Israel Gaza violence: US envoy arrives for de-escalation talks

A US envoy has arrived in Tel Aviv for de-escalation talks as unrest between Israel and the Palestinians continue.

Hady Amr will take part in talks with Israeli, Palestinian and UN officials in the hope of agreeing on a ceasefire.

Early on Saturday, Israel conducted air strikes in Gaza and Palestinian militants responded by firing rockets into Israel.

The clashes recorded over the past five days mark some of the worst violence in the region in years.

The conflict began on Monday and followed weeks of spiralling Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem. The increased hostilities culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas – the militant Islamist group which rules Gaza – began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.

At least 133 people have been killed in Gaza and eight have died in Israel since the fighting began.

Palestinian health ministry officials say an Israeli air strike early on Saturday killed at least seven Palestinians, including women and children, at a refugee camp west of Gaza City.

Militants in Gaza responded with rockets targeting the Israeli city of Beersheba.

On Friday, clashes spread to the West Bank, with at least 10 Palestinians killed and hundreds injured. Israeli forces used teargas, rubber bullets and live fire, as Palestinians threw petrol bombs.

The site of destroyed houses in the northern Gaza strip
The clashes over the past five days mark some of the worst violence in the region in years

Mr Amr’s arrival comes ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Sunday. The US embassy in Israel said the aim of his trip was to “reinforce the need to work toward a sustainable calm”.

But appeals to Israeli and Palestinian leaders have so far failed to produce a ceasefire agreement.

Israel’s air strikes on Hamas in Gaza have forced the Middle East on to US President Joe Biden’s agenda. His administration has had to rapidly step up its game on the diplomatic front without a full team in place: there is not even a nominee yet for ambassador to Israel.

Mr Amr is a mid-level diplomat without the kind of rank held by special envoys in previous US administrations, the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher says.

On Thursday, Israel’s military called up 7,000 army reservists and deployed troops and tanks near its border with Gaza. It said a ground offensive in Gaza was one option being considered but a decision had yet to be made.

An estimated 10,000 Palestinians have left their homes in Gaza since Monday because of the conflict, according to the UN.

Map showing Israel and the Gaza Strip

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