The area is embroiled in violence on several levels….
The 40-minute midnight assault, which forced hundreds of civilians in northern Gaza to flee their homes, involved 160 Israeli warplanes and three brigades of ground forces, including tanks, according to a spokesman for the Israeli military.
Although ground forces were involved, they did not enter Gaza, said Lt. Jonathan Conricus, contradicting a statement the night before that a ground assault on the enclave was underway.
Violence and unrest continued to spread across Israel and the Palestinian territories overnight. In the West Bank — where tensions among residents, Israeli soldiers, Palestinian Authority security forces and Jewish settlers already made for a volatile brew — clashes erupted in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and other West Bank cities. Settlers set fire to wide swaths of Palestinian farmland, according to the Israeli human rights group B’tsalem.
In Israel, a surge in sectarian clashes between Jewish and Arab Israelis continued for a fourth night as police arrested more than 100 in towns across the country. With fights breaking out in cities such as Haifa and Acre, long hailed as models of Arab-Jewish coexistence, many Israelis feared they were seeing the seeds of prolonged civil strife…