An eviction in East Jerusalem lies at the center of a conflict that led to war between Israel and Hamas. But for millions of Palestinians, the routine indignities of occupation are part of daily life.
By David M. Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon
JERUSALEM — Muhammad Sandouka built his home in the shadow of the Temple Mount before his second son, now 15, was born.
They demolished it together, after Israeli authorities decided that razing it would improve views of the Old City for tourists.
Mr. Sandouka, 42, a countertop installer, had been at work when an inspector confronted his wife with two options: Tear the house down, or the government would not only level it but also bill the Sandoukas $10,000 for its expenses.
Such is life for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation: always dreading the knock at the front door.
six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem set off a round of protests that helped ignite the latest war between Israel and Gaza. But to the roughly three million Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and has controlled through decades of failed peace talks, the story was exceptional only because it attracted an international spotlight.
For the most part, they endure the frights and indignities of the Israeli occupation in obscurity.
Even in supposedly quiet periods, when the world is not paying attention, Palestinians from all walks of life routinely experience exasperating impossibilities and petty humiliations, bureaucratic controls that force agonizing choices, and the fragility and cruelty of life under military rule, now in its second half-century.
Underneath that quiet, pressure builds.
If the eviction dispute in East Jerusalem struck a match, the occupation’s provocations ceaselessly pile up dry kindling. They are a constant and key driver of the conflict, giving Hamas an excuse to fire rockets or lone-wolf attackers grievances to channel into killings by knives or automobiles. And the provocations do not stop when the fighting ends.
Home on the Edge
No homeowner welcomes a visit from the code-enforcement officer. But it’s entirely different in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians find it nearly impossible to obtain building permits and most homes were built without them: The penalty is often demolition.
shot and killed a teenager who was wandering among the rock-throwers and spent tear-gas canisters.
Al Mughrayyir was one of the few villages still mounting regular Friday protests. They began after settlers cut off access to some of the villagers’ farmland. The boy’s death became a new rallying cry.
The army says it raids Palestinian homes at night because it is safer, and ransacks them to search for weapons, in routine crackdowns aimed at keeping militance in check.
But the raids also inspire militance.
Mr. Abu Alia seethed as he described seeing his son outside in the dark, “afraid, crying because of the soldiers, and I can do nothing to protect him.”
“It makes you want to take revenge, to defend yourself,” he went on. “But we have nothing to defend ourselves with.”
Stone-throwing must suffice, he said. “We can’t take an M-16 and go kill every settler. All we have are those stones. A bullet can kill you instantly. A little stone won’t do much. But at least I’m sending a message.”
Settlers send messages, too. They have cut down hundreds of Al Mughrayyir’s olive trees — vital sources of income and ties to the land — torched a mosque, vandalized cars. In 2019, one was accused of fatally shooting a villager in the back. The case remains open.
A Family Divided
For Majeda al-Rajaby the pain of occupation never goes away. It slices straight through her family.
A twice-divorced teacher, Ms. al-Rajaby, 45, is divided from her five children by the different ways Israel treats Palestinians depending on where they are from.
She grew up in the West Bank, in Hebron. But both her ex-husbands were Jerusalem residents, allowing them to travel anywhere an Israeli citizen may go. The children were entitled to the blue IDs of Jerusalem residents, too. Hers remained West Bank green.
Both her husbands lived in Shuafat refugee camp, a lawless slum inside the Jerusalem city limits but just outside Israel’s security barrier. West Bankers are not allowed to live there, but the rule is not enforced.
She had thought she was marrying up. Instead, she said her husbands “always made me feel inferior.”
After the second divorce, she was left on her own, with her green ID, to raise all five children with their blue IDs. The distinction could be life-threatening.
When a daughter accidentally inhaled housecleaning chemicals, Ms. al-Rajaby tried to race her to the closest hospital, in Jerusalem. Soldiers refused to let her in. As a teacher in Shuafat, she had a permit to enter Jerusalem, but only until 7 p.m. It was 8:00.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Her children are older now, but the distinction is just as keenly felt: Ms. al-Rajaby allows herself to be excluded from joyful moments and rites of passage so her children can enjoy advantages unavailable to her.
She stays behind on the Palestinian side of the security barrier while they head off to Jaffa or Haifa, or on shortcuts to Hebron through Jerusalem, a route forbidden to her. “West Banker,” they tease her, waving goodbye.
One daughter is 21 now and engaged and goes on jaunts into Israel with her fiancé’s mother. “I should be with them,” Ms. al-Rajaby said.
Last summer, Ms. al-Rajaby moved out of Shuafat to a safer neighborhood just outside the Jerusalem city limits, in the West Bank. That means her children could lose their blue IDs if Israel determined that their primary residence was with her.
“I’m not allowed to live there,” she said of Shuafat, “and my daughters are not allowed to live here.”
Constrained as she is, Ms. al-Rajaby wants even more for her children than freedom to move about Israel.
In 2006, her daughter Rana, then 7, was burned in a cooking accident. An Italian charity paid for treatment at a hospital in Padua. Mother and child stayed for three months.
The experience opened Ms. al-Rajaby’s eyes. She saw green parks, children in nice clothes, women driving cars.
“It was the moment of my liberation,” she said. “I started thinking: ‘Why do they have this? Why don’t we?’”
Today, she urges all her children to see the world, and holds out hope that they might emigrate.
“Why,” she asked, “should someone keep living under the mercy of people who have no mercy?”
Working for the Occupation
Try as they might to make their accommodations with Israel, Palestinians often find themselves caught in the occupation’s gears.
Majed Omar once earned a good living as a construction worker inside Israel. But in 2013, his younger brother was spotted crossing through a gap in Israel’s security barrier. A soldier shot him in the leg.
Mr. Omar, 45, was collateral damage. Israel revoked his work permit just in case he had ideas about taking revenge — something Israel says happens too often.
He sat unemployed for 14 months. When Israel reissued his permit, it only allowed him to work in the fast-growing West Bank settlements, where workers are paid half as much, searched each morning and supervised by armed guards all day.
Which is how he came to be the foreman on a crew that remodels Jewish homes and expands Israeli buildings on land the Palestinians have long demanded as part of their hoped-for state.
In a small way, it’s like digging his own grave, Mr. Omar said. “But we’re living in a time when everyone sees what’s wrong and still does it.”
Violence is often sudden and brief. But the nagging dread it instills can be just as debilitating.
Nael al-Azza, 40, is haunted by the Israeli checkpoint he must pass through while commuting between his home in Bethlehem and his job in Ramallah.
At home, he lives behind walls and cultivates a lush herb and vegetable garden in the backyard. But nothing protects him on his drive to work, not even his position as a manager in the Palestinian firefighting and ambulance service.
Recently, he said, a soldier at the checkpoint stopped him, told him to roll down his window, asked if he had a weapon. He said no. She opened his passenger door to take a look, then slammed it shut, hard.
He wanted to object. But he stopped himself, he said: Too many confrontations with soldiers end with Palestinians being shot.
“If I want to defend my property and my self-respect, there’s a price for that,” he said.
His commute is a 14-mile trip as the crow flies, but a 33-mile route, because Palestinians are diverted in a wide loop around Jerusalem along a tortuous two-lane road of steep switchbacks. Even so, it ought to take less an hour — but often takes two or three, because of the checkpoint.
The Israelis consider the checkpoint essential to search for fleeing attackers or illegal weapons or to cut the West Bank in two in case of unrest. Palestinians call it a choke point that can be shut off on a soldier’s whim. It is also a friction point, motorists and soldiers each imagining themselves as the other’s target.
Idling and inching along, Mr. al-Azza compared traffic to blood flow. Searching one car can mean an hour’s delay. The soldiers are so young, he said, “They don’t feel the weight of stopping 5,000 cars.”
He thinks only of those delayed. “When they impede your movement and cause you to fail at your job, you feel like you’ve lost your value and meaning,” he said.
A few nights each week, delays force him to sleep at work and settle for video calls with his three children.
On weekend outings, the checkpoint takes a different toll on his family.
“I try to keep my kids from speaking about the conflict,” he said. “But they see and experience things I have no answer for. When we’re driving, we turn the music on. But when we reach the checkpoint, I turn it off. I don’t know why. I’ll see them in the mirror: All of a sudden, they sit upright and look anxious — until we cross and I turn the music back on.”
Deadly scenarios constantly play out in Mr. al-Azza’s head: What if a tire blew out or his engine stalled? What if a young soldier, trained to respond instantly, misconstrued it as a threat?
“It’s not possible to put it out of mind,” he said. “When you’re hungry, you think about food.”
In the Bubble
No Palestinian is insulated from the occupation’s reach — not even in the well-to-do, privileged “bubble” of Ramallah, where Israeli soldiers are seldom seen.
Everyone Sondos Mleitat knows bears the scars of some trauma. Her own: Hiding with her little brother, then 5, when Israeli tanks rolled into Nablus, where she was raised.
In the dark, she said, he pulled all his eyelashes out, one by one.
Today, Ms. Mleitat, 30, runs a website connecting Palestinians with psychotherapists.
Instead of reckoning with their lingering wounds, she said, people seek safety in social conformity, in religion, in the approval gleaned from Facebook and Instagram likes. But all of those, she said, only reinforce the occupation’s suffocating effects.
“This is all about control,” she said. “People are going through a type of taming or domestication. They just surrender to it and feel they can’t change anything.”
After her uncle was killed by Israeli soldiers at a protest, she said, his younger brother was pushed into marriage at 18 “to protect him from going down the same path.”
But a nation of people who reach adulthood thinking only about settling down, she said, is not a nation that will achieve independence.
“They think they’re getting out of this bubble, but they’re not,” she said.
Mr. Sandouka earns about $1,800 in a good month. He hoped the lawyer could quash the demolition order. “I thought they would just give us a fine,” he said.
Then he got another panicked call from home: “The police were there, making my family cry.”
Khalas, he said, enough. He would tear it down himself.
Early on a Monday, his sons took turns with a borrowed jackhammer. They almost seemed to be having fun, like wrecking a sand castle.
Finished, their moods darkened. “It’s like we’re lighting ourselves on fire,” said Mousa, 15.
“They want the land,” said Muataz, 22. “They want all of us to leave Jerusalem.”
In 2020, 119 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem were demolished, 79 of them by their owners.
When all was rubble, Mr. Sandouka lit a cigarette and held it with three beefy fingers as it burned. His pants filthy with the dust of his family’s life together, he climbed atop the debris, sent photos to the police and contemplated his options.
Moving to the West Bank, and sacrificing Jerusalem residency, was unthinkable. Moving elsewhere in Jerusalem was unaffordable.
A friend offered a couple of spare rooms as a temporary refuge. Mr. Sandouka’s wife demanded permanency.
“She told me if I don’t buy her a home, that’s it — everyone can go their separate ways,” he said.
He turned his eyes uphill toward the Old City.
“These people work little by little,” he said. “It’s like a lion that eats one, and then another. It eventually eats everything around it.”
“He has a Trumpian base he can rely on — traditional, conservative, nationalistic — and his perennial question to Israelis, even when he looks bankrupt, is: ‘Who else can do it?’”
Of course, Mr. Netanyahu did not win those repetitive elections, either. He is currently on trial on corruption charges, including bribery. Political survival has become personal, his most effective means of slowing or even stopping the criminal process by somehow persuading allies to grant him immunity. He was unable to form a government after the March elections, leaving him as a caretaker prime minister with diminished legitimacy.
It is unclear, against this backdrop, what role, if any, the prime minister had in the Israeli police raids on Al Aqsa Mosque, the closing of a plaza popular with Palestinians near the Damascus Gate and the plight of six Palestinian families facing eviction in East Jerusalem — the sparks that, in the midst of Ramadan, led to the conflagration.
But it is clear that the ensuing battle benefited him politically.
“Violence returns every few years because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank,” Ayman Odeh, the head of the joint list of Arab parties in the Knesset, said in an interview. “But the concrete reason this time is that Mr. Netanyahu is willing to burn everything to stay in power. He managed the situation in a way that led to an escalation for his benefit.”
The government insists Mr. Netanyahu did all he could to calm the situation, but finds itself confronted by an implacable enemy.
“When we create collateral damage, something we do our utmost to avoid, we feel guilty and sad,” Tzachi Hanegbi, the minister of community affairs, said in an interview. “We don’t want children killed in Gaza or elsewhere. The Hamas vision is to shoot at civilians and kill as many as possible.”
The deaths in Gaza of more than 60 children have prompted growing international outrage, including within President Biden’s Democratic Party. But Mr. Netanyahu has ridden out such surges of indignation before.
Some people have been hurt or killed in a burst of unrest in mixed-population cities in Israel, including in Lod, where two people died. And in the occupied West Bank, at least 10 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces over the weekend.
How did the current conflict start?
The conflict erupted a week ago, on May 10, when weeks of simmering tensions in Jerusalem among Palestinian protesters, the police and right-wing Israelis escalated, against the backdrop of a longstanding battle for control of a city sacred to Jews, Arabs and Christians.
The root of the latest violence is an intense dispute over East Jerusalem, which is predominantly Palestinian. Protests had gone on for days ahead of a Supreme Court ruling, originally expected on May 10 but then postponed, on the eviction of several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem. Israeli officials described it as a dispute over real estate. Many Arabs called it part of a wider Israeli campaign to force Palestinians out of the city, describing it as ethnic cleansing.
The protests sharply intensified after Israeli police prevented Palestinians from gathering near one of the Old City’s ancient gates, as they have customarily done during the holy month of Ramadan. The police responded on May 10 by raiding the Aqsa Mosque compound, one of Islam’s holiest sites, to keep Palestinian protesters from throwing stones, they said. Hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers were wounded in the skirmish.
Militants in Gaza then began firing rockets in Jerusalem’s direction, to which Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza. Barrages by both sides intensified through the week, as did casualties — though Gazans have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths.
What kind of arsenal does Hamas have?
Despite Israel’s surveillance capability and overwhelming military firepower next door, Palestinian militants in Gaza have managed to amass a large arsenal of rockets with enhanced range in the 16 years since Israel vacated the coastal enclave, which it had occupied after the 1967 war.
Hamas, with help from allies outside Gaza — including Iran, according to Israeli and Hamas officials — has parlayed that arsenal into an increasingly lethal threat. Since the conflict erupted last week, Hamas has launched more than 3,000 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns. The intensity of the barrages has put the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, among others, under greater threat than in previous conflicts.
The American ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a statement posted on Twitter after the meeting was announced that “the U.S. will continue to actively engage in diplomacy at the highest levels to try to de-escalate tensions.”
Security Council meetings on the Israeli-Palestinian issue have often ended inconclusively and served mainly as a platform for supporters of both sides to air their grievances. But they have also demonstrated the widespread view among United Nations members that Israel’s actions as an occupying power are illegal and that its use of deadly force is disproportionately harsh.
Briefing the Security Council last week in a closed session, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, described the latest violence as “the most serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in years.”
Israeli warplanes stepped up their attacks on Sunday morning, launching multiple strikes at a main thoroughfare leading to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, leaving residents trapped under the rubble and killing at least 26 people, including eight children, according to local media reports.
The Israeli Army said that a separate strike destroyed the home of Yehya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, although it was unclear whether he was there.
Sirens wailed early Sunday in Israeli border towns as Hamas rockets were launched into the area, although there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The prominent 12-story building in Gaza City that was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday not only housed the offices of media organizations including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera.
It also offered a vantage point for the world on Gaza, as A.P. cameras positioned on the roof terrace captured Israeli bombardments and Palestinian militants’ rocket attacks during periodic flare-ups in fighting — including over the past week.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what transpired today,” the A.P.’s president, Gary Pruitt, said in a statement following the Israeli attack.
The leveling of the al-Jalaa tower, which occurred as fighting between Israelis and Palestinians spiraled on several fronts, drew condemnations from across the world. The Israel Defense Forces said that its fighter jets struck the tower because it also contained military assets belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.
Mr. Pruitt called on the I.D.F. to present evidence to support its allegation, adding that the news agency had operated from the building for 15 years.
“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” he said. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”
On Sunday, the I.D.F. tweeted that the building was “an important base of operations” for Hamas military intelligence, where it “gathered intel for attacks against Israel, manufactured weapons & positioned equipment to hamper I.D.F. operations.”
The I.D.F. — which frequently accuses Hamas of using civilians as shields — provided advance warning to civilians in the building to allow evacuation. The A.P. reported that the owner of the building, Jawad Mahdi, was “told he had an hour to make sure everyone has left the building.”
In the minutes before the airstrike, Mr. Mahdi was filmed desperately pleading with the Israeli Army, asking them to allow four journalists who had been filming an interview — with the father of four children slain in an Israeli strike on a refugee camp on Saturday morning — an extra 10 minutes to retrieve their belongings.
An Israeli soldier told him: “There will be no 10 minutes.”
Minutes later, the building was destroyed, engulfed in a plume of black smoke.
The A.P. said that it “narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” and that a dozen journalists and freelancers inside the building evacuated before the strike. The building also housed apartments on the lower floors.
Press freedom groups said that the strike — coming a day after the Israeli Army erroneously told foreign media that ground troops had entered Gaza — raised concerns that Israel was interfering with independent reporting on the conflict. In a statement, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists questioned whether the I.D.F. was “deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”
A White House spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, tweeted that the United States had “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he was “deeply disturbed” by the strike and warned that “indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures” would violate international law.
After the strike, journalists from other news organizations gathered near the rubble. Heba Akila, an Al Jazeera journalist who had been broadcasting from the tower when the warning call was made, said: “This is clearly to silence the truth and the voices of journalists.”
As the worst violence in years rages between the Israeli military and Hamas, each night the sky is lit up by a barrage of missiles streaking across the sky and the projectiles designed to counter them.
It is a display of fire and thunder that has been described as both remarkable and horrifying.
The images of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system attempting to shoot down missiles fired by militants in Gaza have been among the most widely shared online, even as the toll wrought by the violence only becomes clear in the light of the next day’s dawn.
“The number of Israelis killed and wounded would be far higher if it had not been for the Iron Dome system, which has been a lifesaver as it always is,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said this week.
The Iron Dome became operational in 2011 and got its biggest first test over eight days in November 2014, when Gaza militants fired some 1,500 rockets aimed at Isreal.
While Israeli officials claimed a success rate of up to 90 percent during that conflict, outside experts were skeptical.
The systems’s interceptors — just 6 inches wide and 10 feet long — rely on miniature sensors and computerized brains to zero in on short-range rockets. Israel’s larger interceptors — the Patriot and Arrow systems — can fly longer distances to go after bigger threats.
The Iron Dome was recently upgraded, but the details of the changes were not made public.
In the current conflict, militants in the Gaza Strip have fired nearly 3,000 missiles, the Israeli Air Force said on Sunday, noting that about 1,150 of them had been intercepted.
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas stretched into its seventh day, pro-Palestinian demonstrations were held in cities around the world, even as leaders across Europe expressed concern about a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.
On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators in Washington marched 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 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.”
In London, a pro-Palestinian march on Saturday attracted thousands of protesters, and similar demonstrations were held in cities around the world.
At the same time, there was growing concern about a rise in attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions.
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.
This past week, German protesters attacked synagogues, burned Israeli flags and marched through the streets chanting slurs against Jews.
Felix Klein, a German official tasked with countering anti-Semitism, said: “It is appalling how obviously Jews in Germany are being held responsible here for actions of the Israeli government in which they are completely uninvolved.”
Britain experienced a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the past week, a charity said on Saturday.
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.
A new round of deadly violence erupted in the Middle East over the past week, as Israeli airstrikes hit targets in Gaza and the militant group Hamas launched rockets at cities inside Israel.
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.
KABUL, Afghanistan — On Saturday, the final day of a three-day national cease-fire for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day Muslim celebration marking the end of fasting after the holy month of Ramadan, the killings in Afghanistan kept coming.
A Kabul traffic policeman was murdered Saturday morning, a day after a bombing at a Kabul mosque during Friday prayers killed 12 civilians, including the imam. A roadside bomb in Kandahar killed five civilians Thursday, among them three children. An explosion outside a shop in Kunduz that day killed two civilians, including a child.
But in this country, those scattered attacks represented a respite of sorts from the much more frequent and deadlier ones that have dominated for most of the year. Afghans took advantage, braving perilous city streets and provincial roadways to visit family members for sumptuous Eid al-Fitr feasts and celebrations.
This was the fourth such cease-fire since 2018, but the first with American and NATO troops withdrawing after two decades of war, leaving Afghans facing an ever more uncertain and unsettled future. The cease-fire came at a time of high anxiety, with terrified Afghans continuing to flee the country and Western embassies warning their own citizens to leave, too.
provincial director of an Afghan human rights commission was waylaid on the same highway and shot to death.
When Ms. Matin and her family approached the same area, Jalrez — known locally as “Death Valley” — she said she instructed her nephews, age 4 and 7, to stay absolutely quiet. The car radio was turned off.
“Everyone was silent — no one even breathed,” she said. She described Taliban gunmen on the roadside, “with their guns, long hair and eye makeup, they were everywhere.” But their car was allowed to pass in deference to the cease-fire, she said.
Mohammad Damishyar, a schoolteacher who lives in Bamian, rebuffed warnings from relatives to stay off the roads, even during the cease-fire. On Thursday, the first day of the cease-fire, he rode in a crowded taxi on a daylong drive through Taliban-controlled areas to celebrate Eid with relatives in Baghlan Province in northern Afghanistan.
data compiled by The New York Times.
30,000 Taliban fighters were permitted to wander through government-controlled cities, embracing soldiers and police, visiting tourist spots and eating ice cream.
In announcing this year’s cease-fire on May 9, the Taliban expressly forbade such encounters.
“The Mujahedeen must not visit enemy areas nor permit entrance of enemy personnel into Mujahedeen controlled areas,” the Taliban statement said.
The Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani said its forces would comply with the cease-fire but reserved the right to defend against any enemy attack.
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.
An Israeli airstrike that hit a house in a Gaza refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians from the same extended family overnight, several of them children, according to witnesses. A 5-month-old infant was pulled from the rubble alive.
Palestinian officials 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 three 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.
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.
BRUSSELS — The Arab world is unified in condemning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and the way the Israeli police invaded Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Governments have spoken out, protests have taken place, social media is aflame.
But by and large the condemnation is only words, not actions — at least so far. The region’s concerns have shifted since the last major Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2014, with new fears about Iran’s influence, new anxieties about popular unrest in Arab countries and a growing recognition of the reality of Israel in the Arab world.
Even those countries that normalized relations with Israel last year — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — have all openly criticized Israeli policies and called for support of the Palestinians and the defense of Jerusalem. The escalation of violence has put a great strain on those governments, which had argued that their closer relationship with Israel would help restrain Israeli actions aimed at the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza.
“I have not seen any Arab state that has not expressed support for the Palestinians on a rhetorical level, and it would be very difficult for them to say anything otherwise,’’ said H.A. Hellyer, a scholar of Middle East politics at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington. “But what they do about it is very different.’’
Aqsa Mosque struck a chord, said Khaled Elgindy, director of the Palestine program at the Middle East Institute. Gaza is one thing, but “Jerusalem is important for the Arab League and for clear stakeholders, like the Jordanians and the Saudis,’’ who are the guardians of the holy places of Islam, he said.
Israeli police raid of the Aqsa Mosque on Monday — which left hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers wounded — was “a no-brainer for them given the sensitivity of Al Aqsa and the violence shown to worshipers on the holiest night of Ramadan in one of Islam’s holiest sites,’’ said Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and a visiting fellow at Carnegie.
expel Palestinian families from Sheik Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, resonated with Palestinians in exile both abroad and in Israel. “There is not a single Palestinian who doesn’t know what it means to have their home taken or threatened to be taken,’’ Ms. Hassan said.
Hamas had been vowing for weeks that it would defend Jerusalem, and after those events in the city at the start of this week, it acted on its threats, firing a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem and drawing Israeli airstrikes in return.
Egypt and Jordan, which have long had diplomatic relations with Israel, are deeply engaged in trying to de-escalate the conflict, but they must also be wary of public anger, which would only worsen if Israel were to launch a full-scale ground war against Hamas in Gaza.
Ismail Haniya, and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, while sending security officials to try to mediate between Israel and Hamas, has himself said little about current events.
However, his foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, told Arab colleagues at an urgent Arab League meeting that “the way that Arabs — on the popular and official levels — are intent on following what is happening in Jerusalem is the greatest message that affirms Palestine has been and will always be the central Arab cause.”
The Arab League is also pressing for an emergency debate in the U.N. Security Council, which the United States put off until at least Sunday. The Arab League needs to keep in front of the debate on Jerusalem, the analysts agree, and not cede the field to Hamas.
“This time the struggle is not only about Gaza but about Jerusalem and Al Aqsa and Muslims are committed to their defense,’’ Mr. Winter said. “Hamas has done a good job in its messaging strategy, and Arab countries must deal with this interpretation.’’
Egypt’s government is also worried, as are many in Israel, that destroying Hamas might open the door to even more radical actors in Gaza. But Egypt and other Arab countries, even if they repress internal protests and dissent, must align themselves in some fashion with public opinion, even if they fear that protests against Israel might quickly turn into protests against themselves.
For the Arab countries that recently recognized Israel, the confrontation is an embarrassment and a dilemma because it tests their influence, or lack of it, on Israel, analysts said.
The diplomatic recognitions were “supposed to give them leverage, and one of their arguments was that Israel won’t want to disrupt these new relations with the Arab world and so will hold back on things like settlements and Gaza,’’ said Mr. Elgindy of the Middle East Institute.
In fact, he said, “I believe the opposite — the Israelis now have more cover.’’
While these countries are unlikely to sever their new ties with Israel because of the economic and technological benefits, it will be more difficult for Morocco and Sudan, where there are more open displays of public opinion.
Qatar and Turkey are among the most prominent defenders of Hamas. Qatar owns the powerful Al Jazeera network, which is giving full coverage to the Palestinian and Hamas side of the story.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has long been a fervent critic of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, especially in Gaza. On Friday, in predictably harsh terms, he vowed that Turkey would not stay silent and accept the persecution of Palestinians.
“By attacking the sacred site of all three religions, the terrorist state of Israel has crossed all boundaries,” Mr. Erdogan said, addressing his ruling party. “If we don’t stop the attacks now, everyone will become targets of this savage mentality.”
Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Carlotta Gall from Istanbul, Rana Sweis from Amman, Jordan, and Nada Rashwan from Cairo.
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.