West Bank deaths increase risk of new front in Arab-Israeli conflict
Israeli security forces killed eight people in the occupied West Bank and injured more than 100 others, according to local officials, increasing the chances of creating a new front in a deeper conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Palestinians across the West Bank – from Nablus to Jericho – have clashed with Israeli soldiers in chaotic protests, blocking Israel from bombing Hamas for six days on the Gaza Strip.
Community clashes between Jews and minority Israelis in the cities also shook the country, revealing a deep rift within the Jewish state.
The Israeli military operation in Gaza has killed 122 Palestinians, including 51 women and children. The family of six people was killed on Friday, Gaza health officials said.
Despite the escalation of artillery and tanker fire in Israel, Hamas, a militant group that controls Gaza, has fired about 1,800 rockets at Israel. Nine Israelis were killed, including a child and a soldier.
The West Bank, which is home to Fatah, a faction of Hamas ’Palestinian enemies, has been relatively quiet this week. Five Palestinians were killed on Friday after protesting and throwing stones at Israeli security forces, and the sixth man after trying to stab an Israeli soldier, West Bank health officials said.
The escalation of violence in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 war and inhabited by about 650,000 Israeli settlers, would add a dangerous new dynamic to the conflict.
In addition to campaigning against Hamas, Israel is already suffering the worst domestic violence in the community, as Jewish groups and minimal Israeli Arab men have attacked members of each other’s communities and destroyed the assets of Israeli mixed peoples.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has been raging for more than a decade in the occupied territories between Israeli forces and Palestinian factions. But community violence has sparked new tensions.
Israeli Arabs make up about one-fifth of the population of the Jewish state, with Israeli passports and voting in the country’s elections. But they say they suffer from institutional and social discrimination and have become sympathetic to the Palestinian cause as a target of right-wing Israeli politicians.
This week, Israel relocated thousands of Israeli police from the West Bank to Israeli cities and towns as it stepped up efforts to stem domestic unrest.
It has also mobilized thousands of military reservists on the Gaza border, adding tanks and artillery Air campaign against Hamas.
The crisis erupted after weeks of tensions in and around Jerusalem, which escalated last week when Israeli police used rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades against Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque complex. More than 600 Palestinians were injured and police images using force against the protest sparked the anger of Arabs in the third holiest site of Islam – which was a stimulating conflict in the Arab-Israeli era.
It is housed in a compound mosque al-Aqsa, which is sacred to both religions (known to Muslims as the Haram ash-Sharif or Noble Shrine and known to the Jews as the Temple Mount).
As tensions escalated, Hamas went into battle on Monday, firing rockets at Israel and Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem occupied by Israel, asking them to persecute Arab neighbors who were awaiting deportation orders from Israeli courts. Israel launched its largest military campaign against Hamas since its war with the Islamist group in 2014, listing 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza.
The poor territory is running out of electricity for about five hours a day and will probably run out of fuel until Sunday, according to an Israeli security official. In an attempt to stifle Hamas’ access to resources, since 2007 Israel has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The Lebanese state news agency confirmed this afternoon that a Lebanese man was killed in an incident with the Lebanese and Israeli Defense Forces as a result of his injuries. The videos shared on social media featured protesters carrying Palestinian flags and Lebanese militant groups Hezbollah, technically still crossing the wire fences that separate the two nations still at war. The Israeli military said protesters had set fire to it and soldiers fired at it to repel the protesters.
The killing of a Lebanese protester on the border will create fears that Hezbollah will take revenge. A delegation from the militia leadership visited Hamas base in Lebanon on Friday, as well as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al Manar, linked to Hezbollah, reported.
Additional report by Chloe Cornish in Beirut