The death toll rises as violence rocks Gaza, Israel and the West Bank

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© Reuters. Smoke and flames rise during the Israeli air strikes, while cross-border violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants continues in Gaza City on May 14, 2021. REUTERS / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Stephen Farrell

GAZA / JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli planes again launched air strikes in Gaza early Saturday, and Hamas militants fired rockets at Israel as their battle began on a fifth night and US and Arab diplomats put an end to the violence aspired to.

Palestinian medics said at least four people were killed in one of several air strikes in northern Gaza. Residents said Israeli naval boats fired grenades from the Mediterranean, although none may have hit the strip.

The Palestinian Ministry of Religious Affairs said Israeli planes destroyed a mosque. A military spokesman said the army was reviewing the report.

Sirens sounded in two large southern Israeli cities warning of fires from the Gaza Strip. Hamas took responsibility for launching missiles.

With no sign of the end of the fighting, the victims continued to spread. The Palestinians reported 11 deaths in the occupied West Bank in clashes between demonstrators and Israeli security forces.

At least 132 people have been killed in Gaza since Monday, including 32 children and 21 women, and 950 others were injured, Palestinian doctors said.

Hamas said a woman and a boy were among four people killed in an Israeli air strike that struck a home of the Abu Hattab family in the Beach refugee camp in Gaza City. The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the strike.

The eight people killed in Israel included one soldier patrolling the Gaza border and six civilians, including two children, the Israeli authorities said.

Before a UN Security Council meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation, the Biden government’s envoy Hady Amr, Deputy Deputy Secretary for Israel and Palestinian Affairs, flew in on Friday.

The US embassy in Israel said the goal was to “reinforce the need to work towards sustainable calm”.

Israel launched day-long attacks on Friday to destroy several kilometers of tunnels, launch sites and weapons-making warehouses that were used by militants to stop the rocket attacks.

Across central and southern Israel, from small towns bordering Gaza to metropolitan Tel Aviv and southern Beersheba, people have been prepared for siren whining, radio and television broadcast interruptions and the beeping of cell phones with red warnings that they are in Bring cover.

Cross-border hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have been accompanied by violence in mixed communities of Jews and Arabs in Israel. Synagogues were attacked and street fighting broke out, prompting the Israeli president to warn of civil war.

DIPLOMATIC FLURRY

Egypt led regional efforts to secure a ceasefire. Cairo urged both sides to cease firing from midnight on Friday until further negotiations take place, two Egyptian security forces said. Egypt relied on Hamas and others, including the United States, to reach an agreement with Israel.

The Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers discussed efforts to end the confrontation with Gaza and prevent “provocations” in Jerusalem, the Egyptian foreign ministry said.

“The talks took a real and serious path on Friday,” said a Palestinian official. “The mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations are stepping up contacts on all sides to restore calm, but no agreement has yet been reached.”

The United Arab Emirates on Friday called for a ceasefire and negotiations, and expressed condolences to all victims of the fighting. They cited the promise of September deals that made the UAE and Bahrain the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to forge formal ties with Israel.

Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, launched the rocket attacks on Monday in retaliation for clashes by Israeli police with Palestinians near Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site in East Jerusalem.

The Israeli military said more than 2,000 rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel since the conflict began, about half of which were intercepted by anti-missile systems and 350 had fallen into the Gaza Strip.

The unrest between Jews and Arabs in Israel itself has dealt a severe blow over two years to efforts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents to oust the Israeli leader after a series of inconclusive elections.

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