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Live Updates: Conflict’s Second Week Begins With Heavy Israeli Strikes in Gaza

Credit…Mahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Israeli warplanes unleashed a fierce air bombardment on Gaza City before dawn on Monday as Hamas militants in the coastal enclave continued to target towns in southern Israel with barrages of rockets, bringing the conflict into a second, grinding week of bloodshed and destruction.

Stepped-up diplomatic efforts led by the United States and a meeting of the United Nations Security Council over the weekend showed little sign of progress. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, speaking on Sunday, said the operation would “take time.”

“We’ll do whatever it takes to restore order and quiet,” Mr. Netanyahu said during a television appearance.

The overnight bombardment came after the deadliest day of the conflict, which included a strike in Gaza City that left three buildings flattened and killed at least 42 people.

The Israeli military said it had been targeting the warren of tunnels used by militants that runs beneath the city and that when the tunnels collapsed, the buildings came tumbling down as well.

Among the dead, yet again, were children. At least 10 in this location. In the past week, of the nearly 200 Palestinians who have died, nearly half have been women and children, sparking condemnation across the world and helping to fan protests, which have taken place in recent days from London to Baghdad to Berlin.

Regional conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians have periodically become conflated with tensions among Europe’s sometimes polarized communities, particularly in countries like France with large Muslim and Jewish communities. Concerns were growing that anger against Israel was boiling over into anti-Semitic violence.

But even under sustained military bombardment, Hamas militants based in Gaza continued to unleash a barrage of missiles into southern Israel — more than 3,100 since the start of the conflict a week ago, according to the Israeli military.

Many of the rockets were intercepted yet again by the Israeli defense system known as the Iron Dome.

Overnight Monday — like every night for the past week — two battles were waged: one in the skies above and another in the tunnels below Gaza.

Israeli experts often describe periodic campaigns as “mowing the grass,” with the aim of curbing rocket fire, destroying as much of the militant groups’ infrastructure as possible and restoring deterrence. Critics say the use of such terminology is dehumanizing to Palestinians and tends to minimize the toll on civilians as well as militants.

The Israeli army said 54 Israeli warplanes took part in the attack using 110 rockets and bombs as they attacked around 35 targets for a period of 20 minutes.

Much of the assault was directed at a network of underground tunnels used by Hamas to move people and equipment — a subterranean transit system that the Israel military refers to as “the metro.”

During the operation, the army said, a tunnel route around 50 feet long was destroyed. Warplanes also targeted the homes of Hamas’s military leaders, the Israeli military said. At least some of those strikes landed near a row of hotels in a built-up area of Gaza City, forcing some guests into a bomb shelter.

On Sunday evening, the general in charge of Israel’s Southern Command, Eliezer Toledano, told the public broadcaster Kan, “It is important we continue to exhaust the campaign that we have entered and deepen the damage being caused to Hamas.”

At least 11 Israeli residents had been killed by some of the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza, the region controlled by Hamas.

Representatives of the United States, Qatar, Egypt and other countries have been trying to broker a cease-fire. In comments to France 24, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt urged “a return to calm” and an end to the “violence” and “killing.”

So far, their efforts have not succeeded. “If it doesn’t want to stop, we won’t stop,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, told Al Jazeera.

Some American officials are urging Israel to halt its operations soon or risk losing ground in the international court of public opinion. Late on Sunday, Senator Jon Ossoff, a Democrat from Georgia, and 27 other senators called for an immediate cease-fire “to prevent further loss of life.”

Short of a lasting cease-fire, the Biden administration is trying to negotiate a humanitarian pause in the fighting to help Palestinians who have been forced from their homes in Gaza. Similar efforts in the past have been a key first step toward winding down hostilities.

Firefighters extinguish a fire at a building in Gaza City that was destroyed by Israeli strikes on Monday.
Credit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

As Israelis and Palestinians hunkered down for the second week of an increasingly stubborn conflict, a series of deadly flash points have galvanized both sides in a region where the human cost of war is all too familiar.

Before dawn on Monday, Israeli warplanes bombarded Gaza City, compounding the civilian suffering in the coastal enclave. At the same time, the rocket barrage by Hamas militants continued to take its toll on Israeli cities, including in Tel Aviv, the commercial center of the country, where the bubble of peacetime has been radically punctured.

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 like seldom before and spurring mob violence on both sides that has fanned fears of civil war.

Here are a few of the major flash points:

  • In the bombardment before dawn on Monday, the Israeli army said 54 Israeli 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 — a subterranean transit system that the Israel military refers to as “the metro.” Israeli strategists refer to this strategy of targeting the tunnels as “mowing the grass.” Warplanes 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 his wife and their sons Suhaib, 14, Yahya, 11, Abdelrahman, 8, and Wissam, 5, were killed, as were her 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 that have been killed in airstrikes on Gaza. Outrage has been fanned on social media where images of children’s bodies have circulated, along with the video of a wailing infant being comforted by his father.

  • On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a well-known 12-story building in Gaza City that housed some of the world’s leading media organizations including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The destruction of the al-Jalaa tower 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 operating there. There were no casualties.

Credit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times
  • 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. Nearly 3,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza this week.

  • 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. 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.

In the deadliest attack of the current conflict so far, Israeli airstrikes on buildings in Gaza City on Sunday killed at least 42 people, including 10 children, Palestinian officials said.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it had “struck an underground military structure belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization which was located under the road.” It added: “Hamas intentionally locates its terrorist infrastructure under civilian houses, exposing them to danger. The underground foundations collapsed, causing the civilian housing above them to collapse, causing unintended casualties.”

Israeli airstrikes and artillery barrages on Gaza, an impoverished and densely packed enclave of two million people, have killed at least 198 Palestinians, including 35 women and 58 children, between last Monday and Sunday evening, producing stark images of destruction that have reverberated around the world.

Searching for survivors on Sunday after an overnight air strike in Gaza City.
Credit…Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

Civilians are paying an especially high price in the latest bout of violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, raising urgent questions about how the laws of war apply to the conflagration: which military actions are legal, what war crimes are being committed and who, if anyone, will ever be held to account.

Both sides appear to be violating those laws, experts said: Hamas has fired nearly 3,000 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns, a clear war crime. And Israel, although it says it takes measures to avoid civilian casualties, has subjected Gaza to such an intense bombardment, killing families and flattening buildings, that it probably constitutes a disproportionate use of force — also a crime.

No legal adjudication is possible in the heat of battle. But Israeli airstrikes and artillery barrages on Gaza, an impoverished and densely packed enclave of two million people, killed at least 197 Palestinians, including 92 women and children, between last Monday and Sunday evening, according to Palestinian authorities, producing stark images of destruction that have reverberated around the world.

In the other direction, Hamas missiles have rained over Israeli towns and cities, sowing fear and killing at least ten people, including two children — a greater toll than during the last war, in 2014, which lasted more than seven weeks. The latest victim, a 55-year-old man, died on Saturday after missile shrapnel slammed through the door of his home in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.

With neither side apparently capable of outright victory, the conflict seems locked in an endless loop of bloodshed. So the focus on civilian casualties has become more intense than ever as a proxy for the moral high ground in a seemingly unwinnable war.

In one of the deadliest episodes of the week, an Israeli missile slammed into an apartment on Friday, killing eight children and two women as they celebrated a major Muslim holiday. Israel said a senior Hamas commander was the target.

Graphic video footage showed Palestinian medics stepping over rubble that included children’s toys and a Monopoly board game as they evacuated the bloodied victims from the pulverized building. The only survivor was an infant boy.

“They weren’t holding weapons, they weren’t firing rockets and they weren’t harming anyone,” said the boy’s father, Mohammed al-Hadidi, who was later seen on television holding his son’s small hand in a hospital.

Although Hamas fires unguided missiles at Israeli cities at a blistering rate, sometimes over 100 at once, the vast majority are either intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system or miss their targets, resulting in a relatively low death toll.

Israel sometimes warns Gaza residents to evacuate before an airstrike, and it says it has called off strikes to avoid civilian casualties. But its use of artillery and airstrikes to pound such a confined area, packed with poorly protected people, has led to a death toll 20 times as high as that caused by Hamas, and wounded 1,235 more.

Under international treaties and unwritten rules, combatants are supposed to take all reasonable precautions to limit any civilian damage. But applying those principles in a place like Gaza is a highly contentious affair.

A tunnel in 2018 that Israel said was dug by the Islamic Jihad group at the Israel-Gaza border.
Credit…Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

As the Israel Defense Forces strike Gaza with jets, drones and artillery, a key target has been a network of tunnels beneath the Palestinian-controlled territory that the militant Islamic group Hamas is known to use for deploying militants and smuggling weapons.

A spokesman for the Israeli military described the complex network as a “city beneath a city.”

The tunnels were also the main rationale that Israel gave for its ground invasion of Gaza in 2014. Israel’s leaders said afterward that they had destroyed 32 tunnels during that operation, including 14 that penetrated into Israeli territory.

At the time of that fighting, the Israel Defense Forces took reporters into a 6-foot-by-2-foot underground passage running almost two miles under the border to show the threat posed by the tunnels, and the difficulty that Israel has in finding and destroying them.

Here is an excerpt from what The New York Times reported then:

Tunnels from Gaza to Israel have had a powerful hold on the Israeli psyche since 2006, when Hamas militants used one to capture an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was held for five years before being released in a prisoner exchange.

The tunnels can be quite elaborate. The tunnel toured by journalists was reinforced with concrete and had a rack on the wall for electrical wiring. It also featured a metal track along the floor, used by carts that removed dirt during the tunnel’s construction, that could be used to ferry equipment and weapons, the Israeli military said.

Israeli officials acknowledge that it is a difficult technological and operational challenge to destroy all of the subterranean passageways and neutralize the threat they pose. The tunnels are well hidden, said the officer who conducted the tour, and some tunnels are booby-trapped.

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.”

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‘Fighting Must Stop’: U.N. Holds First Public Meeting on Gaza Conflict

The United Nations Security Council met to discuss the crisis in Gaza and Israel on Sunday but took no action, even as members decried the violence. Palestinian and Israeli diplomats spoke at the meeting.

We meet today amid the most serious escalation in Gaza and Israel in years. The current hostilities are utterly appalling. This latest round of violence only perpetuates the cycles of death, destruction and despair and pushes farther to the horizon any hopes of coexistence and peace. Fighting must stop. Remember that each time Israel hears a foreign leader speak of its right to defend itself, it is further emboldened to continue murdering entire families in their sleep. Israel is killing Palestinians in Gaza, one family at a time. Israel is trying to uproot Palestinians from Jerusalem, expelling families, one home, one neighborhood at a time. Israel is persecuting our people, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Some may not want to use these words — war crimes and crimes against humanity — but they know they are true. You can create false moral equivalence, immoral equivalence, between the actions of a democracy that sanctifies life and those of a terrorist organization that glorifies death, by calling for restraint, restraint on all sides, and failing to unequivocally condemn Hamas. If you make this choice, it will lead to the success of Hamas’s insidious strategy of firing at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians. It will lead to the deaths of more innocent Israelis and Palestinians. It will lead to the strengthening of Hamas, the weakening of the Palestinian Authority, and the undermining of the chances for a dialogue.

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The United Nations Security Council met to discuss the crisis in Gaza and Israel on Sunday but took no action, even as members decried the violence. Palestinian and Israeli diplomats spoke at the meeting.CreditCredit…Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

International pressure to bring an end to the raging conflict between Israel and Hamas militants has intensified, with the United States stepping up its diplomatic engagement and the United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the conflict in public for the first time. But the council took no action even as member after member decried the death and devastation.

Secretary-General António Guterres was the first of nearly two dozen speakers on the agenda of the meeting on Sunday, led by China, which holds the council’s rotating presidency for the month of May.

“This latest round of violence only perpetuates the cycles of death, destruction and despair, and pushes farther to the horizon any hopes of coexistence and peace,” Mr. Guterres said. “Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately.”

Palestinian and Israeli diplomats, who were also invited to speak, used the meeting as a high-profile forum to vent longstanding grievances, in effect talking past each other with no sign of any softening in an intractable conflict nearly as old as the United Nations itself.

Riyad al-Maliki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, implicitly rebuked the United States and other powers that have defended Israel’s right to protect itself from Hamas rocket attacks, asserting that such arguments makes Israel “further emboldened to continue to murder entire families in their sleep.”

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, who spoke after Mr. Maliki, rejected any attempt to portray the actions of Israel and Hamas as moral equivalents. “Israel uses missiles to protect its children,” Mr. Erdan said. “Hamas uses children to protect its missiles.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said President Biden had spoken with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had also been engaging with his counterparts in the region.

She called on Hamas to stop its rockets barrage against Israel, expressed concerns about inter-communal violence, warned against incitement on both sides and said the United States was “prepared to lend our support and good offices should the parties seek a cease-fire.”

While envoys from all of the council’s 15 members urged an immediate de-escalation, there was no indication of what next steps the council was prepared to take. Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador, told reporters after the meeting had adjourned that he was continuing to work with other members “to take prompt action and speak in one voice.”

Mr. Netanyahu of Israel vowed late Saturday to continue striking Gaza “until we reach our targets,” suggesting a prolonged assault on the coastal territory even as casualties rose on both sides.

Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

In separate calls on Saturday, Mr. Biden conferred with Mr. Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, about efforts to broker a cease-fire. While supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas militants, Mr. Biden urged Mr. Netanyahu to protect civilians and journalists.

Over the past week, the 15-member U.N. Security Council met privately at least twice to discuss ways of reducing tensions. But efforts to agree a statement or to hold an open meeting had faced resistance from the United States, Israel’s biggest defender on the council.

American officials said they wanted to give mediators sent to the region from the United States, Egypt and Qatar an opportunity to defuse the crisis.

But with violence worsening, a compromise was reached for a meeting on Sunday.

Security Council meetings on the Israeli-Palestinian issue have often ended inconclusively. 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.

The Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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.

A damaged building in Petah Tikva, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip.
Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

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.

The Daily Poster

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, Reignited

Rockets, airstrikes and mob violence: Why is this happening now, and how much worse could it get?

transcript

transcript

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, Reignited

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Austin Mitchell, Soraya Shockley, Robert Jimison, Annie Brown and Daniel Guillemette; edited by M.J. Davis Lin, with help from Phyllis Fletcher; music by Rachelle Bonja and Dan Powell; and engineered by Chris Wood.

Rockets, airstrikes and mob violence: Why is this happening now, and how much worse could it get?

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

[music]

Over the past few days, the deadliest violence in years has erupted between Israel and Palestinians—

speaker

Intense rocket fire from Gaza answered by Israeli air strikes, showing no sign of easing and—

michael barbaro

—punctuated by hundreds of missiles streaking back and forth between Gaza and cities across Israel.

speaker

Increasingly large numbers of casualties, including children, from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza—

michael barbaro

And now, on the streets of Israel, by shocking scenes of mob violence against both Arabs and Jews.

Today, I spoke with my colleague in Jerusalem, Isabel Kershner, about why it’s all happening and just how much worse it may get.

It’s Thursday, May 13th.

Isabel, I know there may not be a simple answer to this question. But what was the trigger for this eruption of violence in Jerusalem over the past few weeks?

isabel kershner

Well, one of the triggers for sure is actually a case of six Palestinian families who are facing a looming eviction by Jewish landlords from their houses that they’ve been living in since the 1950s in a very small quiet leafy neighborhood of East Jerusalem, not far from the old city.

speaker

In the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the tension has been growing for weeks. Several Palestinian families face eviction from their homes. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] We are in the right. We are still resisting. We are staying here even if they don’t want us.

isabel kershner

This is a case that’s been bubbling on for years and years.

speaker

We don’t understand why Arabs are here. I don’t want any problems. But this land is Jewish and belongs to us. We don’t believe anyone, not the courts or anyone else.

isabel kershner

The Israeli government has cast it as a small private real estate dispute. But it’s far from that.

So you’re talking about families who were displaced and made refugees during 1948, the war surrounding the creation of Israel. And they lost their homes in what became Israel. And they moved to that area of East Jerusalem when the Jordanians were in control. And the Jordanian government actually offered them an option in conjunction with the United Nations Refugee Agency at the time. They said, we’ll build some houses in this neighborhood, a few dozen houses. And you can come live in them. And we will register them for you. And in return, you should give up your refugee status. And the families actually agreed to that and moved into the houses. But at the end of the day, somehow the Jordanian government never actually finally registered them in their names.

So then, in 1967, the Middle East war breaks out. And Jordan loses control of the land of East Jerusalem and Israel takes control of it. Israel after the ‘67 war annexed that territory. But that move was never internationally recognized. And most of the world still considers it occupied territory. And although there was an agreement between the Jordanians and these Palestinian families over these homes, the land they sit on now gets to be controlled by Israel. And on top of that, although this is now a Palestinian populated area predominantly, the land was bought by a Jewish trust in the 19th Century. And then in the meantime, religious trusts have sold the rights to a real estate agency, people who want to move Jews back into that neighborhood. And there is nothing more in the Palestinian mindset, nothing more upsetting than the refugee issue. So it just took on much bigger proportions. It’s not just about renting or an eviction order or a few houses. It suddenly becomes a national issue.

michael barbaro

So this is pretty complicated. But to summarize, these refugee Palestinian families were given these homes in the 1950s and told that it would be their home for good. But that didn’t happen. It’s still the case that legally these homes belong to Jewish landlords. And now those Jewish landlords are saying to these Palestinian families, we want you out. And in part, they want them out because they want Jewish people to control these properties in East Jerusalem.

isabel kershner

That’s correct. And they’re able to do that based on a 1970s law which allows Jewish property owners to reclaim property in the East side of the city. But then, on the other side, the Palestinians do not have the same recourse to reclaim properties they left on the West side of the city or elsewhere in Israel. So this has created a huge imbalance. And the dispute has gone from the District Court all the way up to the Supreme Court. And we were waiting for a final verdict in the case of whether the evictions would go ahead or not on Monday.

michael barbaro

So Isabel, about how does this legal conflict over these evictions spiral into what we are seeing now? How does that happen?

isabel kershner

OK, good question, because there are many, many other strands to this story. And I think one thing we have to look at is the calendar. We have been in a month that has been extraordinary in many ways. So on the one hand, we’ve had the month of Ramadan in the Islamic lunar calendar. And Ramadan, the lunar calendar, it moves. So this year, Ramadan fell from mid-April to now. So it also coincided with a month in the Hebrew calendar. And you also have quite a lot of emotive dates. You have the Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, you have the Independence Day, you get towards the end of the month and you get Jerusalem Day, which is the day when some Israelis, not all, are celebrating what they call the reunification of Jerusalem in the 1967 war. I mean, this is a day where the Israelis are marking conquering the eastern part of the city, placing the Palestinians in the city generally on the other side of the line in what became occupied East Jerusalem.

michael barbaro

Got it.

isabel kershner

And that can be a very provocative day as well because a central feature of it is what they call the flag parade, which is usually thousands of young right wing mostly Jewish youths who March traditionally on a very contentious route— right through the Muslim quarter of the old city to get to the Wailing Wall. And of course, that was supposed to happen also on— yes, you guessed it— Monday.

michael barbaro

So Monday of this past week becomes, through the eviction case and through the calendar, a kind of swirling collision of Palestinian grief and Israeli celebration and just a kind of powder keg, it sounds like.

isabel kershner

And we also had a lot else going on in the city building up to this day. Ramadan is a time when the city is very much on edge. It’s a time of religious and nationalist fervor for many people. And it started with several other potential points of ignition. So you had the police, for example, barring Palestinians from gathering at Damascus Gate. Damascus Gate is one of the most beautiful and historic entrances to the old city from the East side. And it has these steps and going down to a Plaza— a bit like a kind of amphitheater. And every night during Ramadan, traditionally every year, Palestinians come. They gather there. They break their fast. There are cultural events. And it’s a general kind of party, a festival atmosphere. But for some reason this year, the police banned anyone from gathering and sitting on the steps. They put up barricades and said it was for public order to allow people to safely enter and exit the old city. And this created huge tension.

[siren wailing]

So it actually turned into a battlefield. Every night, you would have the police trying to disperse the crowds there. Young Palestinians would protest. And it would end in clashes.

We also had what became known as the TikTok attacks.

michael barbaro

What are those?

isabel kershner

So there were a couple of Palestinian 17-year-old youths who filmed themselves for a TikTok video slapping an ultra Orthodox Jew while he was sitting on the light rail train. And it kind of went viral. And there were one or two other similar attacks. And people just took great affront.

And it ended up with hundreds of young Israeli Jews marching to Damascus Gate, chanting things, including death to Arabs. And in the end, you had the police acting as a buffer between them and the Palestinian protesters at Damascus Gate and pitched battles on both sides with the police. So that was one of the strands of great tension building up towards this Monday.

michael barbaro

So a very unstable situation is very much ignited by actions taken by multiple groups of people on the ground in Jerusalem, including the Israeli police.

isabel kershner

Right. So we come to Monday morning after all this buildup, of all these different tensions in the city in this very tense month. And we get to the point where we’ve had Laylatul Qadr, which is a very holy day for Muslims at the end of Ramadan when thousands of worshippers spend the night traditionally in the compound of the Aqsa Mosque, which is the third holiest site in Islam. And it’s also probably one of the most hotly contested sites in the world because it’s also the holiest place for Jews. They know it as Temple Mount. And it’s the location of two ancient temples. So on Monday morning, which is Jerusalem Day as well, there were Jewish groups who were planning, as they traditionally do, to go up to the Temple Mount on a visit. And the Muslim worshipers, many of whom, as I say, had been there overnight were expecting them, ready for what they would see as a kind of invasion on their holy territory on a very holy time of year. The police stopped the Jewish groups from going up. But what we did see was the police in large numbers raid the compound.

[interposing voices]
[explosion]

There are many different takes on whether they went in just to disperse crowds or they went in to stop stone throwing by protesters at the site that had already started or whether the stones only started after the police arrived. But whatever the exact circumstances, you ended up with a large police raid on the Aqsa Mosque compound.

And it ended in stone throwing clashes with police responding with tear gas, rubber tip bullets, stun grenades. And by the end of the main part of this confrontation, you have, on the one side, 330 Palestinians who’ve been injured, 250 who were actually treated in the hospitals. And on the other side, 21 police officers injured.

michael barbaro

So Isabel, what happens after this police raid on the mosque? How do Palestinians respond?

isabel kershner

So by the afternoon, we get an ultimatum from Hamas, the Islamic group that holds Sway in Gaza, saying, if the Israelis do not remove all their forces from the mosque compound and from the area of East Jerusalem, the Palestinian area where the evictions were about to take place, something would happen.

michael barbaro

And they don’t specify what that something is. But it will be serious.

isabel kershner

Israel will be paying the price.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

So Isabel, about what happens on Monday with this 6:00 PM deadline from Hamas for Israeli security forces to withdraw from East Jerusalem and from the mosque?

isabel kershner

Well, clearly the Israelis were not going to comply. So we waited till 6 o’clock. And lo and behold, 3 minutes past 6:00, we’re sitting here in our office in Jerusalem. And suddenly, we hear sirens wailing, incoming rocket warnings. And within maybe a minute—

[explosion]

—we suddenly hear a series of booms. There’s a feeling that Jerusalem is under attack.

michael barbaro

So once this deadline passes, Hamas sends missiles over into Jerusalem?

isabel kershner

Yeah. They’re aiming towards Jerusalem. One was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome, the anti-missile defense system. Others actually fell in communities and empty ground in the hills West of Jerusalem. And nobody was killed or hurt, but there was some property damage. And this was highly unusual and clearly was not going to go without an Israeli response.

michael barbaro

And what is that response?

isabel kershner

Well, Israel had clearly been anticipating some kind of action from Gaza and always has what it calls a bank of targets that its built up. And Israel immediately began with airstrikes in Gaza. And now Gaza is a very small and crowded territory. So even if Israel says it’s targeting military targets with very precise weapons and taking all the precautions it can to avoid civilian casualties, inevitably there are civilian casualties as well. So from the beginning, the air strikes were deadly. There were two children killed very early on that night. And each side just kept stepping it up.

Israel taking down tower blocks in Gaza, multi-storey buildings that housed Hamas offices or headquarters of various types of Hamas. And Hamas again issued another ultimatum and said to Israel, if you hit any more civilian buildings, we’re going to hit Tel Aviv. And a huge, huge Salvo barrages of rockets began streaming out of Gaza and slamming into suburbs around Tel Aviv. Things have just been escalating all the way. So by Wednesday afternoon, two days into the conflict, we have at least 53 Palestinians killed, according to the Gaza health officials, 14 of them children, and more than 300 wounded. And on the Israeli side, you have at least six people who’ve been killed and scores injured.

michael barbaro

Isabel, it is often felt in moments like this that Hamas’s missile attacks, as terrifying as they are to Israelis, often fail to inflict significant damage on Israel based on the technology that Hamas is using and that the Israeli counterattacks tend to be much better targeted and more destructive. And the death toll seems to suggest that that has been the case so far here— a kind of disproportionate impact.

isabel kershner

Look, disproportionate is a term that is often used. I think there’s certainly— the circumstances that Israel has total air superiority in terms of its Air Force. The Hamas rockets are rather inaccurate. Israel does have the Iron Dome system which manages to intercept the authorities, say, about 90 percent of rockets that are headed to population centers in Israel. But the Gaza Strip is just first of all very crowded, very densely populated. The Israelis will tell you that Hamas operates from civilian areas within Gaza, making it very, very, very difficult to avoid collateral damage.

michael barbaro

At this point, is it fair to describe what’s happening here as a war, as war like? What is this?

isabel kershner

It feels pretty war like. If we end up with a ground campaign on the Israeli forces side, it will definitely be a war.

michael barbaro

And is there talk of a ground operation?

isabel kershner

Well, no confirmation of one. But some preparations seem to be being made. There are some call ups of reserves, there are some troops and vehicles moving down towards the border. So it’s not being ruled out. But it’s hard to tell. I think Israel won’t rush into a ground invasion because they are usually very costly. But sometimes, it’s part of the tactical war to signal that you’re ready for one, which could also be what’s going on.

michael barbaro

What are the leaders on all sides of this saying about this moment and how it might come to an end? I realize that’s a tricky question because both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership is very much in flux. But what are they saying about it?

isabel kershner

So we heard on Wednesday night a very strong statement from President Mahmoud Abbas— he leads the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and is a main rival of Hamas. And he was basically telling Israel, end your occupation. And we’ve been hearing more from Hamas. So Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas political leader, sends a recorded address to a Hamas affiliated television station—

ismail haniyeh

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

isabel kershner

He spoke about being contacted by Egypt, Qatar, the United Nations with some kind of talk of maybe working towards the ceasefire.

ismail haniyeh

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

isabel kershner

But he said, since in his view, Israel had started this, it was Israel’s responsibility to be the ones to begin to end it.

ismail haniyeh

[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

isabel kershner

On the Israeli side, we’re hearing that we’re not done yet. The defense minister said on Wednesday, there’s no end date. And the night before, the Prime Minister also said, this could take some time.

[music]
michael barbaro

So it sounds like from leadership, there’s not an eagerness to quickly bring this to an end.

isabel kershner

Right, it does seem that on both sides— they’re not rushing to end this. And it might actually be helping them.

michael barbaro

How so?

isabel kershner

On the Palestinian side, you have Hamas operating really in a vacuum with Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who’s aging and weak, and Hamas really trying to reinstate itself using its currency of leading the resistance and defending Jerusalem, which is always a rallying cry on the Palestinian side. And on the Israeli side, you have a very confused situation because Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently standing trial on corruption charges. He has been unable to form a government after four elections in two years. And his rivals were working on trying to form an alternative coalition which would have seen him removed from office for the first time in 12 years. And I think we’re not sure how this is going to play out. But somehow, he might well be able to capitalize on this time as being not the right time to have a change in government.

michael barbaro

Isabel, we started this conversation by talking about the eviction case in East Jerusalem that, in many people’s eyes, lit the fuse that has now turned into this war like conflict. What has happened with that ruling?

isabel kershner

So the ruling was supposed to come on Monday. On Sunday, after the government had spent weeks saying, this is just a private real estate dispute, the attorney general finally stepped in and asked for a delay in the case so that he could study the materials, get involved, state an opinion. And the judges gave him a month, suspending the verdict for at least 30 days. This is one case where the Israelis stepped in to try and diffuse a situation. But of course, it was too little too late.

michael barbaro

So this ruling has been delayed, but not for all that long. And eventually when it comes out, it will no doubt influence the course of this conflict that has erupted over the past few weeks. But it strikes me as odd and maybe a bit ironic that the Israeli government has called this eviction case a real estate dispute when you could argue that the entire history of the Israeli-Palestanian conflict is ultimately a dispute over real estate— over land and over the idea of home.

isabel kershner

You certainly could see it that way. I mean, with all the security and national and religious aspects to this conflict that’s been going on for a century, at the end of the day, it’s about who rules territory where and who gets to call a place home. Yeah.

[music]
michael barbaro

Isabel, as always, thank you very much.

isabel kershner

Thank you.

michael barbaro

The Times reports that as the conflict expands, rival mobs of Jews and Arabs are carrying out violent attacks in several Israeli cities and towns. One occurred in a suburb of Tel Aviv where dozens of Jewish extremists took turns beating and kicking an Arab motorcycle driver even as his body lay motionless on the ground. Another occurred in northern Israel where an Arab mob beat a Jewish man with sticks and rocks, leaving him in critical condition.

On Wednesday night, the United Nations warned that the conflict could soon intensify into, quote, “all out war“. And the Biden administration dispatched a senior American diplomat to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and to urge both sides to de-escalate.

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today. On Wednesday, during a closed door vote, House Republicans ousted Representative, Liz Cheney, as their party’s third highest ranking leader over her decision to speak out against former President Trump— his role in the January 6 riot at the Capitol and his lies about fraud in the 2020 election.

liz cheney

I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.

michael barbaro

After the vote, Cheney said she had no regrets and vowed that she would continue to speak out against Trump and seek to break his hold over the Republican Party.

liz cheney

We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language. We have seen his lack of commitment and dedication to the Constitution. And I think it’s fair—

michael barbaro

And the company that operates the major fuel pipeline shut down by a cyber attack said that the pipeline’s operations had begun to resume. The shutdown of the pipeline had raised fears of gas shortages and triggered panicked buying in several states, including Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

Today’s episode was produced by Austin Mitchell, Soraya Shockley, Robert Jimison, Annie Brown, and Daniel Guillemette. It was edited by M.J. Davis Lin with help from Phyllis Fletcher. It was engineered by Chris Wood and contains original music by Rachelle Bonja and Dan Powell.

[music]

That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

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