Israel-Hamas War: Violence Rises in West Bank, Leaving at Least 9 Palestinians Dead

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Mourners carrying the bodies of Palestinians during their funeral in the West Bank city of Jenin on Sunday.Credit…Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press

An uptick in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank early Sunday left at least nine Palestinians, including a young child, an Israeli officer and a resident of Jerusalem dead, officials said, adding to tensions in the territory even as fighting continued in Gaza.

An Israeli drone strike killed seven Palestinian men when clashes broke out during a pre-dawn Israeli military incursion into Jenin, a hotbed of Palestinian militancy in the northern West Bank, and an eighth man was killed by Israeli soldiers in the central West Bank, according to Palestinian health officials.

An Israeli border police officer was killed during the Jenin raid when a bomb planted under a road blew up the military vehicle in which she was riding, Israeli officials said. Four other officers were injured.

Later Sunday morning, armed assailants shot and killed a man from East Jerusalem who was driving along a road in the central West Bank. Israeli news media identified him as an Arab resident of a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and a Jerusalem hospital was treating a woman who was gravely wounded in the shooting. It was not immediately clear whether the man who was killed was an Israeli citizen, but the vehicle had Israeli license plates.

And at dusk on Sunday, a 3-year-old Palestinian girl was killed — apparently by errant fire — when Israeli forces said they shot at a man and a woman who rammed a border checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

The Israeli police said in a statement that border police officers guarding the checkpoint had “neutralized” the occupants of the car and that the child may have been hit by officers’ gunfire while she passed through the checkpoint in another vehicle.

Israel’s ambulance service, Magen David Adom, said the girl was pronounced dead after she was brought to a medical team that was treating a lightly injured border police officer. The police said the episode was under investigation.

Four of the seven Palestinians killed in the Jenin raid were brothers ranging in age from 22 to 29, according to the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, Wafa. The Israeli military said those killed had been throwing explosive devices at Israeli forces.

Jenin, and particularly its refugee camp, now a crowded neighborhood within the city, has been a focus of Israeli military raids for months, even before the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks from Gaza prompted a surge in West Bank violence.

A two-day Israeli assault in early July was one of the largest military incursions in the West Bank in years. Twelve Palestinians were killed in that raid, which Israeli officials said was aimed at rooting out Palestinian armed groups after a year of escalating violence, including a surge in shooting attacks on Israeli targets and efforts by Palestinian militants to fire crude rockets toward Israel. During the operation, Israeli forces carried out their first airstrikes in the West Bank in nearly two decades.

Israeli military officials said at the time that the Jenin camp had become a refuge for gunmen, as the security forces of the Palestinian Authority, the body that nominally administers parts of the West Bank, rarely set foot there.

In that raid, military bulldozers churned up roads and alleys in what officials said was an effort to expose bombs and tripwires planted beneath the asphalt. Those types of explosives appeared to be what killed the border police officer on Sunday. The so-called Jenin Battalion of Islamic Jihad, a local armed group, released video footage appearing to show the explosion that killed the Israeli officer. Islamic Jihad sometimes rivals the larger Hamas and sometimes cooperates with it.

Leaders of Hamas have been exhorting its armed supporters in the West Bank to join the larger battle against Israel since the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, which Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people. The attacks touched off a devastating war in Gaza in which more than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gazan health officials.

Isabel Kershner reporting from Jerusalem

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Israelis at a demonstration demanding the release of hostages outside the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Saturday.Credit…Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

Five family members of hostages who have now been held in the Gaza Strip for three months called on the Israeli government to prioritize negotiations for a deal to free them after visiting officials in Qatar, which has helped broker the talks.

Daniel Lifshitz, whose 83-year-old grandfather Oded is among the 129 people that Israeli officials say are still being hostage following the Oct. 7 assault led by Hamas, stood at a podium in front of a clock that was ticking off the seconds of their confinement.

Delaying the negotiations, he said during a news conference Sunday night in Tel Aviv, “is killing the hostages.”

Mr. Lifshitz — whose grandmother, Yocheved Lifshitz, was among the handful of hostages released before a formal deal between Israel and Hamas was reached in November — said the family members met earlier in the week with Qatari officials including Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani. He said that Qatari officials emphasized that a cease-fire would advance negotiations for a deal to release the rest of those still in captivity.

Noam Peri, whose 80-year-old father, Haim, is also among the hostages, said that she felt the Qatari government was fully committed to the release of all the hostages, and she called on the Israeli war cabinet to make a deal its top priority.

“We all have only one picture of victory,” she said, “seeing the hostages at home.”

Hamas released 105 hostages as part of a weeklong cease-fire deal reached in November, during which Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners and detainees from its own prisons.

Although there have been indications of talks between the two sides, the prospect of another hostage deal is still uncertain. Some analysts said the killing of a top Hamas official, Saleh al-Arouri, in Lebanon last week was likely to disrupt any negotiations.

Adam Sella reporting from Tel Aviv

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Displaced Palestinians carrying bags of wood at a makeshift tent camp in the Muwasi area, southern Gaza, last week. For three months, Israel has been bombarding Gaza, displacing a majority of the enclave’s residents.Credit…Fatima Shbair/Associated Press

Israel’s military said it had dismantled Hamas’s military capabilities in northern Gaza, and was now focusing on doing the same in the central and southern parts of the enclave, where it said it plans to take a different approach to destroying Hamas.

There were still some Hamas fighters in northern Gaza, but they no longer worked under an organized military command, and were limited in how much damage they could inflict, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesman, said late Saturday in his daily news conference. Admiral Hagari didn’t provide details about control in the north, nor specify how the military’s operation farther south would be different.

For three months, since a deadly ambush on Oct. 7, Israel has been bombarding Gaza, killing more than 20,000 people, according to Gazan health authorities, and displacing a majority of the enclave’s residents. Nearly half of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are now crammed into an area near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. A top United Nations official said on Friday that the enclave had become “uninhabitable” because of the dwindling supply of food, fuel and medicine.

There is no clear end in sight for the war, despite signs of discontent at home with how it has been handled. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas as retaliation for the attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which about 1,200 people, both civilians and soldiers, were killed and about 240 people abducted, according to Israeli officials. About 100 people are still being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas and other militant groups.

An initial sign of Israel’s plans for the end of the war appeared last week, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant floating a proposal to Mr. Netanyahu’s cabinet. The plan calls for Israel to maintain military control of Gaza’s borders and a “multinational task force” to oversee reconstruction and economic development in the territory. While its unclear how much support it has, the plan seems to straddle the demands of the far more conservative members of the government and those of key allies, like the United States.

With the campaign in Gaza far from over, the prospect of a wider war hung over the region in the past week. A senior Hamas official was assassinated in Beirut, in a strike that U.S. and other officials have said was carried out by Israel. The Israeli government has not taken responsibility for the Hamas leader’s killing.

So far, Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that supports Hamas, has held back from escalating the fighting with Israel. They have launched missile and rocket attacks at Israel, but these have been contained to areas near the border.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who spent much of the early days of the war crisscrossing the region, is back in the Middle East for a days-long tour. He traveled to Jordan on Sunday for meetings with King Abdullah II, the ruler of Jordan, and its foreign minister, and visited a warehouse with boxes of canned food that were intended to be brought into Gaza.

Mr. Blinken already met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and has other meetings planned. While the United States continues to support Israel, Mr. Blinken and others have called the deaths of civilians, especially children, unacceptable, and urged Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

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Wael al-Dahdouh, an Al Jazeera correspondent, holding the hand of his deceased son Hamza during his funeral in Rafah, Gaza, on Sunday.Credit…Hatem Ali/Associated Press

Wael al-Dahdouh, a well-known Palestinian correspondent for Al Jazeera TV who has spent his career covering Gaza, had already lost his wife, a son, a daughter and an infant grandson in an Israeli airstrike in October.

On Sunday, he lost another member of his family to the war: his eldest son, Hamza, was killed in an Israeli airstrike that left two journalists dead and wounded two others, according to the authorities in Gaza.

The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, reported that an Israeli drone strike hit the car Hamza al-Dahdouh was traveling in west of the southern city of Khan Younis. He was killed along with another journalist, Mustafa Thuraya. Two others, Ahmed Al-Burash and Amer Abu Amr, were injured.

Wael al-Dahdouh said his son was working for Al Jazeera at the time of his death. Wafa reported that the two injured men worked for Palestine Today, a TV channel.

Photos from news agencies of the attack’s aftermath showed a burned-out sedan that was missing its windshield and most of its roof and hood. In a video apparently taken shortly after Sunday’s airstrike and shared with journalists on WhatsApp, a crowd gathers around the car. Someone throws a blanket over a body in the driver’s seat, while others carry another person from the passenger side.

“Nothing is harder than the pain of loss. And when you experience this pain time after time, it becomes harder and more severe,” Wael al-Dahdouh told Al Jazeera after his son’s death. He added: “I wish that the blood of my son Hamza will be the last from journalists and the last from people here in Gaza, and for this massacre to stop.”

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Military officials have said it does not target journalists and takes measures to protect them and other civilians.

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Two Palestinian journalists, Hamza al-Dahdouh and Mustafa Thraya, were killed in an Israeli drone strike that hit their car in southern Gaza, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.CreditCredit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As of Saturday, at least 70 Palestinian journalists and media workers had been killed in Gaza, some while covering the conflict, some when they were at home or sheltering with their families, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which said it was also investigating “numerous” other reports of journalists being killed.

Their deaths have made it difficult to obtain information about the scale and destructiveness of the fighting, a problem worsened by degraded communications networks and the lack of permission from Israel and Egypt for foreign journalists to enter Gaza.

The government media office in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, called the killings of Mr. al-Dahdouh and Mr. Thuraya another attempt to “intimidate journalists” and “obscure the truth” in a statement on Sunday.

The family of Wael al-Dahdouh, the Gaza bureau chief for Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language service, had taken shelter at the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza in late October after evacuating from their home in Gaza City. That was where they were hit by the Israeli airstrike, Al Jazeera reported at the time. He was reporting live when he found out.

Last month, Wael al-Dahdouh was injured, and the camera operator he was working with was killed, after what Al Jazeera said was a drone strike on a school-turned-shelter in Khan Younis where they were working. Al Jazeera reported that strike, too, was an Israeli attack.

Hamza al-Dahdouh was covering the airstrikes, too. Hours before his death, Hamza, who described himself on Instagram as a photographer, journalist, cameraman and producer, appeared to be behind the camera, posting photos of destroyed buildings in Gaza and of a colleague in a bulletproof vest marked “Press” broadcasting from a rubble-strewn street.

On Saturday, Hamza had posted a photo of his father. “Do not despair of recovery and do not despair of God’s mercy,” he wrote, “and be certain that God will reward you well for being patient.”

His father responded in a post of his own, “May God protect you.”

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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and the Jordanian foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday.Credit…Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, held meetings on Sunday with leaders in Jordan and Qatar as part of a weeklong eastern Mediterranean and Middle East tour aimed at reducing the risk that the war in Gaza could spread in the region.

Mr. Blinken met separately in Amman with King Abdullah II and Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister. He thanked the king for Jordan’s role in sending humanitarian aid to Gaza, and the two agreed to keep coordinating on aid, according to a statement by a State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller.

The U.S. has been pressing Israel for months to allow more aid into Gaza. Mr. Blinken reinforced that message with a visit to a warehouse with boxes of canned food that were intended to be brought to Gaza on trucks organized by the United Nations World Food Program.

Sheri Ritsema-Anderson, the resident U.N. coordinator in Jordan, told reporters that in her 15 years working in the Middle East, she had never seen a humanitarian situation as dire as the one in Gaza, describing it as an “epic catastrophe.”

She said about 220 trucks of various types of aid and fuel are now getting into Gaza daily, but that is only a fraction of the amount needed.

Before the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks that prompted Israel to launch airstrikes and a ground invasion in Gaza, which has forced most of the territory’s 2.2 million Palestinians from their homes, about 600 to 800 trucks carried supplies into Gaza each day. The territory has been under a de facto blockade by Israel, with the assistance of Egypt, for more than 16 years.

Mr. Blinken praised the U.N. food program, saying it was doing its work “at tremendous risk” — a reference to the dangers posed by Israeli airstrikes. And he emphasized the need to effectively distribute the aid “everywhere in Gaza.” Aid trucks are entering Gaza through border crossings in the south, after being inspected by Israeli authorities. Although Israel has been withdrawing some combat forces from northern Gaza, much of the aid is not reaching the north, the most devastated part of the strip.

In his meeting with the king, Mr. Blinken also reiterated that the U.S. was against moving Palestinians out of Gaza, according to Mr. Miller. Two far-right Israeli ministers endorsed that idea last week, drawing harsh rebukes from the U.S. and other countries.

Mr. Blinken flew into Doha, Qatar, in the afternoon and met with the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and with the prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, who also acts as the foreign minister. The officials spoke about possibilities for trying to get Hamas to release more hostages and for ensuring the conflict does not spread across the region.

“This is a moment of profound tension in the region,” Mr. Blinken said at a news conference with the prime minister. “This is a conflict that could easily metastasize.”

Mr. Blinken pointed to the recent attacks in the Red Sea by the Houthi militia of Yemen, which have jeopardized global shipping. Dealing with the threat from the Houthis was one of the topics discussed by American and Qatari officials in Doha. Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, joined Mr. Blinken’s delegation in Doha for the talks.

Mr. Blinken also expressed sadness at the killing on Sunday in Gaza of Hamza Dahdouh, a freelance journalist who was the eldest son of Wael Dahdouh, the bureau chief for Al Jazeera in Gaza.

Sheikh al-Thani said that Qatar was trying to push forward with hostage talks, despite the potential for the recent fatal bomb attack in Lebanon against Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy political leader of Hamas, to set back discussions. The bombing has been attributed to Israel.

“It has been ongoing,” the sheikh said of the hostage talks, adding that there have been “challenges, ups and downs, throughout the process.”

After his meetings in Doha, Mr. Blinken flew to Abu Dhabi to have meetings with officials in the United Arab Emirates on Monday.

Mr. Blinken was in Turkey on Saturday, meeting with his Turkish counterpart and with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with whom he discussed the need to keep the Gaza conflict from spreading, among other subjects, according to a State Department statement. Later, he met with Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on the island of Crete.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Blinken indicated that Turkey could play a role in a plan for postwar Gaza.

“I think from our conversations today, it’s clear that Turkey is prepared to play a positive, productive role in work that needs to happen the day after the conflict ends,” he said.

Edward Wong reporting from Doha, Qatar; Amman, Jordan; and Istanbul, Turkey

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A woman and her daughters search a cemetery for the graves of relatives during a temporary cease-fire in November in central Gaza.Credit…Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

For four days, Kareem Sabawi’s body lay wrapped in a blanket in a cold, empty apartment as his family sheltered nearby. He was killed during intense Israeli bombardment near his family home, his father and mother said, and in the days that followed, it was too dangerous to step outside and lay their 10-year-old child to rest.

His family called the Palestine Red Crescent for help. But it was the early days of Israel’s ground invasion in northern Gaza, and forces were blocking streets with tanks and gunfire, preventing rescue workers from reaching those killed by Israeli airstrikes. Each day, the father, Hazem Sabawi, suffered a double torment — mourning his son and unable to afford him the final dignity of a proper burial.

“After the fourth day, I said that’s it. Either I will be buried with him, or I won’t bury him at all,” he said, recounting how he laid his son under a guava tree behind a neighbor’s apartment building.

“Every human has the right to be buried,” Mr. Sabawi said.

It has been 13 weeks since Israel’s war in Gaza began after the attack on Israel by Hamas, which killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials. Since then, the living in Gaza have been forced to inter their dead hurriedly and without ceremony or last rites, lest they risk the same fate as their loved ones.

More than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since Oct. 7, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Civilians are being killed at a pace with few precedents in this century. The conflict has turned Gaza into a “graveyard for thousands of children,” the United Nations said.

“The situation has gotten to the point where we say: The lucky are those who have someone to bury them when they die,” said Dr. Mohammad Abu Moussa, a radiologist at Al-Nasr Hospital in southern Gaza.

Traditionally, Palestinians honor their dead with public funeral processions and mourning tents erected on streets for three days to receive those who want to offer condolences. But the war has made those traditions impossible to uphold.

Instead, the dead have been buried in mass graves, hospital courtyards and backyard gardens, often without headstones, their names scrawled on white burial shrouds or body bags. Funeral prayers are said quickly — if at all — in hospital hallways or outside morgues.

Ameera Harouda contributed reporting.

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