President Biden on Monday delivered a firmer message in private to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel than he has done in public, warning that he could put off growing pressure from the international community and from Congress to call on Israel to change its approach to Hamas for only so long, according to two people familiar with the call.
The private message hinted at a time limit on Mr. Biden’s ability to provide diplomatic cover for the actions of the Israeli government, as well as a new dynamic in American politics: the president presenting himself as a closer friend to Israel than it might find in Congress.
“We have a new dynamic with Congress playing the bad cop with Israel and asking the president to put a hold on an arms sales while the president plays the good cop,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official and the director of the Middle East Security program at the Center for a New American Security. “It may give President Biden more flexibility and leverage down the line with the Israelis.”
The tactic — private pressure, combined with the president’s public support for Israel’s right to defend itself — has come under fire from Democratic members of Congress and progressive Jewish groups.
“This combination of inadequate ‘quiet’ appeals for de-escalation, and otherwise nearly unquestioning public support for and tolerance of the Netanyahu government’s actions, is unhelpful,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J-Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group that has worked for years to shift the debate as a counterweight to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
But administration officials defended it on Tuesday as a product of Mr. Biden’s decades of foreign policy experience.
“He’s been doing this long enough to know that the best way to end an international conflict is typically not to debate it in public,” the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday.
She added: “Sometimes diplomacy needs to happen behind the scenes, it needs to be quiet and we don’t read out every component.”
Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu on Monday discussed Israel’s right to defend itself against “indiscriminate rocket attacks,” according to the White House’s public readout of the call. In the brief summary, the White House said that Mr. Biden “expressed his support for a cease-fire,” while stopping short of calling for one.
Monday’s phone call reflects Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu’s complicated 40-year relationship.
It began when Mr. Netanyahu was the deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and Mr. Biden was a young senator passionate about foreign affairs. Since then, they have rarely seen eye to eye, but have forged an occasionally close working relationship through seven American presidencies.
Today, that relationship is as complicated as ever. Mr. Biden’s juggling act on Israel, always a challenge for an American president, is especially difficult given that Democrats are no longer solidly in Israel’s corner.
Middle East experts and former U.S. officials say that many of Mr. Biden’s calculations are rooted in a different era of American-Israeli relations — when Israel’s security concerns commanded far more attention than Palestinian grievances — and that his approach has less to do with the military situation than with domestic politics and his broader foreign policy agenda.
For his part, Mr. Netanyahu is fighting for his political life at home while trying to sustain support in Washington. With Mr. Biden now in the Oval Office, the men are again trying to sustain mutual trust amid larger forces driving them apart.
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel downed tools for the day on Tuesday, as did workers across the occupied West Bank and in Gaza, protesting violence against Arab Israelis, the unfolding Israeli military campaign targeting Hamas militants in Gaza and the looming eviction of several families from their homes in East Jerusalem.
Streets were deserted in Arab areas across both Israel and the occupied territories, as shopkeepers shuttered stores along the waterfront in Jaffa, central Israel; the steep roads of Umm el-Fahm, an Arab town in northern Israel; and West Bank cities such as Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah.
Demonstrators gathered instead in central squares, waving Palestinian flags, listening to speeches and chanting against Israeli policies. 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, By nightfall, three Palestinians had been fatally shot and 72 injured, Palestinian officials said. Two Israeli soldiers were lightly injured, according to the Israeli Army.
Since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in 1948, they have been divided not only by geography, but also by lived experience.
They were scattered across Gaza, the West Bank, and the wider Middle East, as well as the state of Israel itself. Some struggled under differing forms of military occupation, while others were given Israeli citizenship — diluting their common identity.
But on Tuesday, millions of them came together in a general strike to protest their shared treatment by Israel, in what many Palestinians described as a rare show of political unity.
Mustafa Barghouti, an independent politician who attended a rally in central Ramallah on Tuesday morning, said the protests constituted “a very significant day.”
“It reflects how Palestinians now have a unified struggle against the same system of apartheid,” he added.
Israel fiercely rejects longstanding accusations of apartheid by Palestinians, a claim now taken up by a small but growing number of rights watchdogs, including Human Rights Watch last month.
Israeli officials say that the occupation of the West Bank is a temporary measure until a peace agreement is achieved. And the blockade of Gaza, they say, is a security measure to prevent Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza and opposes Israel’s existence, from acquiring weapons. They also highlight how Arab citizens of Israel have the right to vote and elect lawmakers, have representation in Israel’s Parliament, and often rise to become judges and senior civil servants.
Mark Regev, a senior adviser to the prime minister, told The Times last month: “To allege that Israeli policies are motivated by racism is both baseless and outrageous, and belittles the very real security threats posed by Palestinian terrorists to Israeli civilians.”
But many Palestinians on either side of the boundary between Israel and the occupied territories say that they are the victims of the same system of oppression — one that operates with varying degrees of intensity, and offers Arabs varying degrees of freedom, but ultimately seeks to assert Jewish supremacy wherever that system is in force.
“We’re one big family,” said Enass Tinah, a 46-year-old researcher at the Ramallah protest. “It’s the same suffering.”
Some did not participate in the strike — including health workers in northern Israel, who felt they had a moral need to keep on working, and the Arab residents of Abu Ghosh, a town west of Jerusalem known for its good relations between Arabs and Jews.
Other Palestinians simply saw the strike as an attempt to show solidarity with Gaza, and to strengthen calls for an independent Palestinian state.
But for some, the strike, and the unity it implied, was a sign of a new era for the Palestinian cause.
For Ms. Tinah, the old hope of an independent Palestine now seemed unlikely.
A single state for Palestinians and Jews, with equal rights for both, now felt a better goal to Ms. Tinah. “That’s where we’re moving,” she said. “One state with equal rights for all citizens.”
“I don’t know what that looks like,” she said. But, she added, “I think this is the new path.”
Fighting between Israel and Hamas extended into a ninth day on Tuesday but subtle signs emerged that the sides were privately edging toward a cease-fire, according to three people involved in the negotiations.
The indications came as a growing chorus of international parties called on Israel, Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to lay down their weapons.
For the first time, President Biden expressed support for a cease-fire on Monday, but he also reiterated that Israel had a right to defend itself, stopping short of publicly calling on Israel to change its approach.
A person working on the cease-fire talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations are politically delicate, said Egypt and the United Nations were working together to “restore calm.”
A senior Hamas official based in Qatar, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said Qatar was also involved in the effort.
A senior Israeli government official, who is privy to cease-fire talks and also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Israel was not ready for a cease-fire yet, but acknowledged that it might be soon.
Mr. Abu Marzouk said Hamas was ready for a cease-fire with Israel. But he said the Israeli government was demanding Hamas unilaterally halt its fire for two to three hours before Israel decides whether it will do the same — a position he described as “stubborn.”
“We agreed to an end to the war in a simultaneous and mutual way,” he said.
But he hinted that a new escalation was possible if Israel moved forward with the evictions of several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem or acted violently against Palestinians at the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, two issues that played a role in the buildup to the current fighting.
The Israeli official cautioned against what he called a premature cease-fire, contending that Hamas would take advantage of such an arrangement by regrouping and attacking Israel anew. The official said Israel was seeking what he described as a sustained period of peace and calm.
Until Monday evening, the Al-Rimal health clinic in central Gaza City was a key cog in the Palestinian health system. Its eight doctors and 200 nurses administered hundreds of vaccinations, prescriptions, and screenings a day. And Al-Rimal housed the only laboratory in Gaza that could process coronavirus tests.
But then, on Monday night, an Israeli airstrike hit the street outside, sending shrapnel into the clinic, shattering windows, shredding doors, furniture and computers — and wrecking Gaza’s only coronavirus test laboratory.
“During times of war people need more treatment than usual,” Mohammed Abu Samaan, a senior administrator at the clinic, said Tuesday. “Now we can’t give people medicine.”
The wreckage at Al-Rimal is one of the most striking examples of devastation wrought by the nine-day-old battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli military — creating a humanitarian catastrophe that is touching nearly every civilian living in Gaza, a coastal territory of about two million people.
Sewage systems have been destroyed, sending fetid wastewater into the streets of Gaza City. A critical desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people is offline, and water pipes serving at least 800,000 people have been damaged. Landfills are closed, with trash piling up. And dozens of schools have been either damaged or ordered to close, forcing some 600,000 students to miss classes on Monday.
Even before the loss of the coronavirus testing center, vaccine supplies headed to Gaza had been indefinitely delayed by the fighting, and only a tiny fraction of Gazans had been vaccinated.
“All of this is happening in a situation where we know in Gaza, the humanitarian situation even before this latest round of fighting was not good, to say the least,” Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the United Nations, told reporters on Tuesday at U.N. headquarters in New York. “Access to vaccines was very challenging. So, this only makes things worse.”An operation to move some emergency relief supplies into Gaza on Tuesday was suspended by what Israeli officials and senior aid workers said was Palestinian mortar fire near Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing into the territory. Only five fuel trucks from a 24-truck convoy of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which aids Palestinian refugees, made it through before traffic was halted because of mortar explosions.
“I recognize the efforts undertaken today to open Kerem Shalom crossing, allowing UNRWA fuel trucks to enter Gaza,” Mark Lowcock, the top United Nations humanitarian aid official, said in a statement. “Regrettably, other essential humanitarian cargo was unable to cross.”
He called upon “all parties to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need.”
The level of destruction and loss of human life have underlined the challenge in the Gaza Strip, already overpacked with people and suffering under the weight of an indefinite blockade by Israel and Egypt even before the latest conflict.
President Biden added his voice to the growing chorus of international leaders calling for a cease-fire on Monday night, but there was little indication that an end to the hostilities was near on Tuesday.
Militants in Gaza aimed a barrage of around 100 rockets at southern Israel overnight, adding to the more than 3,300 fired in just over a week. And the Israeli bombardment showed no signs of letting up, with the sound of explosions once again rocking Gaza before dawn.
General Hidai Zilberman, a military spokesman, who spoke to the Israeli network Army Radio, said there was no plan to suspend operations.
“We have a bank of targets that is full, and we want to continue and to create pressure on Hamas,” he said. “This morning, the chief of staff gave us the plans for the next 24 hours, the targets. We will hit anyone who belongs to Hamas, from the first to the last.”
Hamas said it would not stop its assault, accusing “the criminal Zionist enemy” of “bombing of homes and residential apartments.”
“We warn the enemy that if it did not stop that immediately, we would resume rocketing Tel Aviv,” the militant group’s spokesman Abu Ubaida said, according to Reuters.
While Hamas fighters move through an extensive series of tunnels under Gaza, and as Israeli warplanes drop bombs aimed at destroying that network, it is the people caught between who suffer the most calamitous losses.
Schools in southern Israel within range of the rocket fire have been closed and many families have left the border areas. The constant wailing of sirens warning of incoming rocket fire punctuate daily life, particularly in the south, sending Israelis repeatedly running to shelters.
At least 10 people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks, the Israeli authorities said.
The death toll in Gaza itself has surpassed 200, including at least 61 children, according to the health authorities in the territory.
And the sprawling humanitarian crisis in Gaza — documented by both United Nations agencies and the local authorities — is growing by the day, adding to pressure on political leaders to pause the hostilities so that relief can reach those in desperate need.
Palestinian activists across Israel took part in a general strike on Tuesday to protest Israel’s air campaign in Gaza and other measures targeting Palestinians.
Even before the current conflict, Gaza was facing an economic crisis and political crisis.
Hamas won elections in the territory in 2006 and took full control in 2007, after which Israel put a blockade on the region, citing the need to curb weapons smuggling. Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, also put in restrictions that tightly control the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory.
Since 2007, Hamas has engaged in three major conflicts with Israel and several smaller skirmishes. After each eruption of violence, Gaza’s infrastructure was left in shambles.
The result, according to a report last year by the United Nations, is that Gaza has “the world’s highest unemployment rate, and more than half of its population lives below the poverty line.”
The latest round of fighting has crippled that fragile infrastructure.
Six hospitals and eight clinics have suffered bomb damage, according to the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs office, limiting medical treatment available for many people living in the region.
By Monday, Israeli bombs had destroyed 132 residential buildings and damaged 316 housing units so badly that they were uninhabitable, according to Gaza’s housing ministry.
More than 40,000 people have been forced into shelters and thousands more have sought refuge with friends or relatives, according to the U.N. humanitarian affairs office.
“Until a cease-fire is reached, all parties must agree to a ‘humanitarian pause,’” the office said in a statement. “These measures would allow humanitarian agencies to carry out relief operations, and people to purchase food and water and seek medical care.”
Since Covid-19 first emerged in the blockaded Gaza Strip, a shortage of medical supplies has allowed authorities to administer only a relatively tiny number of coronavirus tests.
Now, the sole laboratory in Gaza that processes test results has become temporarily inoperable after an Israeli airstrike nearby on Monday, officials in Gaza said.
The strike, which targeted a separate building in Gaza City, sent shrapnel and debris flying across the street, damaging the lab and 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.”
The Israeli Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the strike. Since Israel began its bombing campaign in Gaza on May 10, the army has said that its airstrikes aim solely at militants and their infrastructure.
Dr. Dhair said that he believed the equipment inside the lab was unharmed but emphasized that it would take at least a day to clean up the damage and prepare it to process coronavirus tests again. In the meantime, he said, medical teams would stop administering tests.
Rami Abadla, the director of the Gaza ministry’s infection control department, said that the lab would also be temporarily unable to process results for other tests related to H.I.V., hepatitis C and other conditions.
Over the past week, the authorities in Gaza have tested an average of 515 Palestinians daily for the virus. Only 1.9 percent of Gaza’s two million people were fully vaccinated as of Monday, according to official data, compared with 56 percent in Israel.
After a surge in cases in April, blamed mostly on the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in Britain, new infections in Gaza had recently fallen to a manageable level, health experts said. But with Israeli airstrikes destroying buildings, causing widespread damage and leaving more than 200 people dead as of Monday, United Nations officials have warned that coronavirus cases could rise again.
Unvaccinated Palestinians were crowding into schools run by the United Nations relief agency in Gaza, turning them into de facto bomb shelters. Matthias Schmale, the U.N. agency’s director of operations, said last week that those schools “could turn into mass spreaders.”
Mr. Schmale and the top World Health Organization official in Gaza, Sacha Bootsma, also said that all vaccinations had stopped when hostilities broke out, and that any vaccine supplies headed to the territory had been delayed by the closure of Gaza’s border crossings.
Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, confronted President Biden on Tuesday over his support for Israel amid its bombing campaign against Hamas in Gaza, urging him to stop enabling a government she said was committing crimes against Palestinians, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the exchange.
During a conversation on a tarmac in Detroit, where Mr. Biden had arrived to visit a Ford factory near her congressional district, Ms. Tlaib echoed a scathing speech she delivered last week on the House floor, telling the president that he must do more to protect Palestinian lives and human rights, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe her remarks.
Her comments came as Israel has scaled up its bombing campaign in the past week. Among Democrats in Congress, attitudes toward Israel have grown more skeptical as the party base expresses concern about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and several high-profile progressive lawmakers including Ms. Tlaib have become increasingly vocal about criticizing Mr. Biden for his stance.
There was no immediate comment on the exchange from the White House.
Mr. Biden has expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, but he has not demanded one, and he has continued to assert that Israel has a right to defend itself.
Ms. Tlaib, who could be seen making her case to Mr. Biden as she greeted him at the steps of Air Force One, told the president that the status quo was only enabling more killing, and that his current policy of unconditional support for the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not working, the aide said.
Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, whose district is home to the Ford F-150 factory that Mr. Biden was visiting and who also greeted him on his arrival, later said the exchange on the tarmac was part of “an important dialogue.”
“It was a very compassionate, honest discussion,” she said in a brief interview. “But the president doesn’t deal with these kinds of issues in public, and he doesn’t negotiate in public.”
Mr. Biden shook Ms. Tlaib’s hand after the conversation, and later praised the congresswoman during his public remarks at the factory in Dearborn.
“I admire your intellect, I admire your passion and I admire your concern for so many other people,” said Mr. Biden, before referring to Ms. Tlaib’s grandmother, Muftia Tlaib, who lives in the West Bank. “From my heart, I pray that your grandmom and family are well. I promise you, I’ll do everything to see that they are.”
The United Nations Security Council held its fourth meeting in a week on Tuesday over efforts to devise a common statement condemning the deadly force used by Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, but failed to reach an agreement.
Ambassadors of the council’s 15 members, who were meeting privately, could not find ways to overcome objections from the United States, Israel’s most powerful ally, on the wording of a common statement.
Norway’s mission to the United Nations, which along with China and Tunisia had called for the meeting, said in a Twitter post that it would “continue to pursue UNSC action.”
Later in the day, President Emmanuel Macron of France announced that his country was working on a draft Security Council resolution that would call for a cease-fire and for humanitarian access to Gaza, where the Israeli bombardments have caused enormous destruction.
Mr. Macron said France was taking the step after his consultations with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan. It was unclear when the resolution might be put to a vote or whether the United States would be amenable.
Top United Nations officials have said the absence of a singular message from the Security Council demanding a halt to the fighting has not been helpful. “A strong unified voice, we believe, will carry weight,” the United Nations spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, told reporters on Tuesday.
Any statement from the Security Council requires all members to approve it. The United States has been the only holdout, irritating even some of America’s closest allies on the council as the deaths and devastation — overwhelmingly Palestinian — extended into a second week.
“Conflict is raging, resulting in utterly devastating humanitarian impact,” the ambassador of Ireland, Geraldine Byrne Nason, told the council, according to a statement released by Ireland’s U.N. mission. “The Security Council has yet to utter a single word publicly.”
She said “it is high time the Council steps up, breaks its silence and speaks out.”
The United States ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, did not issue any public remarks about the meeting. But U.N. diplomats who were present said she had reiterated American objections made over the previous three meetings.
“With regard to further Security Council action, we must assess if any given action or statement will advance prospects for ending the violence,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said, according to the diplomats. “We do not judge that a public pronouncement right now will help de-escalate.”
European Union foreign ministers, who also met on Tuesday to discuss the conflict, overwhelmingly called for a cease-fire. All 27 members except Hungary backed the demand. At the Security Council’s third meeting, on Sunday, the E.U. representative’s statement could not be made on behalf of member states because Hungary, strongly pro-Israel, objected.
Other European member states, such as Austria, Bulgaria and Romania, are similarly steadfast in supporting Israel, while countries like Belgium, Luxembourg and Sweden are more critical of Israeli military responses and expansion of settlements in occupied territory.
But President Biden’s call on Monday for a cease-fire, even without using the word “immediate,” is likely to be followed by other Western nations.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has previously defended American reluctance to join other Security Council members in a statement, arguing that it would not be helpful while intense but private diplomatic efforts are underway to persuade Israel and Hamas to stop fighting.
Diplomats from the United States, Egypt and Qatar, as well as the special U.N. coordinator for Middle East peace, have all been enmeshed in the efforts. The United States is prohibited from talking directly to Hamas, which is listed as a terrorist organization under American law, so Egypt and Qatar are acting as intermediaries for both Israel and the United States.
But neither Israel nor Hamas has shown any indication that they are ready for an immediate truce. At the same time, the Israeli military’s continual bombings and shelling in Gaza, which have killed at least 212 Palestinians there, according to the health authorities in the territory, have stunned much of the world, threatening to further isolate the Israelis and their American defenders.
The president of the United Nations General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, scheduled that body’s own meeting over the Israel-Hamas conflict on Thursday. While that meeting may have no practical impact on events on the ground, a majority of the 193 members of the United Nations are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and highly critical of Israel’s occupation of lands seized in the 1967 war. That gathering could therefore be the biggest stage yet for international condemnation of Israel’s actions.
In another sign of growing exasperation with Israel, King Abdullah of Jordan blamed the escalating violence on what he described as Israeli provocations. In a Twitter post on Monday from the royal Jordanian court, the king said that he had conveyed his view in a phone call with António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general.
King Abdullah’s statements carry weight because his country signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, and Jordan is the custodian of the religious site in Jerusalem that houses Al Aqsa, the mosque where tensions between Palestinians and Israelis played an early role in the latest upsurge of violence.
BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers overwhelmingly called for an immediate cease-fire to stop fighting between Israel and the Palestinians in an emergency meeting on Tuesday.
All of the member states except Hungary backed a statement that also condemns Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel, supports Israel’s right to self-defense but cautions that it “has to be done in a proportional manner and respecting international humanitarian law,” said the E.U.’s top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell Fontelles.
He said that the number of civilian casualties in Gaza, “including a high number of women and children,” was “unacceptable.” And he said that the European Union, as part of the quartet with the United States, Russia and the United Nations that seeks peace in the Middle East, would push to relaunch a serious diplomatic process.
“The priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a cease-fire,” Mr. Borrell said.
Foreign policy in the European Union works by unanimity, so Mr. Borrell’s comments were an effort, he said, “to reflect the overall agreement.”
In terms of impact, a few individual European nations tend to carry more weight with Israel. In general, European governments have been supportive of Israel and its right to self-defense against barrages of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians.
Still, as the fighting has gone on, key European countries are pressing for a quick cease-fire, including Germany, which is traditionally a strong backer of Israel.
On Monday, after speaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany “again sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert. “She reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against the attacks,” he said.
But given the many civilian lives lost “on both sides,” Mr. Seibert said, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”
On Tuesday, after Ms. Merkel had spoken with Jordan’s King Abdullah, “Both agreed that initiatives for a speedy cease-fire should be supported in order to create the conditions for the resumption of political negotiations,” Mr. Seibert said.
Before the E.U. meeting, the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said that “right now, ending the violence in the Middle East is the first priority. But we also need to talk about how to avoid such an escalation in the future.”
Mr. Maas added that the European Union “has a role to play here,” both in terms of political and humanitarian action. Germany has pledged 40 million euros for humanitarian aid for Gazans.
The Germans, like the British, have also seen a number of demonstrations against Israel’s military actions, a few of them openly anti-Semitic. France, the only permanent member of the United Nations Security Council from the E.U., has also pressed for a quick cease-fire.
On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron of France told a news conference that “there needs to be a process for a cease-fire as quickly as possible and construction of a possible path to discussions between the different protagonists.”
Mr. Macron said he was having discussions with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and the king of Jordan “to be able together to see how we make a concrete proposal.” It is “absolutely necessary” to end hostilities, he said.
As the seeming intractability of the latest Israel-Gaza conflict provoked concern around the world on Tuesday, the ninth day of fighting was marked by a worrying development: It spilled over into Southern Lebanon for the first time.
The Israeli military said it had launched artillery shells into Lebanon in response to Palestinian militants’ trying to fire rockets into Israel. Fears of the conflict spreading were offset by the fact that the Israeli Army said that it believed the rockets had come from a small Palestinian faction in Lebanon — and not from Hezbollah, the militant group sponsored by Iran.
Amid growing concern in foreign capitals over the violence — and among some of Israel’s staunchest defenders in Washington — the region’s heaviest clashes since a 2014 war threatened to escalate. The death toll in Gaza has already surpassed 200, including dozens of children. In Israel, at least 10 people have been killed in rocket attacks.
As the casualties mount, along with the suffering of those Palestinians and Israelis left behind, several attacks stand out as seminal moments in a conflict that has transformed with surprising velocity, polarizing Israeli society and spurring mob violence on both sides.
Here is what is driving the conflict, and its arc so far:
In the bombardment before dawn on Monday, the Israeli Army said that 54 warplanes used 110 rockets and bombs as they attacked around 35 targets for a period of 20 minutes. Much of the assault was aimed at a network of underground tunnels used by Hamas to move people and equipment. Israeli strategists refer to this strategy of targeting the tunnels as “mowing the grass.” Airstrikes also targeted the homes of Hamas’s military leaders, the Israeli military said.
An Israeli airstrike over the weekend at a refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians, including eight children. Mohammed al-Hadidi said that his wife and their sons Suhaib, 14; Yahya, 11; Abdelrahman, 8; and Wissam, 5, were killed, as were his wife’s brother’s four children and her sister-in-law. Only a 5-month-old baby boy, Omar, was pulled from the rubble alive. The attack magnified growing criticism against Israel’s military for the number of children killed in airstrikes on Gaza. Outrage has been fanned on social media where images of children’s bodies have circulated.
On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike destroyed the 12-story Jalaa tower in Gaza City that housed some of the world’s leading media organizations, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The destruction of the building drew global criticism that Israel was undermining press freedom. On Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces tweeted that the building was “an important base of operations” for Hamas military intelligence. But The A.P. said it had operated from the building for 15 years and had no indication that Hamas was installed there. There were no casualties.
A 5-year-old Israeli boy, Ido Avigal, was killed on Wednesday when a rocket fired from Gaza made a direct hit on the building next door to his aunt’s apartment, where he was visiting with his mother and older sister. He had been sheltering in a fortified safe room. More than 3,300 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza this week, the Israeli authorities have said.
The conflict began last Monday when weeks of simmering tensions in Jerusalem between Palestinian protesters, the police and right-wing Israelis escalated, against the backdrop of a longstanding local battle for control of a city sacred to Jews, Arabs and Christians. Among the main catalysts was a raid by the Israeli police on the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest sites, in which hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers were wounded. Militants in Gaza responded by lobbing rockets at Jerusalem, spurring Israel to respond with airstrikes.
The root of the latest escalation was intense disputes over East Jerusalem. The Israeli police prevented Palestinians from gathering near one of the city’s ancient gates during the holy month of Ramadan, as they had customarily. At the same time, Palestinians faced eviction by Jewish landlords from homes in East Jerusalem. Many Arabs called it part of a wider Israeli campaign to force Palestinians out of the city, describing it as ethnic cleansing.
Intense political struggles for leadership of Israel and the Palestinians are part of the backdrop for the fighting. After four inconclusive elections in Israel in two years, no one has been able to form a governing coalition. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges, has been able to remain in office, and hopes Israelis will rally around him in the crisis. In Palestinian elections that were recently postponed, Hamas hoped to take control of the Palestinian Authority, and has positioned itself as the defender of Jerusalem.
Anas Baba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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 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 Israel.
While Israeli officials claimed a success rate of up to 90 percent during that conflict, outside experts were skeptical.
The system’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.
It is being tested like never before, according to the Israeli military.
“I think it will not be a big mistake to say that even last night there were more missiles than all the missiles fired on Tel Aviv in 2014,” Major General Ori Gordin, commander of Israel’s home front, said during a news conference on Sunday. “Hamas’s attack is very intense in terms of pace of firing.”
Militants in the Gaza Strip have about 3,100 missiles, the Israeli Air Force said on Sunday, noting that about 1,150 of them had been intercepted.
“Despite the layers of defense, there is never 100 percent defense,” Gen. Gordin said. “Sometimes the aerial defense will miss or not be able to intercept, and sometimes people will not get into shelters or lay on the ground and sometimes a whole building will collapse.”
It used to be that when Palestinians were under fire, protests would follow in the streets of Arab cities. But solidarity with the Palestinians has shifted online and gone global, creating a virtual Arab street that has the potential to have a wider impact than the physical ones in the Middle East.
A profusion of pro-Palestinian voices, memes and videos on social media has bypassed traditional media and helped accomplish what decades of Arab protest, boycotts of Israel and regular spurts of violence had not: yanking the Palestinian cause, all but left for dead a few months ago, toward the mainstream.
As Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza stretches into a second week, the online protesters have linked arms with popular movements for minority rights such as Black Lives Matter, seeking to reclaim the narrative from the mainstream media and picking up support in Western countries that have reflexively supported Israel during past conflicts with Palestinians.
“It feels different this time, it definitely does,” said Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, 29, the Palestinian-Jordanian-American founder of MuslimGirl.com, whose posts on the topic have been ubiquitous over the past week. “I wasn’t expecting this to happen so quickly, and for the wave to shift this fast. You don’t see many people out on the streets in protest these days, but I would say that social media is the mass protest.”
Palestinian activists say that they aim to seize control of the narrative from media outlets that have suppressed their point of view and falsely equated Israel’s suffering with that of its occupied territories.
They refer to Israeli policies as “the colonization of Palestine,” describe its discrimination against Palestinians as apartheid and characterize the proposed eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, which helped set off the current conflict, as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing
As images of Sheikh Jarrah, destruction in Gaza and police raids on Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem have barreled from Palestinian online platforms — including PaliRoots and Eye on Palestine — across Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, they have united a new generation of Arab activists with progressive allies who might not have known where Gaza was two weeks ago.
President Biden’s urging of a halt to Israeli-Palestinian fighting followed calls from Democratic lawmakers for his administration to speak out firmly against the escalation of violence. But unlike during past clashes in the region — when most Democrats have called for peace without openly criticizing Israel’s actions — skepticism around Israel’s current campaign in Gaza has spread to even some of its strongest defenders in Congress.
They include Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who told Democrats on the panel on Monday that he would ask the Biden administration to delay a $735 million tranche of precision-guided weapons to Israel that had been approved before tensions in the Middle East boiled over.
Mr. Meeks is a fixture at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group. His call to delay the arms package came after a number of Democrats raised concerns about sending American-made weapons to Israel at a time when it has bombed civilians, as well as a building that housed press outlets.
A day earlier, 28 Democratic senators put out a letter publicly calling for a cease-fire. The effort was led by Senator Jon Ossoff, Democrat of Georgia and, at 34, the face of a younger generation of American Jews in Congress.
On Saturday, Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who is known as one of Israel’s most unshakable allies in the Democratic Party, issued a statement saying he was “deeply troubled” by Israeli strikes that had killed Palestinian civilians and the tower housing media outlets. He demanded that both sides “uphold the rules and laws of war” and find a peaceful end to fighting that has killed more than 200 Palestinians and 10 Israelis.
Though they have no intention of ending the United States’ close alliance with Israel, a growing number of Democrats in Washington say they are no longer willing to give the country a pass for its harsh treatment of the Palestinians. Those most vocal in their criticism of the Israeli government said they meant to send a message to Mr. Biden: that the old playbook he used as a senator and as vice president would no longer find the same support in his party.
“That hasn’t worked,” Representative Mark Pocan, a progressive Democrat from Wisconsin, told a top adviser to Mr. Biden late last week, he said in an interview on Monday. “We’re going to be advocating for peace in a way that maybe they haven’t traditionally heard.”
The strongest push is coming from the energized progressive wing of the party, whose representatives in the House, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have in recent days accused Israel of gross human rights violations against Palestinians.
Republicans and AIPAC have been swift to warn against any perceived weakening of the U.S. commitment to Israel. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader and a vocal supporter of Israel, condemned Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on Monday for her description of Israel as an “apartheid state” and urged the president to “leave no doubt where America stands.”
Our Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley, examined the events that have led to the past week’s violence, the worst between Israelis and Palestinians in years. A little-noticed police action in Jerusalem was among them. He writes:
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.
Here is his full account of that night and the events that later unfolded.