Israeli forces kill 11 Palestinians amid West Bank protests

Israel carries out more air strikes on Gaza on Saturday morning as conflict intensifies

Follow the latest updates as violence escalates in Israel and Palestine

At least 11 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank on Friday, amid mounting anger over Israel's actions in East Jerusalem and deadly air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

By Saturday evening the country was braced for more violence as Israel redeployed 1,000 border police to towns hit by rioting.

A Palestinian security source said the violence was the "most intense" since the second intifada – or uprising – that began in 2000.

Within Israel, an unprecedented wave of mob violence has seen Arab and Jewish citizens attack each other, and synagogues and mosques set alight. More than 900 people have been arrested this week, Israeli police said.

On Saturday, a Hamas rocket killed a civilian in the Ramat Gan suburb of Tel Aviv while Israeli authorities issued "red alerts" for impending rocket strikes in cities across the country.

Tel Aviv. Courtesy Magen David Adom
Tel Aviv. Courtesy Magen David Adom

The West Bank regularly sees weekend demonstrations over the decades-old Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, but the protests on Friday were more widespread and violent.

Israeli forces fired rubber bullets and, in some instances, live rounds as protesters across the West Bank hurled stones, Molotov cocktail petrol bombs and other projectiles.

Israeli soldiers aim their weapons during confrontations with Palestinian protesters in the centre of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. AFP
Israeli soldiers aim their weapons during confrontations with Palestinian protesters in the centre of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. AFP

"It would be shameful to remain quiet with what's going on in Gaza," said Oday Hassan, 21, who was protesting in the city of Al Birah, north of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said more than 250 people had been wounded in the West Bank, as it appealed for blood donations.

The Israeli military said one of the Palestinians killed was shot dead after attempting to stab a soldier north of the city of Ramallah, and reported another attempted knife attack during "a violent riot" in Nablus.

The protests came a day before Palestinians observe the Nakba – or catastrophe – marking the loss of their homes during the creation of Israel in 1948.

Death toll rises in Gaza

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza rose as Israel carried out more air strikes throughout Saturday.

At least ten people were reported killed in an Israeli air strike on a home in Gaza city early on Saturday, according to the militant group Hamas that controls Gaza.

The death toll, which included eight women and two children, was expected to rise as rescuers were still searching through the rubble of the three-storey house on the edge of the Shati refugee camp.

A combination picture shows a tower building before and after it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza. Reuters
A combination picture shows a tower building before and after it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza. Reuters

“I saw the bodies of four people, including children, being rushed to hospital,” Said Alghoul told Associated Press.

In the hours after the air strike, the Israeli air force also bombed an office block which housed international media, including Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Journalists had been given one hour to evacuate the building.

"We have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said later.

The Israeli bombardment began on Monday, in response to rocket fire towards Jerusalem from Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza.

Hamas rocket attacks began after Israeli police stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, in the Old City of Jerusalem, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades and injuring hundreds of Palestinians.

More than 2,300 rockets have been fired at Israel, while Israel has hit nearly 800 targets in Gaza, including a massive assault on Friday on a Hamas tunnel network.

At least 145 people have been killed in Gaza – including 41 children – and 1,000 others wounded, Palestinian medical officials said.

Among the ten dead in Israel were a soldier patrolling the Gaza border and seven civilians, including two children, Israeli authorities said.

The strikes on Gaza levelled buildings, forcing families to seek shelter in schools and mosques.

"All the children are afraid and we are afraid for the children," said Kamal Al Haddad, who fled with his family to a UN-supported school in Gaza city.

Early on Saturday, the Israeli military said it had hit a Hamas "operations office" near the centre of Gaza city, with additional overnight strikes targeting what the military called "underground launch sites".

There were overnight confrontations in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Shuafat, adjacent to the Israeli settlement of Ramat Shlomo in Israel-occupied East Jerusalem.

Mob violence in Israel sparks fear of 'civil war' as tensions rise in Lebanon

In one of the most shocking episodes of the intercommunal violence, a far-right Jewish mob beat a man they considered an Arab in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, on Wednesday, leaving him with serious injuries.

In the north, where Israel remains technically at war with neighbouring Lebanon and Syria, tensions are also rising.

The Israeli military said it "fired warning shots towards a number of rioters who crossed from Lebanon into Israeli territory" on Friday.

Israel's arch-enemy, the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, said one of its members, 21-year-old Mohamad Kassem Tahan, was killed by the Israeli gunfire.

Three rockets were later launched at Israel from southern Syria, where Hezbollah is present, but there was no immediate confirmation of a link between the events.

Pro-Palestine protests take place across the Middle East – in pictures

UN to meet as US envoy arrives in Tel Aviv for ceasefire talks

The UN said the Security Council would meet on Sunday to address the crisis.

US Secretary for Israel-Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr arrived in Israel on Friday as part of mediation efforts.

Mr Amr will hold talks with Israeli officials and Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and encourage a "sustainable calm", State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said.

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave no indication that Israel was ready to ease its campaign.

"I said we'd deliver heavy blows to Hamas and other terror groups, and we're doing that," Mr Netanyahu said.

Israel estimates that more than 30 leaders of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad have been killed.

The UN said 10,000 Gazans had been forced from their homes by the bombardment.

With reporting from agencies

Read more on the violence in Israel and Palestine

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Israel's Iron Dome: the missile defence system shooting down Gaza rockets

'Big blow' coming: Israel's controversial air strike warnings in Gaza

Updated: May 15, 2021 10:35 PM

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