At least ten Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during violent clashes in towns and cities across the West Bank on Friday, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry, as sirens continued to blare across southern Israel all day, indicating another day of ceaseless rocket fire from Gaza.
The violence in the occupied West Bank has resulted in the highest number of deaths in a single day in years.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, Palestinians were targeted with live ammunition, rubber bullets, and tear gas.
Israel has continued this week a bombing campaign in Gaza that the government claims is targeting Palestinian militants, killing at least 126 people, including at least 31 children and 20 women, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. According to the Health Ministry, at least 950 people have been injured as a result of Israeli airstrikes, including at least 254 children.
More than 500 Palestinians have been injured since clashes erupted earlier this week, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The majority of those injured on Friday was “shot with live ammunition,” according to the Health Ministry.
According to an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, live ammunition was used after “crowd dispersal means” (tear gas and rubber-coated bullets) failed to quell the unrest.
The IDF estimated that 5,000 people were involved in “riots” across the West Bank, with participants throwing stones and incendiary devices at soldiers and military positions.
Protesters told the team in Bethlehem that they will continue to demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinian families facing forced eviction in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, as well as those facing Israeli bombardment in Gaza.
“We are doing this to show we stand with Gaza and our brothers in Jerusalem and [our brothers] inside Israel,” one protester who refused to give his name told CNN.
As Ramadan began, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians erupted, fueled by outrage over planned evictions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and restrictions at a popular meeting spot near the Old City. It has since rapidly escalated into one of the worst rounds of violence between the two sides in recent years.
Rioting and violent clashes between Arab and Jewish citizens swept through several Israeli cities this week, including Lod, Bat Yam, and Acre, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue a warning against “lynching” by either community.
“In terms of personnel we have successfully targeted dozens of senior Hamas and Islamic jihad leaders and according to our assessment that has caused a sense among the senior leaders that they are being hunted,” the official said.
According to the official, at least 75 militants have been killed since Monday, but the figure is a conservative estimate.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, on the other hand, has accused the IDF of “direct targeting of crowded civilian areas” and failing to take precautionary measures to save civilian lives, charges that the IDF categorically denies.
Lynn Hastings, the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told CNN on Friday that approximately 10,000 people had been displaced within Gaza.
“We’re seeing a lot of these people coming to the UN agency in Gaza that deals with refugees, which means they are now in schools… they’re being sheltered there,” Hastings said.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged all parties to halt fighting in Gaza and Israel, allowing mediation efforts to “intensify to end the fighting immediately,” according to UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated that the administration’s priority is de-escalation and working with regional allies to achieve that goal.
Efforts at international diplomacy appear to have stalled thus far. The United Nations Security Council will hold a meeting on the violence on Sunday morning; the United States has previously blocked Security Council efforts to meet, preferring direct diplomacy on the conflict over discussion in an international forum.
A CNN producer on the ground in Gaza reported heavy artillery fire from Israeli ground forces near the border, as well as dozens of airstrikes.
Tariq Al Hillo, 27, of Beit Lahia in Gaza, described a “terrifying” scene overnight as the buildings surrounding his own block, which is home to six families, were destroyed.
“I can’t even describe it, I don’t know where to start and I’m losing my sanity,” he told CNN. “All the buildings around us were destroyed yesterday, we saw shreds everywhere. I can still see them until now, I can still hear women screaming and men crying loudly.”
People believed they would be killed at any moment, he said. “We lost everything around us and we lost safety. I have five sisters, three of them are children between 10 and 15 years old, they were shaking and looking around them traumatized and waiting for their turn to come under the rubble.”
At 2 a.m., he decided they should leave the house to walk to a relatives’ home five or six miles away, Hillo said. “I was not afraid to die, but I was afraid that one of my family members would,” he said. “On our way, I was telling my sisters to calm down and that nothing will happen to us, but I was shaking and couldn’t even walk because I was terrified.”