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Israel and Palestinians brace for day of protests after first night without Gaza rocket fire in a week

Israel and the Palestinian territories were bracing for a potentially tense day of protests and strikes Tuesday, as both sides prepare to bury the victims of the deadliest violence the region has seen in years.

Several people will be laid to rest in Gaza, while a Jewish man, who succumbed to his injuries after being badly wounded during mob violence in the central Israeli city of Lod last week, will also be buried.

A number of Palestinian groups, including Hamas militants in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, called for mass strikes and protests, but it’s unclear if those efforts will gain steam. Palestinian factions have made similar calls in the past, only to see demonstration plans fizzle out.

Israel imposed a partial closure on the West Bank on Tuesday, an Israeli security source told CNN, with only men older than 45 and Palestinian construction workers with work permits allowed to enter Israel.

Monday night and early Tuesday morning brought a brief glimmer of hope and respite in southern Israel from militants’ rockets. The Israel Defense Forces did not report any southern warning sirens from 11:15 p.m. until 5:34 a.m. — the first time in a week Israel went a night without rocket fire from Gaza, though militants fired two salvos towards southern towns shortly after sunrise, forcing residents to flee to bomb shelters, as they had much of Monday.

The IDF said about 90 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel on Monday, dozens of which were intercepted by Israel’s advanced missile defense system. About 20 fell inside Gaza.

Israeli airstrikes continued through the night into Tuesday morning, but so far, no overnight casualties have been reported by Gaza’s health ministry. The IDF said in a statement it had targeted a tunnel system in northern Gaza, several residences of Hamas commanders and an anti-tank squad in Gaza City.

Around dawn, the IDF also destroyed an office building near Gaza. An advance warning was given that the tower would be targeted, witnesses said, and there were no reports of casualties. Israel has not commented on the incident. The Al-Qassam brigades, Hamas’ military wing, said it fired rockets at Israel in response.

The destroyed building was among several pieces of infrastructure used by civilians that have been targeted by the IDF. Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of “deliberately” operating near buildings like hospitals and schools, thereby endangering civilians who risk becoming human shields.

Now into its eighth day, this is the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian confrontation since the two sides fought a war in 2014, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Monday that Israel would “continue to strike at the targets of terrorism.”

The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said 212 people, including 61 children, had been killed and 1,400 others injured since the violence began. More than 2,500 Palestinians are now without homes and more than 38,000 are considered internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

At least 10 people in Israel have died as a result of Hamas rocket fire, including two children, since the start of the flareup, according to the IDF. Israel’s military earlier said it had struck more targets in Gaza in the past week than it did in all of 2020.

Over the weekend, Israeli forces destroyed a building housing offices for international media outlets Al Jazeera and The Associated Press, claiming it contained Hamas military intelligence assets. Hamas has denied that allegation.

Dozens of Israeli jets bombed more than 9 miles (14 km) of Hamas’ tunnel system in Gaza Sunday night into Monday morning and targeted 14 residences Monday that the Israeli military said belonged to commanders from the Palestinian militant group.

Hamas authorities and video from the ground showed a health clinic in Gaza City damaged by an Israeli airstrike on a nearby target, its windows blown out. The Ministry of Health in Gaza said the clinic was one of its main coronavirus testing centers.

The ministry earlier warned the destruction of medical facilities could lead to a surge of Covid-19 cases because those fleeing to shelters would be “exposed to the spread of infectious diseases, especially the danger of spread of the coronavirus.”

A spokesperson for the IDF told CNN on Tuesday that it targeted the main operations center of the Hamas internal security forces in the Rimal neighborhood, and that the building was close to the clinic.

Attempts to negotiate a ceasefire between the warring parties have so far proven difficult.

US President Joe Biden voiced support for a ceasefire Monday during a telephone call with Netanyahu and “discussed US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end,” a White House description of the call read.

Egypt and Qatar’s efforts to broker a truce have stalled over two main points, a senior Hamas leader with direct knowledge of mediation efforts told CNN on Sunday.

One stumbling block is Israel’s insistence that Hamas must initiate the ceasefire, at least three hours before Israel, at which point Israel would follow. Hamas flatly rejected this proposal, the Hamas leader said.

The Hamas source said the other hurdle is Hamas’ insistence that any ceasefire must include the ending of Israel’s “provocations” at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem — the third holiest site in Islam — and a resolution of the situation in Sheikh Jarrah, an East Jerusalem neighborhood where several Palestinian families face eviction.

A pro-Jewish settler organization called Nahalat Shimon is using a 1970 law to argue the owners of the land in question before 1948 were Jewish families, and so the current Palestinian landowners should be evicted and their properties given to Israeli Jews.

Palestinians say restitution laws in Israel are unfair because they have no legal means to reclaim property they lost to Jewish families in the late 1940s in what became the state of Israel.

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