Fighting between Israel and militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip raged on Tuesday, with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz saying his military has “thousands more attack targets” as unrest again spread to the West Bank.
Two foreign workers were killed by a mortar barrage fired from Gaza that slammed into a plant in southern Israel, bringing the overall death toll inside Israel to 12. The Israeli military kept up its airstrikes on the tiny Palestinian enclave, where Gaza Health Ministry officials say 213 people have been killed, including dozens of civilians.
Israel’s Arab citizens and Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories went on strike to protest the onslaught in Gaza and Israel’s conduct in Jerusalem. The holy city is at the heart of conflicting sovereignty claims, and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces there prefaced the war that broke out May 10.
Thousands turned out for protests across several West Bank cities, and a Palestinian man was killed in skirmishes with the Israeli military. More than 70 were wounded, according to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry.
Israel’s Channel 12 also reported clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Diplomatic efforts intensified as the violence persisted.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken embarked on a flurry of talks with counterparts from around the world to seek an easing of the conflict, including calls with the foreign ministers of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
“We are engaged in a quiet but very intensive diplomacy in an effort to deescalate and end the violence and then hopefully move on to build something more positive,” Blinken said Tuesday during a visit to Iceland. The effort “involves dozen and dozens of phone calls with the Israelis with the Palestinians and virtually every partnered country in the region,” he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Egyptian President Abdelfattah El-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke by video-conference, and European Union foreign ministers also met to support the efforts.
On Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he’d support a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after days of calling for calm but not publicly seeking an end to the conflict, a shift in the U.S. approach to the crisis following days of rising criticism.
Biden’s support for a cease-fire adds pressure on both sides to end a conflict that’s seen militants fire more than 3,100 rockets and Israel pummel Gaza with airstrikes and artillery.
The economic toll mounted as the war dragged on. Egypt pledged $500 million for Gaza reconstruction work to be carried out by Egyptian companies.
Jonathan Katz, economist at Israel’s Leader Capital Markets, estimated the war has so far cost Israel as much as $1.5 billion, a major drag on the economy, which saw output shrink 6.5% in the first quarter, rather than grow 3.2% as forecast in a Bloomberg survey, largely due to coronavirus restrictions.