Violence raged on the streets of Israel late Wednesday, with rival Arab and Jewish mobs carrying out beatings and torching cars in a wave of communal unrest.
As the conflict with Palestinian militants in Gaza intensified and the death toll grew to at least 90, political leaders in Israel urged an end to the “anarchy” on the streets of mixed ethnicity towns across the country.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to restore order “with an iron fist if necessary” after nights of violence.
“It doesn’t matter to me that your blood is boiling. You can’t take the law in your hands,” he said.
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At least 83 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed as the Israeli military and the militant group Hamas continue to exchange barrages of airstrikes and rocket attacks, officials on either side said.
Israel has prepared combat troops along the Gaza border and was in “various stages of preparing ground operations,” a military spokesman said according to Reuters.
“The chief of staff is inspecting those preparations and providing guidance,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.
Meanwhile, unrest that has been brewing for days within Israel has erupted.
In Lod, near Tel Aviv, groups of Jewish and Arab people ignored a nighttime curfew and battled on the streets, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.
Two people were shot and killed and one Israeli Jew was stabbed there, police said.
In nearby Bat Yam an Israeli mob dragged an Arab motorist from his car and attacked him, leaving him in a serious condition.
In the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military said it thwarted a Palestinian shooting attack that wounded two people, according to The Associated Press. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the suspected gunman was killed. No details were immediately available, the AP said.
The domestic violence was among the worst since the 2000 Palestinian intifada, while international figures warned that the conflict between Israel and Gaza risked spiraling toward all-out war.
In a call with Netanyahu on Wednesday, President Joe Biden conveyed his “unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians,” according to a White House statement.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and “condemned the rocket attacks and emphasized the need to de-escalate tensions and bring the current violence to an end,” a statement said.
Washington was sending a senior diplomat to the region in an effort to calm tensions.
The current tensions have their roots in east Jerusalem, where unrest has been growing around plans to evict Palestinian families from a neighborhood in east Jerusalem whose land is claimed by Jewish settlers.
On Monday, this escalated when Palestinians say Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and used stun grenades and rubber bullets against worshippers. Israeli officials said the Palestinians were throwing stones at their forces and toward the Western Wall, where thousands of Jews had gathered to pray.
Hamas, the militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, told Israel to withdraw its security forces before firing volleys of rockets that by Thursday morning numbered more than 1,500, Israeli officials said. Six Israelis have been killed in Lod, Ashkleon and Rishon Lezion, officials said.
Israel responded by launching airstrikes into Gaza, a tiny, impoverished enclave blockaded by Israel and Egypt that’s home to 2 million Palestinians.
At least 83 people, including 17 children, were killed in the Israeli bombardment according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel says it has been targeting sites related to Hamas, which it and the U.S. classify as a terrorist organization, and that it was trying to minimize civilian casualties.
Alexander Smith reported from London and Paul Goldman and Lawahez Jabari reported from Tel Aviv. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Paul Goldman and Lawahez Jabari contributed.
Violence erupts on Israeli streets as Gaza conflict intensifies – NBC News