Gaza strip clashes worsen as death toll climbs

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Turmoil from the battle between Israel and Hamas spilled over into the West Bank on Friday, sparking the most widespread Palestinian protests in years as hundreds of young demonstrators in multiple towns clashed with Israeli troops, who shot and killed at least 11 people.

In Gaza, at least 126 people have been killed, including 31 children and 20 women; in Israel, seven people have been killed, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier.

Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued into early Saturday, when an airstrike on a house in Gaza City killed at least seven Palestinians — the highest number of fatalities in a single hit. That strike came a day after a furious overnight barrage of tank fire and airstrikes that wreaked destruction in some towns, killed a family of six in their house and sent thousands fleeing their homes.

The Israeli military said the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tons of explosives over the course of 40 minutes and succeeded in destroying a network of tunnels used by Hamas to elude airstrikes and surveillance.

Israel appeared determined to inflict as much damage as possible on Gaza’s Hamas rulers before international efforts for a cease-fire accelerated. Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 126 people have been killed, including 31 children and 20 women; in Israel, seven people have been killed, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier.

Houda Ouda said she and her extended family ran frantically into their home in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, seeking safety as the earth shook in the darkness.

“We even did not dare to look from the window to know what is being hit,” she said. When daylight came, she saw the destruction: streets cratered, buildings crushed or with facades blown off, an olive tree burned bare, dust covering everything.

The latest airstrike targeted a three-story house on the edge of a refugee camp. Said Alghoul, who lives nearby, said Israeli warplanes dropped at least three bombs on the home without warning residents in advance.

“I could not endure and ran back to my home,” he said. Rescuers called a bulldozer to dig through the rubble for survivors or bodies.

Shortly afterward, Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the airstrike.

The conflict, which was sparked by tensions in Jerusalem during the past month, has reverberated widely. Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations have seen daily violence, with mobs from each community clashing and trashing each other’s property. New clashes broke out Friday in the coastal city of Acre.

In the occupied West Bank, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Nablus and other towns and cities, hundreds of Palestinians protested against the Gaza campaign and Israeli actions in Jerusalem. Waving Palestinian flags, they trucked in tires that they set up in burning barricades and hurled stones at Israeli soldiers. At least 10 protesters were shot and killed by soldiers. An 11th Palestinian was killed when he tried to stab a soldier at a military position.

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