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ConflictsMiddle East

Israeli combat troops amass at Gaza border — As it happened

May 13, 2021

Israel and Hamas continue to exchange rocket fire in the worst escalation of violence in years.

A picture taken on May 13, 2021 shows a ball of fire engulfing the Al-Walid building which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza city early in the morning.
Israel has been pounding Gaza with airstrikes over the past week.Image: Uncredited/AFP
  • Israel says three rockets have been fired from Lebanon
  • US "deeply concerned" about Israel violence
  • France's Macron seeks Middle East peace "reset"

Live updates ended

This live updates article has now been closed. For continued coverage please see here: Israel-Gaza violence: Israeli ground troops attack Gaza Strip — live updates

Israel says ground troops deployed to Gaza Strip

Israeli's military said ground troops were conducting operations targeting the Gaza Strip, but it's still unclear the extent of their operations. 

"IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking the Gaza Strip," the Israeli Defense Forces said in a tweet.

Palestinians say death toll climbs to more than 100

Gaza's Health Ministry said the death toll has climbed to 103 Palestinians, including 27 children and 11 women, with 530 people wounded.

Seven people have been killed in Israel. Among them were a soldier killed by an anti-tank missile and a 6-year-old child hit in a rocket attack.

Biden holds more talks with Israeli PM

US President Joe Biden says he has spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again.

Biden said that his administration wants to “get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centers.”

Blinken "deeply concerned" about Israel violence

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington is "deeply concerned about the violence in the streets of Israel" as Jews and Arabs clashed in riots across the country.

Blinken said Muslims feasting for Eid al-Fitr and Jews marking Shavuot this week "deserve to take part in celebrations without fear of violence."

Rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon

The Reuters news agency quoted Israeli officials as saying that three rockets had been fired from Lebanon earlier on Thursday. 

A military spokesperson said they landed in the Mediterranean Sea and there was no damage or any casualties.

Ex-security officials downplays chances of ground offensive

Major General Giora Eiland, the former head of Israel's national security council, told DW that a ground invasion is not 'the first priority' because it could create additional security problems.

'Any ground operation would last longer than airstrikes. Number two, it usually causes casualties to the friendly forces. It might create unnecessary conflicts on the ground with civilians.'

US votes down Security Council meeting

The United States has blocked a UN Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss the new flare-up between Israel and the Palestinians, three diplomats told the AFP news agency.

In its statements this week on the Mideast crisis, the US has said Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks launched by the Islamist movement Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said later on Thursday that they wanted to organize the meeting "early next week".

Israel calls up more reservists

Israel's defense minister Benny Gantz said he had signed off on the mobilization of 9,000 more reservist troops as the fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas continued.

Gantz said it was an "exceptional call-up", but refused to be drawn on when a possible ground intervention might come about.

French President Macron urges "reset" in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for a “definite reset” of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Macron's call comes after Palestinian militants fired dozens more rockets into central and southern Israel as Israel sent tanks and troops to the enclave's border.

German foreign minister blames Hamas for latest escalation, calls for two-state solution

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Thursday told Germany's Bild newspaper, "Hamas willfully brought about this latest escalation by launching more than a thousand rockets at Israeli cities." Maas says he hopes, "A negotiated two-state solution can break the deadly cycle of repetitious violence" but notes that Germany is concerned about deep divisions among Palestinians and a loss of control by the Palestinian Authority.   

Israel calls on UN to condemn 'indiscriminate attacks'

"I call upon the international community to unequivocally condemn the indiscriminate attacks by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians and population centers and to support Israel's fundamental right to self-defense," read a letter from Gilad Erdan, Israel's ambassador to the UN and the US. The letter, addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, went on to say, "The State of Israel is not interested in an escalation. However, Israel has the right and duty to defend its people and sovereignty and will continue to do so vigorously."

On Wednesday, Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the UN, published a letter calling on the UN and the international community to, "act with immediacy to demand that Israel cease its attacks against the Palestinian civilian population." Mansour also called on Israel to drop "plans to forcibly displace and ethnically cleanse Palestinians" from Jerusalem.

UN Chief Guterres and Russian President Putin urge de-escalation

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday urged both Israel and Hamas to "stop the violence." A statement put out by the Kremlin after the two men spoke via video read: "In light of the escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it was stated that the primary task is to stop violent actions on both sides and ensure the safety of the civilian population,"  

Hamas launches large rocket at Eilat airport after flights diverted from Tel Aviv 

Hamas says it launched a 250 kilo (500 lb.) rocket targeting Ramon Airport near Eilat. Flights had been diverted there — 200 km (125 mi) south of Tel Aviv — due repeated rocket attacks at Ben Gurion, the country's main airport. Hamas demanded international carriers immediately halt all flights to Israel.

Israeli Defense Forces on Thursday took to Twitter to announce the downing of a drone over Israeli airspace, saying: "Recently, the IDF shot down an unmanned aircraft that crossed from the Gaza Strip into the State of Israel. The aircraft was monitoring air control units from the moment of crossing until the moment of landing."

Egyptian delegation in Tel Aviv for peace talks

Delegates hope to negotiate a cease-fire according to Egyptian intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The officials say the delegation spoke with Hamas in Gaza prior to traveling to Israel over land. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry on Wednesday called for both sides to avoid further escalation and condemned Israel's attacks on the Palestinian territories in a call with Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi.

British prime minister urges de-escalation

"Certainly we in the UK are very sad to see what is happening and the cycle of violence that now seems to be taking place," the UK's Prime Minister Johnson told reporters.

"I think it's important that we break that cycle and we end this idea of reprisals and I think that what everybody wants to see is urgent de-escalation," he added.

European airlines cancel Tel Aviv flights

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Germany's Lufthansa and Spain's Iberia have all canceled flights to Tel Aviv.

The European carriers want to avoid flying to Israel amid an escalating conflict there.

Lufthansa said it was suspending flights until May 14, due to the "current situation."

British Airways said: "The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority, and we continue to monitor the situation closely."

It is likely a blow to British Airways and British-based Virgin Atlantic. Britain recently announced that Israel was on its "green list" for travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgin Atlantic reported earlier this week bookings had risen by 250% week on week.

Israel combat troops amass along Gaza border

Israel prepared ground combat troops along the Gaza border on Thursday. The country was in "various stages of preparing ground operations," a military spokesman said.

The move recalls similar incursions during the Israel-Gaza wars in 2014 and 2008-2009.

 Israeli soldiers check artillery shells in an area near the border with Gaza
Israeli combat soldier are massing near the border with GazaImage: Amir Cohen/REUTERS

"The Chief of Staff is inspecting those preparations and providing guidance," Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

Israel launched renewed airstrikes on Thursday in Gaza. Arab militant group Hamas has continued to launch rocket barrages at Israel.

The coastal Gaza Strip has been under control of Hamas since 2006 elections and has become a base from which militants fire rockets into Israel.

 Israeli soldiers check artillery shells in a field in Israel near the border with Gaza
Israeli soldiers are stationed near the border with Gaza in southern IsraelImage: Amir Cohen/REUTERS

It is home to 1.85 million people, who live on 365 square kilometers (140 square miles) of land, making it a high-density urban area.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel and the European Union.

Israeli-Palestinian 'situation going in wrong direction'

"The situation is very alarming, and I use that word purposefully because it is something that the world needs to be paying attention to. The situation here is going in the wrong direction," Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and United Nations Resident Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory Lynn Hastings told DW.

"We need this escalation to stop so we can get people back to the [negotiating] table," Hastings said. "We're working with all those who can influence the situation and bring this violence to a stop."

Israeli security forces stand on the street of Lod in front of a white four-wheel drive police car. They are holding machine guns.
Clashes flared up on the streets of the Israeli city of Lod between Jews and ArabsImage: Nir Alon/ZUMA Wire/picture alliance

"The first thing, there, obviously, needs to be a de-escalation. The second thing is we need humanitarian access into and out of Gaza," she said.

Hastings added that militants needed to stop firing rockets at Israel. She said that Israel needed to change some of its policies concerning settlements and its approach to Palestinians' property rights in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"Those actions do not serve a peace process at all, and they need to stop," she said.

International community debates response to conflict

The situation is continuing to provoke international reactions.

The UN Security Council — made up of five permanent and 10 non-permanent member states — met on Wednesday to discuss the conflict for the second time this week.

News agency AFP quoted several sources who said that 14 of the 15 members of the Council were in favor of adopting a joint declaration aimed at reducing tension.

But the United States, which is a close ally of Israel ally and a permanent, veto-holding Security Council member, opposed the adoption of a joint declaration. It said such declaration would not "help de-escalate" the situation.

Palestinian medical staff take a break outside Shifa Hospital
Palestinian medical staff take a break outside Shifa Hospital amid airstrikes in Gaza cityImage: Mustafa Hasson/AA/picture alliance

Turkey's vice president, Fuat Oktay, criticized the Security Council for not making a strong statement against the violence.

"There are decisions taken repeatedly at the United Nations, there are condemnations. But unfortunately, no result has been obtained, because a clear stance is not displayed," Oktay said.

Oktay also called out Muslim countries for not showing "unity and togetherness." Speaking after morning prayers marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Oktay added: "What we desire is that active measures are taken."

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has repeatedly condemned Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the treatment of Palestinians.

Tunisia, Norway and China have requested another emergency UN Security Council meeting be scheduled on Friday over the conflict.

Airstrikes, rocket attacks continue

Hamas continued to launch rockets at Israel overnight while Israel carried out airstrikes.

Most of the rockets fired by Hamas were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), around 25 rockets fell short, landing in the Gaza Strip.

A total of five people received minor injuries in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, in the rocket attacks.

Israel fighter jets hit Hamas' main bank and one of its naval force squads. They completely destroyed the Internal Security Agency in the North Gaza governate.

Palestinian media reported that homes were also hit.

Israeli defense minister shocked by violence in Israeli cities

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded to the "shocking violence" seen in several Israeli cities, saying it is a threat, according to the Times of Israel.

An Arab-Israeli man, who was beaten by a group of Israeli far-right nationalists on Wednesday evening, was "seriously injured but stable," the Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv said. Images of the beating were broadcast by an Israeli public broadcaster. 

In the northern city of Acre on Wednesday, a Jewish motorist was reportedly beaten by Arab residents. In the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, Jewish youths reportedly ransacked stores and beat an Arab man, Israeli media reported. An Arab man was also beaten by a mob in Haifa.

"On this evening, more than ever, our internal divisions are what threaten us," Gantz said.

"We must not win the battle in Gaza and lose the battle at home. The harsh images from the cities and streets tonight are Israelis tearing each other apart. The shocking violence in Bat Yam, Acre, Lod and other cities turns our stomachs and breaks the hearts of us all," he added.

A state of emergency was declared in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod, where a synagogue and other Jewish property were set on fire and an Arab resident was shot dead.

Anthony Blinken calls Mahmoud Abbas  

The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, on Wednesday.

"I spoke with President Abbas about the ongoing situation in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza," Blinken wrote on Twitter.

"I expressed condolences for the loss of life. I emphasized the need to end rocket attacks and deescalate tensions," he added.

Flight diverted amid rocket strikes

A video shared on social media showed the view from a plane flying over Israel as rockets are fired from Gaza. The plane was forced to fly in circles for an hour due to the rocket fire before it could land at a different Israeli airport.

Major US airlines; including American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Airlines, all said that they had canceled flights to Tel Aviv as rocket fire from Hamas continues to target Ben Gurion airport.

Israeli PM seeks use of army to put down riots

Israeli media reported late Wednesday that violent groups of Arab and Jewish Israelis are carrying out attacks on individuals, with rioting continuing in some mixed Arab-Jewish Israeli cities.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the scenes of violence, saying "nothing can justify an Arab mob assaulting Jews, and nothing can justify a Jewish mob assaulting Arabs."

He also said that he was looking at employing the Israeli army to "bring back order and rule" within Israel, adding that he would push legislation to give him emergency powers if necessary.

Netanyahu pledges further airstrikes after Biden call

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a phone call with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday in which Biden expressed support for Israel and stressed its right to self-defense. 

The US president was also hopeful that the violence in the region would end soon.

"My expectation and hope is this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself," Biden told reporters at the White House after the conversation.

Netanyahu, however, followed the conversation by saying that Israel would continue to carry out airstrikes in Gaza, a tweet from the prime minister's office said.

Violence enters sixth day

The Israeli military and Hamas militants in Gaza continue to exchange rocket fire and airstrikes. The death toll continues to climb as violence spreads to the streets of mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel.

World leaders have called for an end to violence. Some have emphasized Israel's right to defend itself, while others warn of a full-scale war if the two sides fail to de-escalate.

ab/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)