NEW DELHI — The mob rampaged for days, burning homes, breaking into temples and clashing with police, leaving several dead.
The victims were minority Hindus living in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim nation grappling with increasing extremism, and the violence drew an outcry from politicians in neighboring India. As the region’s traditional center of gravity, India has a history of promoting tolerance. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also positioned himself as the champion of Hindus against a history of victimhood.
But the erosion of human rights in India has weakened its moral high ground in a region where ethnic and sectarian tensions are worsening. Sheikh Hasina — Bangladesh’s prime minister and a close ally, who had just sent Mr. Modi 71 red roses on his birthday — had pointed words for India, even as she promised to hunt the culprits.
“We expect that nothing happens there,” Ms. Hasina said, “which could influence any situation in Bangladesh affecting our Hindu community here.”
into a Hindu state. In marginalizing and maligning its minority Muslims at home, Mr. Modi’s government has weakened India’s traditional leadership role of encouraging harmony in a region of many fault lines.
The shift could also open opportunities for China, which has used the promise of investment and access to its hard-charging economy to cultivate stronger relations with its rival’s neighbors.
“The openly partisan approach to communal issues has created a very peculiar situation for us as far as that moral high ground in neighborhood policy is concerned,” said Yashwant Sinha, who was India’s foreign minister when Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was last in power in the early 2000s. “We can’t say ‘you stop it, this should not happen,’ because we ourselves are guilty of it.”
prosperity to the neighborhood.”
seen as discriminating against Muslims.
But such violence and the abuse of minorities is nothing new in South Asia, a region of deep ethnic and religious fault lines that is home to a quarter of the world’s population.
The traumatic partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, and the later war-driven split of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971, left sizable ethnic and religious minorities in each country. The domestic policies of one nation inevitably affect the population of another.
Hindutva politics, and they are trying to exploit it,” said Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, referring to the B.J.P.’s Hindu nationalist ideology. “And at the same time, the Hindutva politics of India is empowering the B.J.P.-type politics in Bangladesh.”
The violence last month in Bangladesh was set off by rumors that a Quran, the Muslim holy book, had been disrespected in a Hindu temple. Seven people have been killed, the police said.
That violence has further deepened sectarian tension in India. In recent weeks, a right-wing Hindu group has been organizing large protests in the Indian state of Tripura, just over the border from Bangladesh, against the anti-Hindu violence there. Police have had to deploy heavy security to protect mosques, after members of the group vandalized at least one mosque and burned shops. A group of lawyers and activists who went to Tripura to document the damage found themselves charged with violating a draconian antiterror law.
While some B.J.P. officials criticized the violence, Mr. Modi himself has been largely silent. In contrast to Pakistan, where tensions with India sometimes break out into open conflict, Mr. Modi has cultivated good relations with Bangladesh, and harsh words could sour diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Dhaka.
Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
some of the deadliest communal violence in India in 2002 in Gujarat, where Mr. Modi was the state’s chief minister. He said such violence did not affect India’s standing because the country’s prime minister at the time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, made clear that the episodes were both unacceptable and isolated.
These days, Mr. Sinha said: “The interlocutor can turn back and say ‘Why don’t you practice at home what you preach to us?’”
Saif Hasnat in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Zia ur-Rehman in Karachi, Pakistan, and Aanya Wipulasena in Colombo, Sri Lanka, contributed reporting.
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Aref Mohammad’s war against the Islamic State ended earlier this fall when his unit of Taliban fighters was ambushed by the terrorist group in eastern Afghanistan. A bullet shattered his femur, leaving him disabled and barely able to walk, never mind fight.
But for the Taliban movement he served under, now the government of Afghanistan, the war against the Islamic State was just beginning.
“If we knew where they were from, we would pursue them and destroy them,” Mr. Mohammed, 19, said from his hospital bed in Jalalabad, the capital of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province where the Islamic State has maintained a presence since 2015.
In the two months since the Taliban took control of the country, the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan — known as Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K — has stepped up attacks across the country, straining the new and untested government and raising alarm bells in the West about the potential resurgence of a group that could eventually pose an international threat.
Islamic State fighters carried out a coordinated attack with gunmen and at least one suicide bomber on an important military hospital in the capital, killing at least 25 people.
This has placed the Taliban in a precarious position: After spending 20 years fighting as an insurgency, the group finds itself wrestling with providing security and delivering on its hallmark commitment of law and order. This has proved especially challenging for the Taliban as they try to defend themselves and civilians in crowded cities against almost daily attacks with an army that was trained for rural guerrilla warfare.
once working together with the Americans and the former government to contain the terrorist group in the east — is on the diplomatic stage.
their origin story and their record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be. One spokesman told The Times that the group wanted to forget its past, but that there would be some restrictions.
In 2015, the Islamic State in Khorasan was officially established in Afghanistan’s east by former members of the Pakistani Taliban. The group’s ideology took hold partly because many villages there are inhabited by Salafi Muslims, the same branch of Sunni Islam as the Islamic State. A minority among the Taliban, who mostly follow the Hanafi school, Salafi fighters were eager to join the new terrorist group.
The draw of young fighters to the Islamic State is especially pronounced in Jalalabad, where Salafi mosques have sprung up in growing numbers in recent years, providing ample recruiting grounds for the terrorist group.
The Taliban have made a show of openness to the Salafists, accepting a pledge of allegiance from some Salafi clerics earlier this month. But there is still widespread unease within their community, especially in Jalalabad.
At one Salafi religious school in the city, the Taliban cracked down on the ideology by forcing the school’s founder to flee. They have allowed boys to continue their Quranic studies but have banned Salafist works from the curriculum.
For Faraidoon Momand, a former member of the Afghan government and a local power broker in Jalalabad, the worsening economic situation in the country is also driving the Islamic State’s recruitment.
“In every society if the economy is bad, people will do what they have to do to get by,” Mr. Momand said.
As dusk fell over Jalalabad on a recent day in October, a unit of Taliban fighters belonging to the intelligence agency rode through the streets in a modified Toyota pickup, a machine gun mounted in its bed, as the streets filled with commuters and evening shoppers.
The Talibs pulled up at key intersections and checkpoints, jumping out and assisting with the screening of cars and the ubiquitous yellow three-wheeled rickshaws that jostle and honk as they throng streets. They poked their heads in, shining flashlights inside, questioning passengers, and waved them on.
“We have a court for every criminal,” said Abdullah Ghorzang, a Taliban commander. “But there is no court for ISIS-K. They will be killed wherever they are arrested.”
Victor J. Blue reported from Jalalabad, Afghanistan; Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Doha, Qatar, and Christina Goldbaum from Kabul. Reporting was contributed by Eric Schmitt from Washington; Safiullah Padshah from Jalalabad; and Sami Sahak from Los Angeles.
With the daily bombardment by the Israeli military aimed at Hamas militants embedded in civilian neighborhoods at an end, at least for the moment as a fragile cease-fire held, residents across Gaza were able to assess for the first time on Friday the scale of the damage wrought by the latest round of conflict.
For tens of thousands, the first step was leaving the United Nations-run schools where at least 75,000 had sought shelter from Israeli airstrikes.
Some families emerged clutching bags and blankets, bound at last for the homes they hoped were still standing.
Others had none left to go back to.
Officials in Gaza said that about 1,000 residential units across the coastal strip had been destroyed and five residential towers brought to the ground, along with an as-yet-uncounted number of businesses.
The bombing also leveled three mosques in Gaza, damaged 17 hospitals and clinics and dozens of schools, wrecked its only Covid-19 testing laboratory, and cut off fresh water, electricity and sewer service to much of the enclave.
The Israeli aerial and artillery campaign killed more than 230 people in Gaza, many of them civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry. More than 4,000 rockets had been fired at Israel from Gaza since May 10, killing 12 people, mostly civilians.
The damage in Gaza is not only a personal disaster for thousands of people and a humanitarian concern for the territory’s two million residents, but also the fertile soil out of which the next military conflict could grow.
“It’s mind-boggling to me that anyone in Israel, or anywhere, thinks that having an impoverished, besieged, angry, young, traumatized, starved population in Gaza is somehow in anyone’s interest, or could in any way produce stability or safety for anyone,” said Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. “It just means it’ll happen all over again.”
On Friday, rescue work was underway. Workers digging in what appeared to be a destroyed Hamas tunnel found five bodies and pulled about 10 survivors from the rubble.
Gaza is blockaded by its two neighbors, Israel and Egypt, with Israel saying that it must tightly control access to prevent Hamas from gaining military capabilities and Egypt acquiescing for its own complex political and security reasons.
That means Gazans’ ability to import and export from the territory, get access to medical care outside it or fish off its coast is limited. Unemployment tops 50 percent. Almost no one can leave.
After the last war, in 2014, Israel and Hamas were scheduled to discuss easing the blockade in exchange for disarming Hamas, but little progress was made. The damage then was far more extensive.
GAZA CITY — As the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas took effect at 2 a.m. local time on Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered in the streets of Gaza City to celebrate what Hamas supporters were calling a defeat of the Israeli forces.
With the skies free from the threat of Israeli bombardment for the first time since May 10, loudspeakers at mosques blared “God is great,” a chant that is more often heard during Islamic holidays such as Eid. Voices on the speakers called on residents to come out “to celebrate the victory,” while some Hamas supporters passed out sweets and others toted weapons on their shoulders, occasionally firing into the air.
“I feel we won,” said Ibrahim Hamdan, 26, adding that barrages of rocket attacks by Hamas had forced Israel to accept the cease-fire.
“It’s the first time that the resistance has hurt the enemy,” he said.
Ibrahim al Najjar, a 26-year-old who joined the rally with two friends, said Hamas had achieved a milestone when its rockets reached Tel Aviv, the bustling Israeli coastal city that for the first time last week found itself in the militants’ firing line, with Israeli beachgoers forced to scurry to safety.
said they had been trying to kill, so far without success.
But the celebratory mood belied the devastation in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes killed more than 200 Palestinians, destroyed buildings, left huge swaths of the territory without electricity or water, and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. Some in the crowd questioned what the conflict had accomplished.
Ramadan Smama came out not to celebrate, he said, but to take in the destruction. The 53-year-old said that he admired the growing capabilities of Hamas’s arsenal of rockets, but said it was too soon to tell whether the fighting would improve life for the two million people of Gaza.
“I don’t see achievements,” he said, “but I hope there will be achievements.”
GAZA CITY — The nine-day battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli military has damaged 17 hospitals and clinics in Gaza, wrecked its only coronavirus test laboratory, sent fetid wastewater into its streets and broke water pipes serving at least 800,000 people, setting off a humanitarian crisis that is touching nearly every civilian in the crowded enclave of about two million people.
Sewage systems inside Gaza have been destroyed. A desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people in the territory is offline. Dozens of schools have been damaged or closed, forcing some 600,000 students to miss classes. Some 72,000 Gazans have been forced to flee their homes. And at least 213 Palestinians have been killed, including dozens of children.
The level of destruction and loss of life in Gaza has underlined the humanitarian challenge in the enclave, already suffering under the weight of an indefinite blockade by Israel and Egypt even before the latest conflict.
demonstrations began peacefully but led to clashes in some places in the West Bank Outside Ramallah, a group of Palestinians who had gathered separately from the protesters set fires on a major thoroughfare and later exchanged gunfire with Israeli soldiers, officials said. Three Palestinians were killed.
Rocket fire from Palestinian militants has also harmed Israeli infrastructure, damaging a gas pipeline and pausing operations at a gas rig and at two major Israeli airports.
But the damage was incomparable to that in Gaza.
Until Monday evening, Al Rimal health clinic in central Gaza City housed Gaza’s only coronavirus test laboratory. Doctors and nurses there administered hundreds of vaccinations, prescriptions and screenings a day to more than 3,000 patients.
But on Monday night an Israeli airstrike hit the street outside, sending shrapnel into the clinic, shattering windows, shredding doors, furniture and computers, caking rooms in debris and wrecking the virus lab.
adherence to the international laws of war, which bar the targeting of purely civilian sites and limit acceptable collateral damage to that which is proportionate to any military advantage.
according to a report last year by the United Nations, have left Gaza with “the world’s highest unemployment rate” and more than half of its population living below the poverty line.
By Monday, Israeli bombs had destroyed 132 residential buildings and rendered 316 housing units uninhabitable, according to Gaza’s Housing Ministry.
One airstrike essentially destroyed the Hala al Shawa clinic in northern Gaza which also provides primary health-care services and vaccinations, while another damaged four ambulances nearby, the Health Ministry said.
The blast from a third airstrike broke windows in operating rooms, forcing the clinic to transfer surgery patients to other hospitals, said Abdelsalam Sabah, the ministry’s hospitals director. A separate airstrike caused some structural damage to the nearby Indonesian hospital, he added. A piece of shrapnel flew into the emergency room at the Gaza Eye Hospital, nearly wounding a nurse, he said.
The strike on Al Rimal clinic in Gaza City also damaged the administrative offices of the Hamas-run Health Ministry, said Dr. Majdi Dhair, director of the ministry’s preventive medicine department.
One ministry employee was hospitalized and in serious condition after shrapnel struck him in the head, Dr. Dhair said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“This attack was barbaric,” he said. “There’s no way to justify it.”
Reporting was contributed by Patrick Kingsley and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; and Irit Pazner Garshowitz from Tzur Hadassah.
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.
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.
The worst violence between Israelis and Palestinians in seven years intensified on Saturday, as an Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent high-rise building in Gaza City that housed media outlets including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera.
The Israel Defense Forces said its fighter jets struck the media tower 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.
The attack followed an Israeli airstrike overnight that 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 attacks occurred after a senior American envoy, Hady Amr, arrived in Jerusalem to help broker a cease-fire. Mr. Amr, the United States deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, was scheduled to meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
American, Egyptian and Qatari attempted to negotiate a pause in fighting.
including a 5-year-old boy, and one soldier dead.
Power in Gaza was down to five hours a day in some places, and water came 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 crisis has pushed concerns about Israel’s political gridlock off the table and could benefit the shaky career of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while also giving momentum to Hamas.
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 asIsraeli 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.
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 Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
“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.