Jerusalem / Gaza (dpa) – The US is making intensive efforts to de-escalate the conflict in Gaza. As the US Embassy in Israel announced, top diplomat Hady Amr landed at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had asked him to meet with representatives from both sides. The conflict between Israel and the ruling Hamas in the Gaza Strip had escalated early this week. Militant Palestinians are constantly bombarding Israel with missiles – according to the Israeli military there are more than 2,000 recently. Israel is responding with massive attacks in the coastal area. As the German news agency learned from Egyptian security circles, Israel rejected an offer from Egypt to arrange a ceasefire.
Since the conflict escalated, more than 125 people have been killed and 950 injured there, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. As the Israeli military announced, eight people have been killed by rocket fire in Israel in recent days.
About two million people live in the densely populated Gaza Strip. Palestinian Territories Humanitarian Coordinator Lynn Hastings said the United Nations estimates that about 10,000 Palestinians have already left their homes in Gaza because of the ongoing hostilities.
Israel and Egypt are blockading the Gaza Strip and justify this with security considerations. Islamist Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US and the EU. She has made the destruction of Israel her goal.
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had culminated during the Islamic month of fasting of Ramadan and after the cancellation of the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Police barriers in the old city of Jerusalem, which many young Palestinians viewed as humiliation, are considered the trigger.
Additionally, there were clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem over evictions and violent skirmishes on the Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif). The Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque complex is the third holiest site in Islam. But it is also sacred to Jews because there used to be two Jewish temples. Islamist Hamas has declared itself a defender of Jerusalem.
There were violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in several places in the West Bank. At least nine people died and 21 others were seriously injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The Israeli military did not initially respond to inquiries about the information.
Saturday is Nakba (catastrophe) day. The Palestinians then commemorate the expulsion and flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. There could be renewed violence. This year, the day coincides with the third day of the Eid-al-Fitr festival, the so-called sugar festival at the end of Ramadan.
Two incidents in the north also caused concern in Israel. Two protesters from Lebanon were killed in skirmishes on the border with Israel, one of them from tank fire. A 21-year-old was hit after he and dozens of others crossed the border fence into Israeli territory, Lebanese state agency NNA reported. According to eyewitnesses, he was hit in the stomach and later died in hospital. A second protester was reportedly shot and later succumbed to his injuries, as security circles confirmed.
The Israeli army confirmed that tanks fired warning shots at a group of rioters. The protesters had shown solidarity with the people of Gaza and Jerusalem, waving Palestinian flags overlooking the village of Metula in northern Israel. The UN peacekeeping mission Unifil announced it was in contact with the Israeli and Lebanese military to prevent further escalation.
As the Israeli military announced, three missiles were also fired from Syria in the direction of Israel. One of them fell on Syrian soil. The Israeli military did not initially provide further details. There were initially no reports of possible damage.