Israel continued to bombard the Gaza Strip Friday with artillery and airstrikes in response to a new barrage of rocket fire from the Hamas-run enclave. More than 100 people have now been killed in Gaza and eight in Israel as the conflict continues to escalate.
Days of violence have seen Israeli soldiers massing on the edge of the territory, though the army stressed there has been no ground incursion.
The Israel Defense Forces tweeted earlier Thursday that “air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip,” and CBS News and other media outlets reported that troops were on the ground. A spokesman for the military later told CBS News that there are currently no ground troops inside the Gaza Strip, but said air and ground troops were carrying out strikes on targets there.
In recent days there’s beenof Israel’s mixed Jewish and Arab cities as neighbor-versus-neighbor violence spreads.
The central city of Lod has seen some of the worst violence. Footage captured on a cellphone shows what the government calls “Jewish extremists” marching through Arab neighborhoods, calling for blood.
“They are moving in our streets they are throwing stones they are shouting at us, they are beating,” said Rana Masimi, an Arab Israeli who teaches English at the local high school.
Shauli Rappaport, who is part of Lod’s Jewish community, says he can’t see a way forward.
The unrest triggered a massive security buildup. Israel’s military said two infantry units and an armored unit were at the Gaza border and plans had been prepared for a potential ground incursion.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Israeli military operation will continue for as long as necessary and that Hamas will pay a heavy price.
An urgent United Nations Security Council meeting requested for Friday was dropped after US resistance to hold a second session in a week. However, it now appears that a meeting will go ahead on Sunday.
President Biden has said Israel has a right to defend itself as Hamas fired off hundreds of rockets at Israel, which responded with airstrikes. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was sending a senior diplomat to the region in hopes of a truce.
Blinken spoke on Wednesday with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction governs the West Bank but has little control in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Blinken “expressed his condolences for the lives lost as a result” of the violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, according to a readout of the call provided by the State Department.
Officials from the U.N. and Egypt have said efforts to establish a cease-fire are underway, and an Egyptian delegation arrived Thursday in Israel, but there were few signs of progress yet.