NYT: Huge Protests in West Bank Over Israeli Offensive in Gaza

A Palestinian protester at the Qalandia checkpoint used a slingshot to hurl a stone at Israeli troops.

JERUSALEM — Violence spread to the West Bank on Friday as enraged Palestinians protested Israel’s continuing military offensive in Gaza. At least five Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces, according to Palestinian medical officials and local news reports, adding to the explosive atmosphere in the region and raising the specter of further unrest.

The protests came on what Palestinians planned as a “day of rage” over the war in Gaza, where 18 days of combat have cost the lives of more than 800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, as well as 35 Israeli soldiers. Three civilians in Israel have also been killed in rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Following an international outcry over a deadly strike Thursday on a school in Gaza where civilians had taken refuge, Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats pressed their efforts on Friday to arrange a cease-fire.

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Mr. Kerry said in Cairo late Friday that more work was needed to conclude an agreement, and that the “agony of events in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, all of them together, cannot be overstated.”

Earlier in the evening, the Israeli news media and Reuters reported that the Israeli security cabinet had rejected Mr. Kerry’s proposal for a one-week humanitarian cease-fire, and had asked for modifications. It was not immediately clear whether a rejection would be final or merely an incremental step in negotiations. Mr. Kerry said that he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and that Mr. Netanyahu was willing to move forward, and to consider a “down payment” of a 12-hour lull in the fighting in Gaza. On the broader proposal, Mr. Kerry said, the parties still had “some terminology” to work through.

Protesters threw fireworks and stones as Israeli security officers took up positions at the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Palestinians demonstrated in Jerusalem and across the West Bank on Friday, the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, known as Al Quds, or Jerusalem, Day. A spokesman for the Israeli police said that sporadic disturbances broke out in some East Jerusalem neighborhoods early in the afternoon, as 10,000 Muslims attended prayers in the Al Aksa Mosque compound. Hoping to head off trouble, Israeli authorities barred men under 50 from entering the compound.

Weeks of simmering tensions and outbursts of violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased talk among Israelis and Palestinians alike about the specter of a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising. But many said that such uprisings, by their nature, could not be planned or predicted.

“The intifada does not start by a decision and end by a decision,” said Othman Abu Gharbiya, a member of the Fatah central committee, a decision-making body of the mainstream secular party that dominates the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Still, he said, “no doubt we are passing through a dangerous time.”

Trouble erupted Thursday night during a march at the Qalandia checkpoint that separates the West Bank town of Ramallah from Jerusalem. Thousands of marchers chanted, “With our soul and blood, we will redeem Gaza,” and clashes broke out between stone-throwing youths and Israeli security forces. One Palestinian teenager was killed and scores were wounded.

The funeral of the youth, Muhammad al-Araj, 17, drew thousands of mourners on Friday. His father, Ziad al-Araj, 41, a plasterer from the nearby Qalandia refugee camp, said that after seeing the bodies of women and children killed in Gaza on television, his son had told him that he wanted to join the fighters there. “He wrote in his phone, ‘I hope to be a martyr,’ ” Mr. Araj said.
The imam at the Qalandia camp’s mosque assailed Israel in his Friday sermon, shouting in fury, “Kill me, cut me into pieces, drown me in blood, you will never live in my land, you will never live in my sky!”

The spokesman for the Israeli police, Micky Rosenfeld, said that 40 Palestinians were arrested during clashes overnight in East Jerusalem, and 29 Israeli officers were wounded.

Two of the Palestinians who were killed on Friday were shot near Hawara, just south of Nablus, according to a medical official at Rafadiyeh Hospital in Nablus. Palestinian news reports said that at least one of them was shot by a female Israeli settler, but the Israeli authorities denied the reports.

The Israeli military and the police said that an Israeli woman got out of her vehicle and fired warning shots in the air as about 200 Palestinians were rioting near Hawara, blocking the road and hurling rocks. Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the police, said the woman was not responsible for any Palestinian fatalities.

Instead, Israeli border police officers in the area may have caused at least one of the deaths. Mr. Rosenfeld said that officers on patrol near Hawara clashed with hundreds of Palestinians who were throwing stones, firebombs and fireworks at them “at close range.” One officer fired at a Palestinian because the officer felt he was “in a life-threatening situation,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.

The medical official at Rafadiyeh Hospital said the two Palestinian men killed at Hawara were Khaled Azmi Odeh, 19, who he said was shot in the abdomen, and Tayeb Saleh Odeh, 22, who he said was shot in the head.

A street was littered with stones that were hurled during clashes the night before in front an Israeli watch tower at the Qalandia checkpoint

Three more Palestinians were killed in Beit Ommar, near Hebron in the southern West Bank, according to local activists and Palestinian news reports. The activists said all three were shot with live ammunition at a demonstration. They identified the three as Sultan Shuqdam, Abd al-Hamid Breigheth, and Hashem Abu Maria. Mr. Maria, 47, was said to have worked with Defense of Children International-Palestine, an advocacy group.

Clashes between stone-throwing youths and Israeli security forces continued in Beit Ommar on Friday evening during funerals for the three men. Thousands of people were in the streets of the town, and the entrance was blocked by Israeli soldiers.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces killed a member of Islamic Jihad’s military wing and two of his sons early Friday with an airstrike near Rafah. A statement from Islamic Jihad, which has been fighting Israel alongside Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, said that the airstrike killed Salah Abu Hassanein, 45, and his sons, ages 15 and 12, in the entrance to their home. Mr. Hassanein was a spokesman for Islamic Jihad’s militia, the Al-Quds Brigades.

The Israeli military, which has made a point of targeting Islamic Jihad and Hamas operatives, said that besides Mr. Hassanein, it had killed eight others in recent days. It announced that a 36-year-old reservist was killed Friday in combat in northern Gaza. And it said it had concluded that Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, a soldier who had been missing in Gaza since Sunday, was killed in battle. The military wing of Hamas claimed to be holding him captive, but did not offer any evidence or details of his condition.

The military statement said that a special committee had considered all the religious, medical and other relevant issues and had classified Sergeant Shaul as “a soldier killed in action whose burial site is unknown.” A military spokesman refused to elaborate.

Sergeant Shaul was one of seven soldiers who entered the Gaza Strip early on Sunday in an armored personnel carrier that was stopped in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City and then was hit and incinerated by an antitank missile. The remains of the other six soldiers were found and recovered, but Sergeant Shaul’s were not, and it was not initially clear whether he was dead or alive.

Palestinian militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets into Israel on Friday. The Israeli military said two were intercepted over Tel Aviv by the country’s Iron Dome antimissile system, but shrapnel from another damaged an apartment building in the coastal city of Ashkelon.

Mr. Kerry was said to be working in Cairo to build support for a two-stage cease-fire plan that would halt hostilities for seven days while broader terms were discussed, but allow Israeli troops to remain in Gaza and perhaps even continue to destroy the tunnels they have discovered leading into their territory.

Israeli news outlets reported that Mr. Kerry would fly to Paris on Friday and meet with his counterparts from France, Britain, Qatar and Turkey, as well as the European Union’s foreign policy chief and the secretary-general of the Arab League. Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, was also in Cairo.

In addition to Mr. Kerry’s cease-fire proposal, Israel’s senior government ministers reportedly were considering on Friday whether to expand the aerial bombardment of Gaza that began on July 8 and the ground operation that followed on July 17.

One senior Israeli official with knowledge of the talks said that a crucial issue for Israel was whether a temporary cease-fire would allow it to continue its operations against Hamas’s underground tunnel network, which its militants have used to infiltrate Israeli territory. Military officials said that most of the tunnels had been located but that destroying them was a lengthy and complicated process. But the official, who was speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate diplomacy, said he was not privy to the latest details being discussed by the cabinet.

Yaakov Peri, a centrist minister and former head of Israel’s internal security service, said on Israel Radio before the cabinet meeting that “the conditions brought by Secretary of State Kerry are acceptable, in the main, to Israel, and they relate to the fact that we will not leave the area and we will continue with the tunnel operation.” But Mr. Peri added, “I certainly have my doubts that Hamas will agree.”

A statement by the Israeli military said 65,000 reservists had been mobilized for the Gaza operation, up from a previous estimate of 59,000. It said 843 rockets had been launched toward Israel since the ground offensive began; 658 landed in Israel and 166 were intercepted. Israeli forces targeted 45 sites in Gaza overnight, the military statement said.