Israeli airstrikes stretched into their fourth day Thursday with intensified bombing overnight in Gaza, as Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets, and street riots between Jewish and Arab Israelis erupted in cities nationwide. Palestinian militants in Gaza fired hundreds of rockets at targets in Israel, the vast majority of which were intercepted by Israel’s defense system. The Israeli army said rocket fire has killed seven people, so far, including six Israeli civilians and one solider. Israel’s bombing campaign, on the other hand, has killed at least 83 Palestinians, including 17 children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Hundreds more Palestinians have been injured as of Thursday, the Eid al-Fitr holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan. Since the outbreak of the conflict, the use of force and the damage inflicted has been asymmetrical with Israeli defense forces using its vastly superior firepower to carry out an air campaign in military and residential areas of Gaza.
Israeli officials say its defense forces have conducted 600 airstrikes in Gaza since the conflict first flared earlier this week. The Israeli military have also maneuvered two infantry brigades and one armored brigade in preparation for a potential ground invasion of Gaza. A ground campaign would be the first such military incursion in the area since 2014. Israeli military officials said the army was “preparing for a worst-case scenario” in amassing troops on the border.
While the military clash has generally tracked previous iterations of the conflict, the outbreak of mob violence on city streets around the country portends something much darker and potentially more dangerous. Gruesome scenes were broadcast on Israeli television of the mob violence, including Jewish attackers continuing to beat a man, presumed to be Arab, even after he lay motionless on the street. Groups of Arab attackers also carried out assaults on the street.
The street violence inside Israel has been a departure, sending the conflict careening into an uncertain space of chaotic hand-to-hand communal combat. “What was maybe under the surface has now exploded, and created a combination that is really horrific,” Tzipi Livni, a former cabinet minister and former chief negotiator in Palestinian peace talks told the New York Times. “I don’t want to use the words ‘civil war’… But this is something that is new, this is unbearable, this is horrific, and I’m very worried.” Israeli defense force is now faced with deploying reservists to quell the nationwide violence.