Fear and grief grip Gaza anew amid familiar glare

To the outside world, the scenes of rocket fire, bombing raids and angry protests in the Middle East this week may have looked familiar. To the people of Israel and especially the Gaza Strip, they were anything but routine.

Families once again fled or found themselves homeless, anguished parents mourned dead children and journalists evacuated offices before they were destroyed as the Islamic militant group Hamas and the Israeli military sought to inflict as much damage on the other as they could this week – before the fighting intensified further or they were pressured into a cease-fire.

The Gaza side, which is controlled by Hamas, absorbed the overwhelming brunt of the death toll: 145 people, including 41 children and 23 women, as of Saturday night, according to the Health Ministry of the narrow, crowded territory where 2 million Palestinians live. Those killed included a family of six on Friday and 10 members of the same family on Saturday.

Mourners react in a hospital over the body of a man who died following an explosion in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, on Monday, May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ali)

In Israel, where cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations have seen nightly communal violence, eight people have died, including two children. The regional director for UNICEF reported Saturday that half of the children killed in Gaza were under 10, while dozens of other Palestinian children were wounded in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

“The scale of violence is massive. Children are bearing the brunt of this escalation,” UNICEF regional director Ted Chaiban said. “All sides need to step back and end the violence.”

The violence sparked in Jerusalem a month ago amid Israeli police actions at the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint built on a hilltop compound that is revered by both Jews and Muslims. Tensions built in east Jerusalem earlier this month when Palestinians protested attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of families from their homes.

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City Monday, May 10, 2021. Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site on Monday. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Starting late last Monday, Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem in an apparent attempt to present itself as the champion of the protesters. Israel retorted with aerial bombardments, and then deployed tanks and warplanes as the militant group fired hundreds of rockets across the border.

The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising: Across the West Bank, Palestinians held their most widespread protests since 2017, with hundreds in at least nine towns burning tires and throwing stones at Israeli troops, who fired back with their weapons.

As the U.N. Security Council prepared to discuss the situation Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces set their sights on a new target. An Israeli air strike on Saturday afternoon targeted and destroyed a 12-story building housing the Gaza offices of The Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other news outlets.

The bombing disrupted international coverage of the ongoing conflict, an outcome that some media organizations suspected was deliberate.

An Israeli firefighter walks next to cars hit by a missile fired from Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Palestinians inspect their destroyed houses following overnight Israeli airstrikes in the town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in Gaza Strip, at the Israeli Gaza border, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Yonatan Sindel)
An Israeli firefighter extinguishes a burning bus after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, at the central Israeli town of Holon, near Tel Aviv, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Avshalom Sassoni)
An Israeli airstrike hits the high-rise building housing The Associated Press’ offices in Gaza City, Saturday, May 15, 2021. The airstrike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. The building housed The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of offices and apartment. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Israeli police officers fire stun grenades toward Palestinian demonstrators during clashes at Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, Saturday, May 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Palestinians walk next to the remains of a destroyed 15 story building after being hit by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, Monday, May. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians attend the funeral of two women and eight children of the Abu Hatab family in Gaza City, who were killed after an Israeli air strike, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT – A Palestinian relative mourns over the bodies of four brothers from the Tanani family who were found under the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli airstrikes in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Friends and relatives of Israeli soldier Omer Tabib, 21, mourn during his funeral at the cemetery in the northern Israeli town of Elyakim, Thursday, May 13, 2021. The Israeli army confirmed that Tabib was killed in an anti-tank missile attack near the Gaza Strip, the first Israeli military death in the current fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Palestinians flee their homes after overnight Israeli heavy missile strikes on their neighborhoods in the outskirts of Gaza City, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, Monday, May. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Members of Sror family inspect the damage of their apartment after being hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip overnight, in Petah Tikva, central Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
An Israeli police officer protects a Jewish driver who was attacked by Palestinian protesters near Jerusalem’s Old City, Monday, May 10, 2021. Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site on Monday. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
A Jewish driver, center, scuffles with Palestinians after he was attacked by Palestinian protesters near Jerusalem’s Old City. Monday, May 10, 2021. Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site on Monday. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Relatives of Israeli soldier Omer Tabib, 21, mourn during his funeral at the cemetery in the northern Israeli town of Elyakim, Thursday, May 13, 2021. The Israeli army confirmed that Tabib was killed in an anti-tank missile attack near the Gaza Strip, the first Israeli military death in the current fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in Gaza Strip, at the Israeli Gaza border, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Yonatan Sindel)
Israeli police officers clash with Palestinian protesters near Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, Sunday, May 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Members of Sror family inspect the damage of their apartment after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip over night in Petah Tikva, central Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Palestinians inspect their destroyed houses following overnight Israeli airstrikes in town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT – Palestinians carry the body of a child found in the rubble of a house belonging to the Tanani family, that was destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Jacob Simona stands by his burning car during clashes with Israeli Arabs and police in the Israeli mixed city of Lod, Israel Tuesday, May 11,2021. (AP Photo/Heidi Levine)
Palestinians walk along a destroyed road following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
An Israeli man inspects the damage to a house that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israeli firefighters take cover as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza strip, in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

AP Photos

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