Weary Palestinians on May 13 prepared for a somber feast marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Gaza braced for more Israeli airstrikes and communal violence raged after weeks of protests and violence in Jerusalem.
The death toll from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza climbed to 67 on May 13, including 17 children and six women, with 388 injured.
According to a statement by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, two Palestinians were killed in Israel‘s recent attacks on the region, including a child.
Heavy damage has also been recorded across Gaza’s residential areas, including the leveling of multistory buildings.
To date, six Israelis have been killed in the recent violence – five of them in rocket attacks in addition to a soldier killed when an anti-tank guided missile struck his jeep.
The Israeli military says more than 1,600 rockets have been fired since May 10, with 400 falling short and landing inside Gaza. Israel’s missile defenses have intercepted 90 percent of the rockets. Israeli airstrikes have struck around 600 targets inside Gaza, the military said.
Hundreds of Israeli extremists launched attacks on Arab nationals on May 12 in several cities across Israel, according to local media reports.
In Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv, dozens of Israelis attacked Arabs, leaving one seriously injured, Israel’s state-owned news channel KAN reported.
Clashes occurred between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinians in the central city of Lod, according to witnesses. Hundreds of extremists attacked homes belonging to Arab Israelis in Lod.
Israel imposed a curfew in the Arab-majority city of Lod on Wednesday after clashes erupted between security forces and Arab-Israeli Palestinians regarding tensions in Jerusalem and Gaza.
The city saw fierce clashes Tuesday between mourners and police during a funeral procession for an Arab-Israeli resident who was killed by an Israeli settler.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later announced a state of emergency in the city. Acre, Tiberias, and Jaffa also have witnessed fierce clashes between the police and Palestinians, according to KAN.
Several Israelis were severely injured in clashes in Acre, according to the channel.
Abbas: No peace, stability without liberation of Jerusalem
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stressed on May 12 that “Jerusalem is a red line” and there would be “no peace, no security and no stability” without the liberation of the entire city from Israeli occupation.
Palestinians are looking for “a future without aggression and without [Israeli] settlements,” Abbas said in a televised address before a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
“We continue to act and work to stop the barbaric aggression on our people in Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank,” he said.
He added that the Palestinian leadership is in contact with the U.S. administration on ending Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Abbas also had a message for Israel: “We will not leave our country. End your occupation of our country today, not tomorrow.”
Israel ‘has a right to defend itself,’ Biden says
U.S. President Joe Biden said on May 12Israel “has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory” as violence escalates.
Biden made the remarks to reporters after speaking by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding he hopes the ongoing conflict “will be closing down sooner than later.”
During his call with Netanyahu, the U.S. president “conveyed the United States’ encouragement of a pathway toward restoring a sustainable calm,” and “conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians,” the White House said in a statement.
“He condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” it said. “He shared his conviction that Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith from around the world, must be a place of peace.”
Arab states condemn Israeli attacks
Meanwhile, U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan and Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani discussed the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The statement of the phone talk was released by the Qatari state-run news agency, but it did not give further details.
Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Hamas group, received a call from the Qatari foreign minister related to the tensions between the Palestinian resistant groups in Gaza and Israel.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke by phone on May 12 with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi on the latest developments in Palestine, according to a statement from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
Shoukry demanded an end to Israel’s attacks on Palestinian territories, the statement said.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz on May 13 strongly condemned Israel’s violent acts at Al-Aqsa Mosque and measures taken in Jerusalem.
The Saudi official news agency SPA said King Salman and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan discussed the Israeli attacks in Jerusalem in a phone call.
King Salman stressed that the kingdom stands with the Palestinian people until they reclaim their legitimate rights.
U.N. chief urges de-escalation
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced support on Wednesday to de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
He spoke at a news conference in Moscow following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and said it is necessary to seek a reduction of violence to protect the lives of civilians “who are dying in these absolutely unacceptable circumstances.”
Guterres reiterated the U.N.’s readiness to help Palestine and Israel get to the negotiating table to resolve contradictions peacefully, including using the Quartet on the Middle East format – U.N., US, EU and Russia.
“We are fully prepared to resume the work of the Quartet and to facilitate dialogue between the parties, as well as other participants in the process. We support all de-escalation steps to resume the peace process, which has long been dormant,” he said.
Guterres emphasized that the peace process is “the only way to resolve the situation” and urged adherence to the two-state solution of the Palestinian problem.
“I think we need to stick to the two-state solution. It will lead to harmony and peace between the two parties to the conflict and will allow for the normalization of relations in the region with the full participation of the countries of the region in creating conditions for the advancement of the peace process,” he said.
Guterres also pointed out the role of the U.N. Security Council in addressing the situation and stressed that resolutions and decisions must be based on international legislation.
Lavrov said he discussed with Guterres summoning an urgent meeting of the Middle East Quartet at foreign ministers level.
According to Lavrov, Guterres supported the initiative and said as a coordinator of the format, he can organize it within short terms.
Hurriyet Daily News