespread the confrontation has become since Hamas fired its first rockets shortly after 6 p.m. on Monday.

Credit…Gil Cohen-Magen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An Israeli airstrike overnight killed at least 10 members of an extended family in a refugee camp in Gaza, after which Hamas militants aimed another round of rockets at Tel Aviv.

The health ministry in Gaza said that at least 145 people had died in Israeli airstrikes and shelling, 40 of them children, with about 1,000 injured. Those numbers could not be independently verified. The United Nations said that 10,000 Gazans had left their homes to take shelter in schools, mosques and other places.

In Israel, the hostilities have left 10 civilians, including a 5-year-old boy, and two soldiers dead.

Credit…Hazem Bader/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Power in Gaza is down to five hours a day in some places, and water comes out of the pipes only once every few days. Any efforts to contain what had been a worsening coronavirus infection crisis all but ceased.

In Israel, the always-fraught notion of coexistence between Arabs and Jews seemed to be cracking amid the burning apartments and synagogues, the thrown stones and homemade bombs.

“The Jewish state will not tolerate pogroms against our citizens,” Mr. Netanyahu said in his Saturday address. “We won’t allow these attacks on innocent civilians, Arabs and Jews alike. To tolerate this unacceptable vigilantism and violence is to pave a way to anarchy.”

The crisis has pushed concerns about Israel’s political gridlock off the table, potentially benefiting the shaky career of Mr. Netanyahu, while also giving momentum to Hamas.

Palestinians on Saturday carried the bodies of children killed in an Israeli airstrike on a refugee camp in Gaza.
Credit…Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

The Israeli military came under mounting criticism on Saturday for the growing number of children that have been killed in airstrikes on Gaza.

Images of children’s bodies circulated on social media on Saturday, along with the video of a bereft Gaza father comforting his wailing infant — the sole child to survive an Israeli airstrike.

At least 145 people have died in Gaza since fighting began on Monday, about 40 of them children, according to the United Nations. Ten Israeli civilians, including two children, have died since Hamas fired rockets into Israel.

“It’s not acceptable!” Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign affairs minister, tweeted on Saturday, vowing to make a case at the United Nations to hold Israel accountable for the death of children. He said that Israel had an obligation under international law “to protect children in conflict” and were “not doing so!”

The current battle is not the first time children have borne the heavy share of the casualties. In the 2014 conflict, more than 500 children were killed, according to the United Nations, roughly a third of Palestinian fatalities.

Among the deaths this week were eight children killed in a single airstrike around 2 a.m. Saturday in the Shati refugee camp.

“I am appalled by the horrific incident in Al-Shati camp which claimed the lives of 8 Palestinian children, in an Israeli airstrike,” tweeted Tor Wennesland, the U.N. Middle East envoy.

Speaking of the children killed on both sides, he added: “I mourn their short lives.” Children “continue to be victims of this deadly escalation,” Mr. Wennesland said. “I reiterate that children must not be the target of violence or put in harm’s way. The hostilities must stop now!”

Gaza’s demographics and the nature of life and warfare there make any fighting dangerous for children, aid workers say.

Relatively few women in Gaza are employed, and the fertility rate is high, leaving the median age in the crowded coastal enclave at just 18, compared to 30 in Israel and 31 worldwide. And Israel says that Hamas positions its fighters in or underneath residential areas, deliberately exposing civilians — and children — to harm.

As the week of deadly violence in the Middle East has unfolded, Britain experienced a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, a charity said on Saturday as officials across Europe braced for protests.

The Community Security Trust, a charity that records anti-Semitic threats, said it had received more than 50 reports of Jews across Britain being threatened and verbally abused in the past week — a 490 percent increase from the previous seven days. It said it believed that many more attacks had gone unreported.

Offensive phrases and slogans about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been shouted at Jewish people of all ages, including children, said Dave Rich, the charity’s director of policy. “When the conflict in Israel reaches this level of intensity, we always see increases in anti-Semitic incidents,” he said.

The police in England and Wales are also conducting investigations after graffiti of swastikas, “Free Palestine” messages and anti-Semitic terms were found sprayed on property this week, including on the door of a synagogue in Norwich in eastern England.

Credit…Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue

The synagogue’s leader, Rabbi Binyamin Sheldrake, told the BBC that the community’s initial reaction was “shock and horror,” but that “our response to this is not one of hate, but one of love.”

Marches in support of Palestinians have taken place in London and other English cities in recent days, with a march in England’s capital city on Saturday attracting thousands of protesters. But elsewhere in Europe, France banned a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris, citing the “sensitive” international context and the risk of acts of violence against synagogues and Israeli interests in the French capital.

Paris protest organizers pressed ahead on Saturday despite the ban. The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the rally, which had drawn about 3,000 people, Agence France-Presse reported.

In Germany, a number of small demonstrations took place on Saturday. This past week, German protesters attacked synagogues, burned Israeli flags and marched through the streets chanting slurs against Jews.

Journalists in the rubble of the Jala Tower in Gaza City, home to offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike on Saturday.
Credit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

President Biden urged the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to avoid additional deaths of children and other civilians in the escalating conflict on separate calls on Saturday and also affirmed his commitment to a two-state solution to bring peace in Jerusalem and elsewhere across Israel and the occupied territories.

Speaking to President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinians’ leader, Mr. Biden demanded that Hamas militants stop firing rockets into Israel. Speaking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, he maintained Israel’s right to defend itself from the militant group based in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Biden also raised concerns with Mr. Netanyahu about the safety and security of journalists in the conflict after Israeli forces targeted a building in Gaza that housed international reporters and other news crews in Gaza. He “reinforced the need to ensure their protection,” said a White House statement describing the conversation between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu.

In both calls, according to the White House statements, Mr. Biden said the Palestinian people deserved greater security, freedoms and economic opportunities, and signaled that a two-state solution was the best pathway toward doing so. He also updated both Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas on ongoing diplomatic talks among officials from the United States and in the Middle East to negotiate a cease-fire in the current conflict, the worst in at least seven years.

Speaking to Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Biden cited a “grave concern” about intercommunal violence across Israel and “welcomed the statements by the prime minister and other leaders opposing such hateful acts and encouraged continued steps to hold violent extremists accountable and to establish calm,” the White House statement said.

He also reminded Mr. Abbas that the United States had committed to restoring hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Palestinians through a United Nations aid agency. The aid was halted during the Trump administration.

Palestinian demonstrators throw teargas canisters back at Israeli forces during clashes on Friday.
Credit…Abbas Momani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A United States diplomat began three days of meetings with officials and experts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Saturday, but few were expecting ambitious attempts at negotiating a cease-fire, let alone at rekindling peace talks.

The visit by Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli and Palestinian affairs, was described more as a listening tour for ideas on defusing tensions, according to people briefed on his itinerary.

Past crises have sent secretaries of state rushing to the region, but the Biden administration has sought to avoid letting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict overtake other priorities. Egyptian and Qatari officials have taken a leading role in mediating Israel’s conflicts with Hamas in Gaza, and the relatively low-ranking Mr. Amr — who is an expert on Gaza himself — is seen as unlikely to intervene.

Israeli officials said Mr. Amr would meet Sunday morning with the foreign ministry’s deputy directors-general for the Middle East and North America, but not with the foreign minister or even his No. 2. At the prime minister’s office, he was expected to meet with Meir Ben Shabbat, the Israeli national security adviser.

Mr. Amr faces other challenges: He and his team cannot draw on the assistance of an ambassador to Israel, as none has yet been named, or of a consul-general in charge of the mission to the Palestinians, because that office was disbanded by the Trump administration. Diplomats responsible for the Palestinian file now report to the United States embassy in Jerusalem, but the Palestinians have continued to refuse to meet with them.

That leaves Mr. Amr as the administration’s point person for Ramallah, and his visit there was being described as a chance to begin in earnest to repair ties with the Palestinian Authority.

Notably on Saturday, Mr. Amr spent time touring East Jerusalem — the scene of disputes and riots that erupted this week into violence between Israel and Gaza and between Jews and Arabs across Israel.

Celine Touboul, co-chief executive of the Economic Cooperation Foundation, a Tel Aviv think tank deeply plugged into peacemaking efforts, said that Mr. Amr’s Wednesday meeting with the Jordanian foreign minister before leaving Washington gave her hope that he would focus on Jerusalem in his visit to the region — particularly on restoring the delicate, decades-old status quo on the Temple Mount.

Under that arrangement, Jordan retained custodianship over the Aqsa compound and non-Muslims were permitted only to visit the Temple Mount, not to pray there. But coordination between Israel and Jordan has eroded to a large degree, and Jews have increasingly sought to overturn the ban on Jewish prayer there.

Ms. Touboul said she expected Mr. Amr to look for ideas that would not require the expenditure of too much of the Biden administration’s political capital.

“It’s a challenge to find what’s feasible,” she said. “I don’t think the U.S. will be able to meddle in internal Israeli dynamics between different communities, but calming Jerusalem and restoring the status quo can have an important effect.”

Protesters gather near the Washington Monument on Saturday in downtown Washington.
Credit…Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Hours after Israel launched an airstrike on a Gaza media tower, hundreds of protesters marched Saturday afternoon from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol in protest of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and what they said was an inadequate response from the United States.

“People think they can be neutral about this. That’s absolutely wrong,” said Alexandra-Ola Chaic, 17, who traveled to the rally from Burke, Va., with her family, which is of Palestinian descent. “We have to do what we can to make this an issue that receives political support.”

The protest was one of several planned around the country for Nakba Day, which Palestinians observe every May 15 to commemorate the 1948 displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid Israel’s war of independence. The Washington protest was organized by local chapters of the Palestinian Youth Movement and American Muslims for Palestine, but news of the march spread largely through social media and word of mouth, including during Friday prayers at local mosques.

The crowd that gathered was diverse in age and background, and included many families with young children.

Ruth Soto, 25, from Northern Virginia, came with her sister to show solidarity with Palestinians. She said the displacement of Palestinians felt personal to her because her family fled war in Central America to come to the United States illegally.

“We’ve seen the struggle, being displaced from your home,” she said. “This is a way we can help them.”

Zeina Hutchinson, who was born in Palestine, came from Ashburn, Va., to protest with her husband and two sons, aged 12 and 13. She said it was important to her that her sons remembered their Palestinian roots and continued to fight for their people’s independence. Ms. Hutchinson echoed the desire of many protesters that the government end aid to Israel and sanction the country over the current conflict.

“I’m here to demand from Congress, from every elected representative, to condition aid to Israel and to sanction Israel. Because what’s happening right now is unconscionable,” she said.

Omar Hudhud, a senior at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., came with his sister, Salma, and mother, Inam, who is Palestinian and was born and raised in Jerusalem.

“To see a lot of people from different ethnicities, diversities,” he said, “it just brought a sense that we’re all in this together.”

Inam Hudhud said she felt helpless watching footage of the rocket attacks on Palestinian communities. “It hurts my heart,” she said. “At least I can come here and protest. It’s the best thing I can do.”

Protests also rose in other parts of the world on Saturday:

  • Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters, many of them waving Palestinian flags or wearing traditional kaffiyeh scarves, gathered in downtown Auckland, New Zealand, as well as at smaller rallies throughout the country. The march was scheduled weeks in advance for Nakba Day. Protesters called on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand to condemn Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and expel Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand.

Natasha Frost contributed reporting.

A funeral for people killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
Credit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

An Israeli airstrike that hit a house in a Gaza refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians from the same extended family overnight, eight of them children, according to witnesses. A 5-month-old infant was pulled from the rubble alive.

Palestinian officials and neighbors said the house in the Shati camp had been attacked with no warning. In a statement on Saturday afternoon, the Israel Defense Forces said that it had “attacked a number of Hamas terror organization senior officials, in an apartment used as terror infrastructure in the area of the Al Shati refugee camp.”

The father of four of the children who died, Mohammed al-Hadidi, told reporters that his wife and their five sons had gone to Shati to visit her brother for Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic feasting holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

“They were sleeping in their homes,” Mr. al-Hadidi said, speaking to Shehab, a news agency linked to Hamas. “They weren’t holding weapons, they weren’t firing rockets and they weren’t harming anyone.”

Shati is a crowded refugee camp north of Gaza City along the Mediterranean coast. With its jumble of buildings and alleyways beside the sea, Shati, also known as Beach camp, is the third-largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight refugee camps.

Initially home to 23,000 refugees who fled Lydda, Jaffa, Be’er Sheva and other areas of Palestine in 1948, the camp has since grown to house more than 85,000 people. All of them reside in an area of about a fifth of a square mile, making it one of the most crowded places in the world, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, known as Unrwa, which works with Palestinian refugees.

Al Jazeera broadcast video of rescue teams using earth-moving trucks to clear the rubble of the home. Rescue workers were also seen climbing around the rubble in search of survivors, while graphic footage showed medics evacuating the bloodied victims.

At the edge of the rubble, under the harsh lights of the rescue teams, was Mr. al-Hadidi, howling at the ruins where his children’s bodies had been found. In one video of the scene posted on social media, he sways while several other men hold him up.

On Saturday afternoon, the rescue work had stopped, and the rubble from the house had been pushed to either side of Al-Soussi Mosque Street. Residents of the four neighboring homes were sweeping up the shattered glass and debris. Though they were so close to the house that was struck that they were nearly touching it, the other buildings were comparatively undamaged, suggesting a precision strike.

Airstrikes on Gaza had intensified after midnight, and when the missiles struck the home at about 2 a.m., some people in the neighborhood were awake, glued to the news.

News media footage on Saturday morning showed Mr. al-Hadidi visiting his infant son in the hospital, holding his small hand and kissing him as the child wails. “Oh, love,” he says to the infant, Omar. “Thank God, love.”

“This is an oppressive world that is standing by watching us and our children while massacres are taking place,” Mr. al-Hadidi said in the Shehab interview.

Vivian Yee, Adam RasgonIyad Abuheweila and

Israeli ground forces at the Gaza border on Friday.
Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

Israel’s top military spokesman on Saturday apologized to foreign journalists for wrongly announcing early Friday that Israeli troops had entered the Gaza Strip in a ground attack, insisting that it was an “honest mistake,” even after Israeli news outlets called it a deliberate deception aimed at luring Hamas fighters into Israeli gun sights.

Early Friday, the I.D.F. announced on Twitter that “air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip.” It later clarified that statement to say ground troops were firing into Gaza from Israel.

The spokesman, Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman, said he understood the “frustration” of journalists who reported as fact what turned out to be fiction. But he sought to assure Western reporters in Israel that no one was trying to turn them into tools of the Israeli military.

“Despite conspiratorial reports to the contrary in both international and Israeli press, this was not some elaborate attempt to manipulate the media in order to achieve a tactical victory,” General Zilberman wrote in a letter to the Foreign Press Association’s president, Andrew Carey of CNN.

“By definition and our guiding belief system, the I.D.F. Spokesperson’s Unit does not engage in psychological warfare and is tasked with conveying only the truth to the public, a mission we have devotedly undertaken for more than seven decades.”

Gen. Zilberman added no new details to explain how his office misled foreign journalists or why it had taken hours to correct itself. But he reiterated that the Israeli military’s relationship with foreign news organizations was “of paramount importance to us” and was “based on mutual trust and respect.”

The possibility that the military had used the international news media to kill fighters in Gaza prompted sharp objections from several news organizations.

“If they used us, it’s unacceptable,” said Daniel Estrin, N.P.R.’s correspondent in Jerusalem. “And if not, then what’s the story — and why is the Israeli media widely reporting that we were duped?”

For its part, the Foreign Press Association on Saturday protested an Israeli attack on a Gaza office tower that housed the offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, saying in a statement that it “raises deeply worrying questions about Israel’s willingness to interfere with the freedom of the press to operate.”

The Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Our Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley, examined the events that have led to the past week’s violence, the worst between Israelis and Palestinians in years. A little-noticed police action in Jerusalem was among them. He writes:

Twenty-seven days before the first rocket was fired from Gaza this week, a squad of Israeli police officers entered the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, brushed the Palestinian attendants aside and strode across its vast limestone courtyard. Then they cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful from four medieval minarets.

It was the night of April 13, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was also Memorial Day in Israel, which honors those who died fighting for the country. The Israeli president was delivering a speech at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish site that lies below the mosque, and Israeli officials were concerned that the prayers would drown it out.

Here is his full account of that night and the events that later unfolded.

A new round of deadly violence erupted in the Middle East this week, as Israeli airstrikes hit targets in Gaza, and the militant group Hamas launched rockets at cities inside Israel.

The flag of Israel flying over the Austrian chancellery in Vienna on Saturday. The Austrian government said the Iranian foreign minister canceled his trip after the flag was raised.
Credit…Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Iran’s foreign minister canceled a visit to Vienna because the Austrian chancellor flew the Israeli flag over the chancellery on Friday in a show of solidarity, the Austrian foreign ministry said on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran was supposed to meet his Austrian counterpart, Alexander Schallenberg, but canceled the trip. “We regret this and take note of it,” a spokeswoman for Mr. Schallenberg said. “But for us it is as clear as day that when Hamas fires more than 2,000 rockets at civilian targets in Israel then we will not remain silent.”

The cancellation is expected to have no impact on the talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with its terms. Similar talks in 2014 to negotiate the deal continued despite a seven-week war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Iran’s government backs Hamas and its leaders have said that Israel has no right to exist. Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat and has cautioned Washington from trusting even a renewed nuclear deal with Tehran. The talks in Vienna have been progressing, but slowly.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is a strong supporter of Israel and called flying the Israeli flag over the federal chancellery a mark of solidarity amid the violent clashes.

But Abbas Araghchi, the Iranian deputy foreign minister who heads the Iranian delegation at the Vienna talks, criticized the move. Vienna has been “a great host for negotiations,’’ at least so far, he wrote on Twitter on Friday. He called seeing the flag of Israel over Austrian government offices “shocking and painful” and added: “We stand with Palestine.”

Video

transcript

transcript

Palestinians Commemorate Annual Day of Grievance Amid Conflict

People gathered in the West Bank on Saturday to honor Nakba Day, the anniversary of the 1948 displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during Israel’s creation. The demonstration is one of several that took place globally.

[sound of a siren] [music] [clapping, chanting]

Video player loading
People gathered in the West Bank on Saturday to honor Nakba Day, the anniversary of the 1948 displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during Israel’s creation. The demonstration is one of several that took place globally.CreditCredit…Abbas Momani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The convulsions in Israel and the Palestinian territories were injected with an additional source of angry emotion on Saturday as the Palestinian diaspora and its supporters commemorated Nakba Day, denoting the 1948 displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid Israel’s declaration of independence.

Every year on May 15, Palestinians and their supporters protest what Palestinians call the nakba, which means disaster, the term used to describe the upheaval 73 years ago when the state of Israel was created.

In November 1947, the United Nations adopted a plan to partition Mandatory Palestine, as the region was known when under British control. The plan, accepted by Jews and rejected by Arabs in the territory, would have created separate independent Jewish and Arab states with an international regime to oversee Jerusalem. Immediately after the resolution’s acceptance, war broke out between Jews and Arabs.

Until 1998, no one day was singled out by the Palestinians to commemorate and protest what happened, although many used the occasion of Israeli Independence Day to mark the events.

As Israel prepared elaborate celebrations for its 50th anniversary that year, the Palestinian Authority president, Yasir Arafat, decreed that Palestinians should have their own day of remembrance: May 15, which was the day after Israeli independence in 1948. (The Israeli holiday, based on the Hebrew calendar, does not fall on the same day every year under the Gregorian calendar. This year, Israeli Independence Day was in mid-April.)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which was created to help the Palestinian refugees displaced in 1948, now provides aid and services to 5.7 million Palestinians and their descendants in camps in the occupied territories adjoining Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem were joined on Saturday by activists around the world. A Facebook post by the Palestinian Youth Movement advertised North American rallies scheduled for 22 cities. Demonstrations were also planned in Africa, Europe and elsewhere.

On Saturday night, hundreds of people protested along the Lebanon-Israel border, drawing Israeli fire when some demonstrators mounted a wall dividing the two countries. One person was reported wounded.

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, left, signing a document in Tel Aviv proclaiming the new Jewish state of Israel on May 17, 1948, as Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok witnessed.
Credit…Associated Press

On the afternoon of July 11, 1948, Israeli regiments conducted an operation in the town of Lydda that became formative to their new state, and echoes in the violence raging this week in that same town, now known as Lod.

Civil war between Jews and Arabs had broken out in 1947, after the United Nations approved a plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two new, independent states, Palestine and Israel. In May 1948, after Israel declared independence, neighboring Arab states invaded.

Two months later, Israeli forces arrived at Lydda with the town posing a dilemma for their newly formed state. Its residents were Palestinian. But, geographically, it was to be Israeli.

Historians still debate the degree to which what happened next was planned, spontaneous, or a mix of both. Israeli forces, breaching the town, exchanged fire with local militiamen. The assault left nine Israeli soldiers dead and killed more than 100 residents, according to one estimate.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s prime minister, ordered his forces to expel the remaining residents. Though about a thousand stayed behind, tens of thousands were marched to the Jordanian lines 11 miles away.

Some Israeli historians argue that the mass expulsion was a premeditated policy of ethnic cleansing aimed at removing Palestinians. Others hold that Lydda’s purge was done in the heat of battle.

The mob violence this week demonstrates how a decision made in 1948 to treat the town’s Palestinians as a threat to Israel’s existence still resonates in powerful ways today.

A damaged building in Petah Tikva, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip.
Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

There is no simple answer to the question “What set off the current violence in Israel?”

But in a recent episode of The Daily, Isabel Kershner, The New York Times’s Jerusalem correspondent, explained the series of recent events that reignited violence in the region.

In Jerusalem, nearly every square foot of land is contested — its ownership and tenancy symbolic of larger abiding questions about who has rightful claim to a city considered holy by three major world religions.

As Isabel explained, a longstanding legal battle over attempts to forcibly evict six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem heightened tensions in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of violence.

The always tenuous peace was further tested by the overlap of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with a month of politically charged days in Israel.

A series of provocative events followed: Israeli forces barred people from gathering to celebrate Ramadan outside Damascus Gate, an Old City entrance that is usually a festive meeting place for young people after the breaking of the daily fast during the holy month.

Then young Palestinians filmed themselves slapping an ultra-Orthodox Jew, videos that went viral on TikTok.

And on Jerusalem Day, an annual event marking the capture of East Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, groups of young Israelis marched through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to reach the Western Wall, chanting “Death to Arabs” along the way.

Stability in the city collapsed after a police raid on the Aqsa Mosque complex, an overture that Palestinians saw as an invasion on holy territory. Muslim worshipers threw rocks, and officers met them with tear gas, rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades. At least 21 police officers and more than 330 Palestinians were wounded in that fighting.

Listen to the episode to hear how these clashes spiraled into an exchange of airstrikes that has brought Israeli forces to the edge of Gaza — and the brink of war.

The Daily Poster

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, Reignited

Rockets, airstrikes and mob violence: Why is this happening now, and how much worse could it get?

transcript

transcript

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, Reignited

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Austin Mitchell, Soraya Shockley, Robert Jimison, Annie Brown and Daniel Guillemette; edited by M.J. Davis Lin, with help from Phyllis Fletcher; music by Rachelle Bonja and Dan Powell; and engineered by Chris Wood.

Rockets, airstrikes and mob violence: Why is this happening now, and how much worse could it get?

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

[music]

Over the past few days, the deadliest violence in years has erupted between Israel and Palestinians—

speaker

Intense rocket fire from Gaza answered by Israeli air strikes, showing no sign of easing and—

michael barbaro

—punctuated by hundreds of missiles streaking back and forth between Gaza and cities across Israel.

speaker

Increasingly large numbers of casualties, including children, from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza—

michael barbaro

And now, on the streets of Israel, by shocking scenes of mob violence against both Arabs and Jews.

Today, I spoke with my colleague in Jerusalem, Isabel Kershner, about why it’s all happening and just how much worse it may get.

It’s Thursday, May 13th.

Isabel, I know there may not be a simple answer to this question. But what was the trigger for this eruption of violence in Jerusalem over the past few weeks?

isabel kershner

Well, one of the triggers for sure is actually a case of six Palestinian families who are facing a looming eviction by Jewish landlords from their houses that they’ve been living in since the 1950s in a very small quiet leafy neighborhood of East Jerusalem, not far from the old city.

speaker

In the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the tension has been growing for weeks. Several Palestinian families face eviction from their homes. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] We are in the right. We are still resisting. We are staying here even if they don’t want us.

isabel kershner

This is a case that’s been bubbling on for years and years.

speaker

We don’t understand why Arabs are here. I don’t want any problems. But this land is Jewish and belongs to us. We don’t believe anyone, not the courts or anyone else.

isabel kershner

The Israeli government has cast it as a small private real estate dispute. But it’s far from that.

So you’re talking about families who were displaced and made refugees during 1948, the war surrounding the creation of Israel. And they lost their homes in what became Israel. And they moved to that area of East Jerusalem when the Jordanians were in control. And the Jordanian government actually offered them an option in conjunction with the United Nations Refugee Agency at the time. They said, we’ll build some houses in this neighborhood, a few dozen houses. And you can come live in them. And we will register them for you. And in return, you should give up your refugee status. And the families actually agreed to that and moved into the houses. But at the end of the day, somehow the Jordanian government never actually finally registered them in their names.

So then, in 1967, the Middle East war breaks out. And Jordan loses control of the land of East Jerusalem and Israel takes control of it. Israel after the ‘67 war annexed that territory. But that move was never internationally recognized. And most of the world still considers it occupied territory. And although there was an agreement between the Jordanians and these Palestinian families over these homes, the land they sit on now gets to be controlled by Israel. And on top of that, although this is now a Palestinian populated area predominantly, the land was bought by a Jewish trust in the 19th Century. And then in the meantime, religious trusts have sold the rights to a real estate agency, people who want to move Jews back into that neighborhood. And there is nothing more in the Palestinian mindset, nothing more upsetting than the refugee issue. So it just took on much bigger proportions. It’s not just about renting or an eviction order or a few houses. It suddenly becomes a national issue.

michael barbaro

So this is pretty complicated. But to summarize, these refugee Palestinian families were given these homes in the 1950s and told that it would be their home for good. But that didn’t happen. It’s still the case that legally these homes belong to Jewish landlords. And now those Jewish landlords are saying to these Palestinian families, we want you out. And in part, they want them out because they want Jewish people to control these properties in East Jerusalem.

isabel kershner

That’s correct. And they’re able to do that based on a 1970s law which allows Jewish property owners to reclaim property in the East side of the city. But then, on the other side, the Palestinians do not have the same recourse to reclaim properties they left on the West side of the city or elsewhere in Israel. So this has created a huge imbalance. And the dispute has gone from the District Court all the way up to the Supreme Court. And we were waiting for a final verdict in the case of whether the evictions would go ahead or not on Monday.

michael barbaro

So Isabel, about how does this legal conflict over these evictions spiral into what we are seeing now? How does that happen?

isabel kershner

OK, good question, because there are many, many other strands to this story. And I think one thing we have to look at is the calendar. We have been in a month that has been extraordinary in many ways. So on the one hand, we’ve had the month of Ramadan in the Islamic lunar calendar. And Ramadan, the lunar calendar, it moves. So this year, Ramadan fell from mid-April to now. So it also coincided with a month in the Hebrew calendar. And you also have quite a lot of emotive dates. You have the Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, you have the Independence Day, you get towards the end of the month and you get Jerusalem Day, which is the day when some Israelis, not all, are celebrating what they call the reunification of Jerusalem in the 1967 war. I mean, this is a day where the Israelis are marking conquering the eastern part of the city, placing the Palestinians in the city generally on the other side of the line in what became occupied East Jerusalem.

michael barbaro

Got it.

isabel kershner

And that can be a very provocative day as well because a central feature of it is what they call the flag parade, which is usually thousands of young right wing mostly Jewish youths who March traditionally on a very contentious route— right through the Muslim quarter of the old city to get to the Wailing Wall. And of course, that was supposed to happen also on— yes, you guessed it— Monday.

michael barbaro

So Monday of this past week becomes, through the eviction case and through the calendar, a kind of swirling collision of Palestinian grief and Israeli celebration and just a kind of powder keg, it sounds like.

isabel kershner

And we also had a lot else going on in the city building up to this day. Ramadan is a time when the city is very much on edge. It’s a time of religious and nationalist fervor for many people. And it started with several other potential points of ignition. So you had the police, for example, barring Palestinians from gathering at Damascus Gate. Damascus Gate is one of the most beautiful and historic entrances to the old city from the East side. And it has these steps and going down to a Plaza— a bit like a kind of amphitheater. And every night during Ramadan, traditionally every year, Palestinians come. They gather there. They break their fast. There are cultural events. And it’s a general kind of party, a festival atmosphere. But for some reason this year, the police banned anyone from gathering and sitting on the steps. They put up barricades and said it was for public order to allow people to safely enter and exit the old city. And this created huge tension.

[siren wailing]

So it actually turned into a battlefield. Every night, you would have the police trying to disperse the crowds there. Young Palestinians would protest. And it would end in clashes.

We also had what became known as the TikTok attacks.

michael barbaro

What are those?

isabel kershner

So there were a couple of Palestinian 17-year-old youths who filmed themselves for a TikTok video slapping an ultra Orthodox Jew while he was sitting on the light rail train. And it kind of went viral. And there were one or two other similar attacks. And people just took great affront.

And it ended up with hundreds of young Israeli Jews marching to Damascus Gate, chanting things, including death to Arabs. And in the end, you had the police acting as a buffer between them and the Palestinian protesters at Damascus Gate and pitched battles on both sides with the police. So that was one of the strands of great tension building up towards this Monday.

michael barbaro

So a very unstable situation is very much ignited by actions taken by multiple groups of people on the ground in Jerusalem, including the Israeli police.

isabel kershner

Right. So we come to Monday morning after all this buildup, of all these different tensions in the city in this very tense month. And we get to the point where we’ve had Laylatul Qadr, which is a very holy day for Muslims at the end of Ramadan when thousands of worshippers spend the night traditionally in the compound of the Aqsa Mosque, which is the third holiest site in Islam. And it’s also probably one of the most hotly contested sites in the world because it’s also the holiest place for Jews. They know it as Temple Mount. And it’s the location of two ancient temples. So on Monday morning, which is Jerusalem Day as well, there were Jewish groups who were planning, as they traditionally do, to go up to the Temple Mount on a visit. And the Muslim worshipers, many of whom, as I say, had been there overnight were expecting them, ready for what they would see as a kind of invasion on their holy territory on a very holy time of year. The police stopped the Jewish groups from going up. But what we did see was the police in large numbers raid the compound.

[interposing voices]
[explosion]

There are many different takes on whether they went in just to disperse crowds or they went in to stop stone throwing by protesters at the site that had already started or whether the stones only started after the police arrived. But whatever the exact circumstances, you ended up with a large police raid on the Aqsa Mosque compound.

And it ended in stone throwing clashes with police responding with tear gas, rubber tip bullets, stun grenades. And by the end of the main part of this confrontation, you have, on the one side, 330 Palestinians who’ve been injured, 250 who were actually treated in the hospitals. And on the other side, 21 police officers injured.

michael barbaro

So Isabel, what happens after this police raid on the mosque? How do Palestinians respond?

isabel kershner

So by the afternoon, we get an ultimatum from Hamas, the Islamic group that holds Sway in Gaza, saying, if the Israelis do not remove all their forces from the mosque compound and from the area of East Jerusalem, the Palestinian area where the evictions were about to take place, something would happen.

michael barbaro

And they don’t specify what that something is. But it will be serious.

isabel kershner

Israel will be paying the price.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

So Isabel, about what happens on Monday with this 6:00 PM deadline from Hamas for Israeli security forces to withdraw from East Jerusalem and from the mosque?

isabel kershner

Well, clearly the Israelis were not going to comply. So we waited till 6 o’clock. And lo and behold, 3 minutes past 6:00, we’re sitting here in our office in Jerusalem. And suddenly, we hear sirens wailing, incoming rocket warnings. And within maybe a minute—

[explosion]

—we suddenly hear a series of booms. There’s a feeling that Jerusalem is under attack.

michael barbaro

So once this deadline passes, Hamas sends missiles over into Jerusalem?

isabel kershner

Yeah. They’re aiming towards Jerusalem. One was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome, the anti-missile defense system. Others actually fell in communities and empty ground in the hills West of Jerusalem. And nobody was killed or hurt, but there was some property damage. And this was highly unusual and clearly was not going to go without an Israeli response.

michael barbaro

And what is that response?

isabel kershner

Well, Israel had clearly been anticipating some kind of action from Gaza and always has what it calls a bank of targets that its built up. And Israel immediately began with airstrikes in Gaza. And now Gaza is a very small and crowded territory. So even if Israel says it’s targeting military targets with very precise weapons and taking all the precautions it can to avoid civilian casualties, inevitably there are civilian casualties as well. So from the beginning, the air strikes were deadly. There were two children killed very early on that night. And each side just kept stepping it up.

Israel taking down tower blocks in Gaza, multi-storey buildings that housed Hamas offices or headquarters of various types of Hamas. And Hamas again issued another ultimatum and said to Israel, if you hit any more civilian buildings, we’re going to hit Tel Aviv. And a huge, huge Salvo barrages of rockets began streaming out of Gaza and slamming into suburbs around Tel Aviv. Things have just been escalating all the way. So by Wednesday afternoon, two days into the conflict, we have at least 53 Palestinians killed, according to the Gaza health officials, 14 of them children, and more than 300 wounded. And on the Israeli side, you have at least six people who’ve been killed and scores injured.

michael barbaro

Isabel, it is often felt in moments like this that Hamas’s missile attacks, as terrifying as they are to Israelis, often fail to inflict significant damage on Israel based on the technology that Hamas is using and that the Israeli counterattacks tend to be much better targeted and more destructive. And the death toll seems to suggest that that has been the case so far here— a kind of disproportionate impact.

isabel kershner

Look, disproportionate is a term that is often used. I think there’s certainly— the circumstances that Israel has total air superiority in terms of its Air Force. The Hamas rockets are rather inaccurate. Israel does have the Iron Dome system which manages to intercept the authorities, say, about 90 percent of rockets that are headed to population centers in Israel. But the Gaza Strip is just first of all very crowded, very densely populated. The Israelis will tell you that Hamas operates from civilian areas within Gaza, making it very, very, very difficult to avoid collateral damage.

michael barbaro

At this point, is it fair to describe what’s happening here as a war, as war like? What is this?

isabel kershner

It feels pretty war like. If we end up with a ground campaign on the Israeli forces side, it will definitely be a war.

michael barbaro

And is there talk of a ground operation?

isabel kershner

Well, no confirmation of one. But some preparations seem to be being made. There are some call ups of reserves, there are some troops and vehicles moving down towards the border. So it’s not being ruled out. But it’s hard to tell. I think Israel won’t rush into a ground invasion because they are usually very costly. But sometimes, it’s part of the tactical war to signal that you’re ready for one, which could also be what’s going on.

michael barbaro

What are the leaders on all sides of this saying about this moment and how it might come to an end? I realize that’s a tricky question because both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership is very much in flux. But what are they saying about it?

isabel kershner

So we heard on Wednesday night a very strong statement from President Mahmoud Abbas— he leads the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and is a main rival of Hamas. And he was basically telling Israel, end your occupation. And we’ve been hearing more from Hamas. So Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas political leader, sends a recorded address to a Hamas affiliated television station—

ismail haniyeh

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

isabel kershner

He spoke about being contacted by Egypt, Qatar, the United Nations with some kind of talk of maybe working towards the ceasefire.

ismail haniyeh

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

isabel kershner

But he said, since in his view, Israel had started this, it was Israel’s responsibility to be the ones to begin to end it.

ismail haniyeh

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

isabel kershner

On the Israeli side, we’re hearing that we’re not done yet. The defense minister said on Wednesday, there’s no end date. And the night before, the Prime Minister also said, this could take some time.

[music]
michael barbaro

So it sounds like from leadership, there’s not an eagerness to quickly bring this to an end.

isabel kershner

Right, it does seem that on both sides— they’re not rushing to end this. And it might actually be helping them.

michael barbaro

How so?

isabel kershner

On the Palestinian side, you have Hamas operating really in a vacuum with Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who’s aging and weak, and Hamas really trying to reinstate itself using its currency of leading the resistance and defending Jerusalem, which is always a rallying cry on the Palestinian side. And on the Israeli side, you have a very confused situation because Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently standing trial on corruption charges. He has been unable to form a government after four elections in two years. And his rivals were working on trying to form an alternative coalition which would have seen him removed from office for the first time in 12 years. And I think we’re not sure how this is going to play out. But somehow, he might well be able to capitalize on this time as being not the right time to have a change in government.

michael barbaro

Isabel, we started this conversation by talking about the eviction case in East Jerusalem that, in many people’s eyes, lit the fuse that has now turned into this war like conflict. What has happened with that ruling?

isabel kershner

So the ruling was supposed to come on Monday. On Sunday, after the government had spent weeks saying, this is just a private real estate dispute, the attorney general finally stepped in and asked for a delay in the case so that he could study the materials, get involved, state an opinion. And the judges gave him a month, suspending the verdict for at least 30 days. This is one case where the Israelis stepped in to try and diffuse a situation. But of course, it was too little too late.

michael barbaro

So this ruling has been delayed, but not for all that long. And eventually when it comes out, it will no doubt influence the course of this conflict that has erupted over the past few weeks. But it strikes me as odd and maybe a bit ironic that the Israeli government has called this eviction case a real estate dispute when you could argue that the entire history of the Israeli-Palestanian conflict is ultimately a dispute over real estate— over land and over the idea of home.

isabel kershner

You certainly could see it that way. I mean, with all the security and national and religious aspects to this conflict that’s been going on for a century, at the end of the day, it’s about who rules territory where and who gets to call a place home. Yeah.

[music]
michael barbaro

Isabel, as always, thank you very much.

isabel kershner

Thank you.

michael barbaro

The Times reports that as the conflict expands, rival mobs of Jews and Arabs are carrying out violent attacks in several Israeli cities and towns. One occurred in a suburb of Tel Aviv where dozens of Jewish extremists took turns beating and kicking an Arab motorcycle driver even as his body lay motionless on the ground. Another occurred in northern Israel where an Arab mob beat a Jewish man with sticks and rocks, leaving him in critical condition.

On Wednesday night, the United Nations warned that the conflict could soon intensify into, quote, “all out war“. And the Biden administration dispatched a senior American diplomat to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and to urge both sides to de-escalate.

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today. On Wednesday, during a closed door vote, House Republicans ousted Representative, Liz Cheney, as their party’s third highest ranking leader over her decision to speak out against former President Trump— his role in the January 6 riot at the Capitol and his lies about fraud in the 2020 election.

liz cheney

I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.

michael barbaro

After the vote, Cheney said she had no regrets and vowed that she would continue to speak out against Trump and seek to break his hold over the Republican Party.

liz cheney

We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language. We have seen his lack of commitment and dedication to the Constitution. And I think it’s fair—

michael barbaro

And the company that operates the major fuel pipeline shut down by a cyber attack said that the pipeline’s operations had begun to resume. The shutdown of the pipeline had raised fears of gas shortages and triggered panicked buying in several states, including Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

Today’s episode was produced by Austin Mitchell, Soraya Shockley, Robert Jimison, Annie Brown, and Daniel Guillemette. It was edited by M.J. Davis Lin with help from Phyllis Fletcher. It was engineered by Chris Wood and contains original music by Rachelle Bonja and Dan Powell.

[music]

That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

Next Post

Rising cost of lumber in Colorado makes for more expensive homes, DIY projects

Like many other families affected by the impact of the stay-at-home pandemic, Deborah Cowles saw it as a grand opportunity to improve the look of a few things around her Centennial home. But the timing of a desire to replace an aging cedar fence just wasn’t working out, so Cowles […]