Thursday night saw some of the biggest rioting in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in years, which observers likened to the preamble to a Third Intifada, as Operation Protective Edge entered its 18th day.
Protesting the Gaza operation, over 10,000 Palestinians converged on the Qalandiya checkpoint between East Jerusalem and Ramallah on Thursday night, where they clashed with Israel police and soldiers. During the fighting, bullets were fired at Israeli forces and rocks and molotov cocktails were thrown by the rioters. Early on in the clashes, two Palestinian rioters were shot dead by Israeli forces near Qalandiya, sparking fears that Friday could see heavy rioting in Jerusalem and beyond following afternoon prayers.
By Friday morning, the day after Palestinian Authority officials called for a “Day of Rage” in the West Bank, police said they had arrested 39 people on suspicion of rioting and that 27 police officers had been hurt just during the clashes in the Old City and East Jerusalem. On Friday, police went on their highest level of readiness in the capital, deploying between 3,000-4,000 officers to the Temple Mount, the Old City, and the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. They also limited entry at the Temple Mount to Muslim women and men over the age of 50.
With fears of Palestinian street clashes in the capital occupying Israeli police, Jerusalem and Qalandiya remained quiet Friday while the violence spread to the West Bank, with as many as five or more Palestinians killed in separate incidents involving Israelis. These include one man shot dead by an Israeli man near Nablus, who said he opened fire on rock-throwers who set upon his vehicle. Another two were killed in subsequent rioting and clashes with IDF troops elsewhere in the West Bank.
Also Friday, the Israeli Cabinet met to discuss ceasefire proposals including one put forward by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry which included guarantees to remove the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The IDF death toll continued to mount on Friday, as 36-year-old Yair Ashkenazi of Rehovot was killed in fighting early Friday morning in the northern Gaza Strip, becoming the 33rd soldier to die since the ground operation of Operation Protective Edge began last Thursday. He joins three civilians in Israel killed by rockets and mortars in the fighting as well. Meanwhile, Palestinian health officials in Gaza said that the number of Palestinian dead has now reached 808, as 115 Palestinians were killed on Thursday.