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Biden Supports Israel-Gaza Cease-Fire, as Fighting Rages Into Second Week

JERUSALEM — President Biden for the first time expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza on Monday, as the devastating rocket and missile war there gave no sign of easing after the deaths of dozens of Palestinian children.

But he also reiterated that Israel had a right to defend itself, stopping short of publicly calling on Israel to change its approach despite rising international condemnation.

The statement, issued after Mr. Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was the furthest that the president has gone toward calling for an end to the conflict. But it also reflected a continued and deep reticence by world leaders to criticize Israel, and a failure of diplomacy to persuade the two sides to curb a rising cycle of violence.

For their part, Israel’s leaders have said that they are in no hurry to end the airstrike campaign and have insisted that the military will continue until it reaches its goals of stopping Hamas’s rocket barrages and making the group “pay a price.”

“The directive is to continue striking at the terrorist targets,” Mr. Netanyahu said on Monday after meeting with Israeli security officials. “We will continue to take whatever action necessary in order to restore quiet and security for all the residents of Israel.”

Over eight days, Hamas has fired nearly as many rockets — 3,350 so far — as it did over all of the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2014, and has killed nine civilians in Israel, including two children, and at least one soldier.

But in Gaza, Palestinian families have paid a much greater price. Since May 10, at least 212 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza, including 61 children, according to health officials there, and many have been left homeless. Gazan officials said that more than 600 homes or businesses had been destroyed and more than 6,400 damaged, and United Nations officials said that at least 800,000 residents lack regular access to safe drinking water.

Though civil unrest by Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel quieted down in recent days, a general strike and demonstrations have been called for Tuesday afternoon to protest Israel’s air campaign in Gaza and other measures targeting Palestinians, organizers said.

In Washington, Mr. Biden’s language was carefully couched. It notably avoided a demand that the cease-fire be “immediate,” language that Democratic senators used in a letter to the president earlier in the day.

It appeared to be an effort to press Israel to suspend its airstrikes — assuming Hamas also ended its barrage of rockets into Israeli cities — despite Mr. Netanyahu’s declaration that Israel would keep fighting until it had gravely reduced Hamas’s military capacity, including an extensive network of underground tunnels.

In the statement, the White House made clear that it expected others in the region to play a major role, saying Mr. Biden “expressed his support for a cease-fire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners toward that end.”

But he set no deadline and did not appear before cameras to make a public demand — just as he avoided making statements or taking questions during outings this weekend near his home in Delaware.

The Israeli military says it is focusing on airstrikes against the tunnel network because Hamas, which controls Gaza, uses the tunnels to move people, weapons and equipment around the densely populated coastal strip undetected. Referring to the subterranean transit system as the “metro,” Israeli officials say the air campaign against the network, which was years in the making, marks a new phase in the long battle between Israel and the militant groups.

Concern over the role of Gaza tunnel networks in attacks against Israelis was a rationale for the military ground invasion of Gaza in 2014, which caused huge loss of life.

Since then, Hamas has greatly expanded that network, according to Israeli intelligence officials. But they say the militants’ focus now is not on passages that reach all the way into Israel, but rather on the creation of shelters for Hamas commanders and fighters within Gaza — from 20 meters beneath the ground to as deep as 70 meters — and a sprawling transportation network for weapons and fighters.

An Israeli Air Force official, who briefed reporters on Monday on the condition of anonymity, in line with military rules, said that reinforced concrete tunnels ran for hundreds of miles inside Gaza. Israel was not trying to destroy it all, he said, but to create “choke points” that would seal sections off and make parts of the network inoperable.

But above ground, whole structures within Gaza are tumbling down or being scorched and blasted while the airstrikes continue.

At least seven Palestinians were killed in Gaza in Israeli strikes on Monday, officials said, including a man Israeli officials described as an important commander for the militant group Islamic Jihad. At least two civilians were reported killed when one strike hit an office building, Gaza officials said.

On Sunday, intense Israeli bombing made it the deadliest day yet for Palestinians, with at least 42 people killed, including at least 10 children, after an attack on a tunnel network caused three buildings to collapse.

Raji Sourani, of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said that the main effect of Israel’s bombardment has been to terrorize Gazan civilians and ruin their homes and businesses. He called Israeli bombardment of the tunnels in recent days “meaningless” given the network’s scale.

“They want the civilians to revolt against the resistance,” he said, referring to provoking a public Palestinian uprising against Hamas rule. “And this is not going to happen.”

Since the underground tunnel system is clandestine, Hamas officials are evasive when asked about its existence, let alone how badly it has been hit or whether operatives have been trapped inside by the Israeli bombardments over the past week.

“It is the right of the resistance to possess all types of weapons and means to defend itself,” Abdel Latif al-Qanou, a spokesman for Hamas, said in an interview on Monday. “And tunnels are one of the means of self-defense.”

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel live under different governments and have increasingly developed separate identities. But leaders from across all three announced that they would stage a general strike on Tuesday to protest Israel’s air campaign in Gaza and other measures targeting Palestinians, organizers said.

The initiative also has the backing of both Hamas, and Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority that exercises limited self-autonomy in parts of the West Bank.

“We want to send a clear message that we stand together in saying enough to the aggression on Gaza,” said Essam Bakr, one of the organizers. “But we are also saying enough to the attacks on the Aqsa Mosque, enough to the occupation and settlement-building, and enough to the unjust treatment of Palestinians.”

As the rocket and airstrike barrages have continued, Hamas has been vague about its calculations and goals. The group does not recognize Israel as a legitimate state, and the group has tried to establish itself politically as a forceful defender of the Palestinian people and Islamic holy sites, like the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

In the fighting, rockets have been Hamas’s go-to weapon, raining down on Israeli towns and cities at a much faster rate than in 2014. On Monday, Israelis rushed to shelters again, and rockets were reported to have hit in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Sderot. No one was reported killed in those strikes.

But Israeli officials say that the militants have also been trying surprise tactics, including sending drones loaded with explosives across the border. Those have been thwarted so far, officials say.

Hamas also tried to take to the sea on Monday, according to the Israeli military, with a naval unit suspected of preparing a “submergible naval weapon” for action. The military released a video showing Israeli forces destroying the vessel.

Mr. Netanyahu’s open-ended statements about the need to destroy Hamas’s capability have appeared to put Mr. Biden in a corner, which was reflected in the careful wording of the White House statement Monday.

In what amounts to the first Middle East crisis of his presidency, Mr. Biden wants to avoid the political risk of appearing to have his appeals ignored. But he also has little leverage over Israel, unless the United States is willing to threaten a cutoff of aid or arms — not politically likely at a moment that Hamas is firing rockets at Israeli citizens.

On Monday, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters that the administration would not reveal all the details of Mr. Biden’s communications with leaders in the conflict. “Our approach is through quiet, intensive diplomacy,” she said. “That is how we feel we can be most effective.”

It is a sharp shift from President Trump’s approach, embraced in the Middle East plan he issued a year ago. That was widely viewed as ignoring many of the Palestinians’ interests, in favor of Israel’s demands.

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, speaking to journalists in Copenhagen, said the Biden administration was “working intensively behind the scenes to try to bring an end to the conflict.”

He added, “We will immediately resume the work, the vital work, of making real the vision of Israel and a Palestinian state existing peacefully, side by side, with people from all communities able to live in dignity.”

Mr. Biden has been under intensifying pressure from prominent Democrats on Capitol Hill to more forcefully push for peace, as it has become increasingly clear the center of his party is shifting away from the kind of unflinching support for Israel’s prerogatives that has long been bipartisan.

After more than half of Senate Democrats, for instance, called for an immediate cease-fire in a statement Sunday night, half of the Jewish Democratic members in the House made a similar demand. They warned Mr. Biden that “the United States cannot simply hope and wait for the situation to improve.”

Reporting was contributed by Iyad Abuheweila from Gaza; Ronen Bergman from Tel Aviv; Adam Rasgon and Irit Pazner Garshowitz from Jerusalem; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot; and Dan Bilefsky and Marc Santora from London.

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What Is Happening in Israel and Gaza? Here’s What to Know.

JERUSALEM — 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.

The incident was confirmed by six mosque officials, three of whom witnessed it; the Israeli police declined to comment. In the outside world, it barely registered.

But in hindsight, the police raid on the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, was one of several actions that led, less than a month later, to the sudden resumption of war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, and the outbreak of civil unrest between Arabs and Jews across Israel itself.

recognized the city as Israel’s capital and nominally moved the United States Embassy there. There were no mass protests after four Arab countries normalized relations with Israel, abandoning a long-held consensus that they would never do so until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been resolved.

Two months ago, few in the Israeli military establishment were expecting anything like this.

In private briefings, military officials said the biggest threat to Israel was 1,000 miles away in Iran, or across the northern border in Lebanon.

When diplomats met in March with the two generals who oversee administrative aspects of Israeli military affairs in Gaza and the West Bank, they found the pair relaxed about the possibility of significant violence and celebrating an extended period of relative quiet, according to a senior foreign diplomat who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely.

Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. With a final court decision on their case due in the first half of May, regular protests were held throughout April — demonstrations that accelerated after Palestinians drew a connection between the events at Damascus Gate and the plight of the residents.

video and images showed they engaged in violence themselves. As the images began to circulate online, the neighborhood turned into a rallying point for Palestinians not just across the occupied territories and Israel, but among the diaspora.

The experience of the families, who had already been displaced from what became Israel in 1948, was something “every single Palestinian in the diaspora can relate to,” said Jehan Bseiso, a Palestinian poet living in Lebanon.

And it highlighted a piece of legal discrimination: Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim land in East Jerusalem that was owned by Jews before 1948. But the descendants of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled their homes that year have no legal means to reclaim their families’ land.

sight of stun grenades and bullets inside the prayer hall of one of the holiest sites in Islam — on the last Friday of Ramadan, one of its holiest nights — was seen as a grievous insult to all Muslims.

scenes that were broadcast across the world.

At the last minute, the government rerouted the Jerusalem Day march away from the Muslim Quarter, after receiving an intelligence briefing about the risk of escalation if it went ahead.

But that was too little, and far too late. By then, the Israeli Army had already begun to order civilians away from the Gaza perimeter.

Shortly after 6 p.m. on Monday, the rocket fire from Gaza began.

Rami Nazzal contributed reporting from Ramallah, West Bank, and Iyad Abuhweila from Gaza City.

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Israeli-Palestinian Strife Widens as Frantic Calls for Calm Go Unheeded

CAIRO — Violence between Israelis and Palestinians expanded in new directions on Friday, with deadly clashes convulsing the occupied West Bank and anti-Israeli protests erupting along Israel’s borders with two Arab neighbors.

The widening sense of mayhem in Israel and the Palestinian territories came as Israeli airstrikes brought mass evacuations and funerals to Gaza, and as Hamas rockets singed Israeli towns for a fifth consecutive day.

Hamas and Israeli officials signaled they were open to discussing a cease-fire amid global calls for peace and frantic diplomacy aimed at heading off a further fracturing in one of the Middle East’s most intractable struggles.

But the violence, which has metastasized with startling velocity compared with previous Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, was finding new footholds and threatening the veneer of Israeli society in ways not seen before.

Power was down to five hours a day in some places, and water came out of the pipes only once every few days. Efforts to contain what had been a worsening coronavirus infection crisis in Gaza all but collapsed.

ground forces had attacked Gaza, later clarifying that the troops were firing from within Israel, and that none had entered the territory.

a 5-year-old boy killed by shrapnel on Wednesday despite having sheltered in a safe room.

On Thursday, his family was mourning at his funeral when the scream of sirens warned that, once again, Hamas rockets were on the way.

Reporting was contributed by Iyad Abuheweila from Gaza City; Patrick Kingsley, Irit Pazner Garshowitz, Myra Noveck and Jonathan Rosen from Jerusalem; Rami Nazzal from Ramallah, West Bank; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; Adam Rasgon from Los Angeles; Rana F. Sweis from Amman, Jordan; and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon.

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Israeli Ground Forces Attack Gaza, Escalating Conflict

Israeli ground forces carried out attacks in the Gaza Strip early Friday in a dramatic escalation of a conflict with Palestinian militants that had been waged by airstrikes from Israel and rockets from Gaza.

It was not immediately clear if the Israeli advance was a limited incursion against Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, or the start of a full-fledged invasion akin to the one in 2014 that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians.

An Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, confirmed that “there are ground troops attacking in Gaza, together with air forces as well,” but provided no further details.

What appeared to be the first stages of a ground campaign in Gaza left Israel in an unprecedented position — fighting Palestinian militants on its southern flank as it sought to head off its worst civil unrest in decades.

The ground attack followed another day of clashes between Arab and Jewish mobs on the streets of Israeli cities, with the authorities calling up the army reserves and sending reinforcements of armed border police to the central city of Lod to try to head off what Israeli leaders have warned could become a civil war.

Taken together, the two theaters of turmoil pointed to a step change in the grinding, decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. While violent escalations often follow a predictable trajectory, this latest bout, the worst in seven years, is rapidly evolving into a new kind of war — faster, more destructive and capable of spinning in unpredictable new directions.

In Gaza, an impoverished coastal strip that was the crucible of a devastating seven-week war in 2014, Palestinian militants fired surprisingly large barrages of enhanced-range rockets — some 1,800 in three days — that reached far into Israel.

Israel intensified its campaign of relentless airstrikes against Hamas targets there on Thursday, pulverizing buildings, offices and homes in strikes that have killed 103 people including 27 children, according to the Gaza health authorities.

Six civilians and a soldier have been killed by Hamas rockets inside Israel.

Egyptian mediators arrived in Israel Thursday in a sooner-than-usual push to halt the spiraling conflict.

Most alarming for Israel, though, was the violent ferment on its own sidewalks and streets, where days of rioting by Jewish vigilantes and Arab mobs showed no sign of abating.

The unrest in several mixed-ethnicity cities, where angry young men stoned cars, set fire to mosques and synagogues, and attacked each other, signaled a collapse of law and order inside Israel on a scale not seen since the start of the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, 21 years ago.

The violence follows a month of boiling tensions in Jerusalem, where the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes coincided with a spate of Arab attacks against Israeli Jews, and a march through the city by right-wing extremists chanting “Death to Arabs.”

The jarring violence this week caused Israeli leaders, led by President Reuven Rivlin, to evoke the specter of civil war — a once unthinkable idea. “We need to solve our problems without causing a civil war that can be a danger to our existence,” Mr. Rivlin said. “The silent majority is not saying a thing, because it is utterly stunned.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Lod, a working-class city with a mixed Arab-Israeli population that has emerged as the center of the upheaval. Hulks of burned-out cars littered streets.

On Thursday, a Jewish man was stabbed as he walked to a synagogue there, but survived.

“There is no greater threat now than these riots,” said Mr. Netanyahu, who vowed to deploy the Israel Defense Forces to keep the peace in Lod. A day earlier, he described the violence as “anarchy” and said: “Nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs, and nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews.”

To secure Lod, the government brought in thousands of armed border police from the occupied West Bank, and imposed an 8 p.m. curfew, but to little effect.

Arab residents, who account for about 30 percent of the town’s 80,000 people, continued a campaign of stone-throwing, vandalism and arson, while Jewish extremists arrived from outside Lod, burning Arab cars and property. Arab protesters erected flaming roadblocks.

As night fell there were signs that the violence might escalate when a large convoy of armed Jews in white vans moved into town.

Palestinian leaders, however, said the talk of civil war by Jewish leaders was a distraction from what they called the true cause of the unrest in Lod — police brutality against Palestinian protesters and provocative actions by right-wing Israeli settler groups.

“The police shot an Arab demonstrator in Lod,” said Ahmad Tibi, the leader of the Ta’al party and a member of Israel’s Parliament. “We don’t want bloodshed. We want to protest.”

Mr. Tibi said that Mr. Netanyahu, who has frequently aligned with far-right and nationalist parties to stay in power, had only himself to blame for the political tinderbox that has exploded with such ferocity across Israel.

The trouble started on Monday, when a heavy-handed police raid at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque — the third-holiest site in Islam, located atop a site also revered by Jews — set off an instant backlash.

But beyond the images of police officers flinging stun grenades and firing rubber bullets inside the mosque, Palestinian outrage was also fueled by much wider, decades-old frustrations.

Human Rights Watch recently accused Israel of perpetrating a form of apartheid, the racist legal system that once governed South Africa, citing a number of laws and regulations that it said systematically discriminate against Palestinians. Israel vehemently rejected that charge. But its security forces are now confronted with a swelling wave of fury from the country’s Arab Israeli minority, which complains of being treated as second-class citizens.

“‘Coexistence’ means that both sides exist,” said Tamer Nafar, a famous rapper from Lod. “But so far there is only one side — the Jewish side.”

The rocket attacks from Gaza are also quantitatively and qualitatively different from the last war in 2014. The more than 1,800 rockets Hamas and its allies have fired at Israel since Monday already represent a third of the total fired during the seven-week war in 2014.

Israeli intelligence has estimated that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian militant groups have about 30,000 rockets and mortar projectiles stashed in Gaza, indicating that despite the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the coastal territory, the militants have managed to amass a vast arsenal.

The rockets have also demonstrated a longer range than those fired in previous conflicts, reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

They have also proven more effective. In the 2014 war, they killed a total of six civilians inside Israel, the same number killed in the last three days.

Those casualties appeared to be product of Hamas’s new tactic of firing more than 100 missiles simultaneously, thwarting the American-financed Iron Dome missile-defense system, which Israeli officials say is 90 percent effective at intercepting rockets before they land inside Israel.

Gaza residents have no such protection against Israeli airstrikes, which crushed three multistory buildings in the strip after residents were warned to evacuate. Israeli officials said that the buildings housed Hamas operations and that they were striving to limit civilian casualties, but many Gaza residents viewed the Israeli attacks as a form of collective punishment.

Thursday was supposed to be a day of celebration for Palestinians as they marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a day when Muslims typically gather to pray, wear new clothes and share a family meal. In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of worshipers gathered at dawn outside the Aqsa Mosque, some waving Palestinian flags and a banner showing an image of Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas.

In Gaza, though, it was a somber day of funerals, fear and missile strikes. Some families buried their dead, others laid out prayer mats beside buildings recently destroyed in Israeli airstrikes, and still others came under attack from Israeli drones hovering overhead.

“Save me,” pleaded Maysoun al-Hatu, 58, after she was wounded in a missile strike outside her daughter’s house in Gaza, according to a witness. An ambulance arrived moments later, but it was too late. Ms. al-Hatu was dead.

American and Egyptian diplomats were heading to Israel to begin de-escalation talks. Egyptians mediators played a key role in ending the 2014 war in Gaza, but this time there is little optimism they can achieve a quick result.

Israeli military officials have said their mission is to stop the rockets from Gaza, and the military moved tanks and troops into place along the border with Gaza on Thursday in preparation for the ground invasion.

The decision to extend the campaign is ultimately political. Analysts said that a ground operation would likely incur high casualties.

But the political calculation grew more complicated on Thursday after the collapse of negotiations between opposition parties seeking to form a new government.

Naftali Bennett, an ultranationalist former settler leader who opposes Palestinian statehood, pulled out of the talks, citing the state of emergency in several Israeli cities.

His withdrawal increases the likelihood of Israel holding a general election later this summer — in what would be its fifth in just over two years. And the collapse of the talks appears to benefit Mr. Netanyahu, making it impossible for opposition parties to form an alliance large enough to oust him from office.

Mr. Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, is serving as caretaker prime minister until a new government can be formed.

On the Palestinian side, the indefinite postponement last month of elections by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, created a vacuum that Hamas is more than willing to fill.

Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Lod, Israel; Iyad Abuheweila from Gaza City; Patrick Kingsley, Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; Mona el-Naggar and Vivian Yee from Cairo; Megan Specia from London; and Steven Erlanger from Brussels.

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Instagram blocked posts about the Aqsa Mosque in a terrorism screening error.

Instagram removed some posts and restricted access to other content that used hashtags related to the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem after mistakenly associating the name with a terrorist organization, according to an internal company message.

The error, acknowledged by Facebook, which owns Instagram, added a new irritant to the crisis roiling Jerusalem and spreading elsewhere in Israel and the occupied territories. The crisis began over an Israeli police crackdown around the mosque, which is built atop a site holy to Muslims and Jews.

Facebook said in the message that while “Al-Aqsa” often refers to the mosque, “it is also unfortunately included in the names of several restricted organizations.” Although the company did not identify those groups, the State Department has designated the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as a foreign terrorist organization, and several other groups with “Al-Aqsa” in their names have had sanctions imposed on them by the United States.

As a result, the company said, some content related to the Aqsa Mosque was mistakenly removed or restricted.

BuzzFeed News, had fueled criticism that Instagram and other social media platforms were censoring Palestinian voices after a raid by the Israeli police on the mosque left hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers wounded.

Facebook’s internal message said the company was making changes to ensure that the term “Al-Aqsa” by itself does not prompt restrictions or removals.

“These mistakes are painful, erode the trust of our community and there is no easy fix for that,” the Facebook employee wrote. “While I cannot promise that future errors will not occur — I can promise that we are working earnestly to ensure that we are not censoring salient political and social voices in Jerusalem and around the world.”

Twitter, which had also been accused of unfairly blocking Palestinian content, said in a statement that it used a combination of technology and people to enforce its rules.

“In certain cases, our automated systems took enforcement action on a small number of accounts in error through an automated spam filter,” Twitter said in a statement. “We expeditiously reversed these actions to reinstate access to the affected accounts.”

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Israel Hits Gaza With Airstrikes as Hamas Increases Rocket Fire

ASHKELON, Israel — 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 militant groups had their own code name for their campaign: Sword of Jerusalem.

By early Tuesday morning, barely 12 hours after Hamas, the Islamist militant group that holds sway in Gaza, had launched a surprise volley of rockets toward Jerusalem, Israel had carried out at least 130 retaliatory airstrikes in the Palestinian coastal territory, according to an Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. Militant groups had fired at least 200 rockets into Israel, Colonel Conricus said.

Twenty-three Palestinians, including nine children, were killed in the airstrikes overnight and 107 others were wounded, according to health officials in Gaza.

speaking on public radio from his hospital bed a few hours later, said that the rocket had landed in his son’s bedroom and that the family had not had time to reach the safety of the stairwell. “Lucky he was not there,” he said of his son. “I found myself lying on the floor, not understanding what had happened.”

Sitting among the shattered glass in her son’s second-floor apartment, Maria Nagiv, 61, said she understood little about the events that had led to the attack.

“What happened in Jerusalem?” she asked as shards crunched beneath her feet. “I haven’t been following anything about that.”

She added: “All the world says that the Jews make trouble. But what have I done wrong? I didn’t do anything, and they still send us bombs.”

A few minutes later, the sirens sounded again, warning of another rocket nearby.

The Iron Dome, an Israeli antimissile defense system, successfully intercepts about 90 percent of rockets headed for populated areas, according to military officials. But the system failed on Tuesday morning in Ashkelon.

Most of the rockets fired out of Gaza during this round of fighting have been short-range projectiles, primarily aimed at civilian communities within a few miles of the border. Israeli schools within a 25-mile radius of Gaza were ordered closed on Tuesday.

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

Images from Gaza showed a corner apartment on an upper floor of a multistory building that had been destroyed. Raed al-Dahshan, a Gaza civil defense spokesman, said that the bodies of three people had been removed from the ruins of the building; health officials said that they were civilians. Neither the location nor the condition of the person said to be a battalion commander was immediately clear.

The military wing of Hamas, known as the Qassam Brigades, issued a statement after the strike on the building warning Israel that if it kept hitting civilian houses, “We will turn Ashkelon into hell.”

The barrage of rockets quickly followed.

Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Gaza City and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem.

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Why Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque Is an Arab-Israeli Fuse

The violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem this month reflect its significance as part of one of the most contested pieces of religious territory in the Holy Land.

Here are some basics on the mosque compound, from its importance over the centuries for three major religions to why it is such a flash point today.

World Heritage Site, meaning it is regarded as “being of outstanding international importance and therefore as deserving special protection.”

the Waqf, funded and controlled by Jordan, continued to administer the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, as it had done for decades, a special role reaffirmed in Israel’s 1994 peace treaty with Jordan.

Israeli security forces maintain a presence on the site and they coordinate with the Waqf. Jews and Christians are allowed to visit, but unlike Muslims, are prohibited from praying on the grounds under the status quo arrangement. (Jews pray just below the sacred plateau at the Western Wall, the remnants of a retaining wall that once surrounded the Temple Mount.)

Tensions over what critics call the arrangement’s discrimination against non-Muslims have periodically boiled over into violence.

Adding to the tensions is Israel’s annual celebration of Jerusalem Day, an official holiday to commemorate its capture of the entire city. The celebration, most recently held Monday, is a provocation for many Palestinians, including residents of the eastern part of Jerusalem. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state — a prospect that seems increasingly remote.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have said they do not intend to change the status quo.

But some Israeli religious groups have long pressed for the right to pray at the site. In April, Jordan’s Foreign Ministry formally complained about large numbers of Jewish visitors to the site, calling it a violation of the status quo.

eviction of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoodto make way for Israeli settlement construction.

The clashes have come as the Israeli government is in political limbo, after four indecisive elections over the past two years, and after President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority indefinitely postponed Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for later this month. It would have been the first such ballot since 2006.

Bitter recriminations and hardened attitudes have reverberated from all of the confrontations over the religious shrines in Jerusalem’s Old City, but some especially stand out as having helped shape Israeli policy.

including by the United States.

In 2000, a visit to the site to assert Jewish claims there, led by the right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon — then Israel’s opposition leader — was the catalyst for an explosive bout of Israeli-Palestinian violence that led to the Palestinian uprising known as the second Intifada.

In 2017, a crisis erupted after three Arab-Israeli citizens at the compound shot and killed two Israeli Druze police officers. That led the Israeli authorities to restrict access to the site and install metal detectors and cameras.

Arab outrage over those security measures led to more violence and tensions with Jordan that required American diplomatic mediation. The metal detectors were removed.

Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.

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A Ramadan Closer to Normal for 2021

CAIRO — Compared with Ramadan 2020, when mosques around the world were closed for prayer during the holiest month of the year for Muslims, and curfews prevented friends and family from gathering to break the fast, the religious holiday this year offered the promise of something much closer to normal.

“Last year, I felt depressed and I didn’t know how long the pandemic would last,” said Riyad Deis, a co-owner of a spice and dried-fruit shop in Jerusalem’s Old City. On Tuesday, the first day of the Muslim fasting month, its narrow alleys were alive with shoppers browsing Ramadan sweets and worshipers heading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Mr. Deis, 51, who was selling whole pieces of turmeric and Medjool dates to a customer, recalled how empty and subdued the Old City had felt last year as virus cases surged and the authorities closed Al-Aqsa to the public. “Now, I’m relaxed, I have enough money to provide for my family and people are purchasing goods from my shop,” he said. “It’s a totally different reality.”

rising coronavirus infections across many countries.

In Kenya, the authorities have introduced longer curfews, closed bars and schools, restricted gatherings at spaces of worship, and limited travel in and out of five counties including Nairobi, the capital.

For Nairobi residents like Ahmed Asmali, this means a prolonged inability to break the fast with loved ones or attend prayers with larger congregations.

“It’s the second year now that we are in a lockdown,” said Mr. Asmali, a 41-year-old public relations worker. The experience, he said “feels weird. Feels out of place.”

Lebanon Crisis Observatory, a project by the American University in Beirut.

The pandemic still shadows much of the festivities. Shop owners in Jerusalem’s Old City said they were worried that Israel would not allow large numbers of Palestinians from the West Bank, where few have been vaccinated, to visit the Old City this Ramadan, depriving the area of their holiday spending.

Prepandemic, Israel usually allowed tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank to visit Jerusalem on Fridays during the fasting month. The arm of the Israeli government that liaises with the Palestinian Authority said on Tuesday that Israel would allow 10,000 vaccinated Palestinians from the West Bank to pray at the Aqsa on Friday. It also said authorities would permit 5,000 vaccinated Palestinians from the West Bank to make family visits in Israel between Sunday and Thursday next week.

Omar Kiswani, the director of the Aqsa Mosque, said he was overjoyed that the compound was open to worshipers — an estimated 11,000 attended the taraweeh prayers at the compound Monday evening — but he emphasized that people would still need to be careful. He said masks and two meters’ distance between worshipers are required at the mosque, and the indoor and outdoor spaces will be sterilized daily.

“These are times of great happiness,” Mr. Kiswani said. “We hope the blessed Aqsa Mosque will return to its prepandemic glory. But these are also times of caution, because the virus is still out there.”

Vivian Yee reported from Cairo, and Adam Rasgon from Jerusalem. Asmaa al-Omar contributed reporting form Istanbul and Abdi Latif Dahir from Nairobi.

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