JERUSALEM — Israeli forces killed a leader of Islamic Jihad’s military wing and two of his sons early Friday with an airstrike on their home in the southern Gaza Strip, as the Palestinian death toll topped 800 in the battle’s 18th day. A 36-year-old reservist also fell in combat in Gaza’s north, the military said, bringing the number of Israeli soldiers killed over the past week to 33.
A statement from Islamic Jihad, which has been fighting Israel alongside the Islamist Hamas movement, said that Salah Abu Hassanein, 45 — a spokesman for its militia, Al-Quds Brigades — and his sons, aged 15 and 12, were killed in the entrance to their home in the southern city of Rafah.
The Israeli military highlighted the attacks against Hassanein and eight other operatives of Islamic Jihad and Hamas it said had been killed in recent days, amid international outcry over the civilians killed Thursday at a school where they had sought refuge.
A spokesman for the Israeli police said sporadic disturbances broke out Friday in some East Jerusalem neighborhoods as 10,000 Muslims attended prayers in Al Aksa Mosque compound, where men younger than 50 were barred out of concern about clashes.
Palestinians planned demonstrations in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank to turn the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan — known as Al Quds Day — into a “day of rage.” Micky Rosenfeld, the police spokesman, said 40 Palestinians were arrested and 29 Israeli officers injured during overnight clashes in East Jerusalem. At least one Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces during a march Thursday night in which thousands chanted, “With our soul and blood, we will redeem Gaza.”
Against an intensifying diplomatic background, airstrikes in Gaza and rockets fired into Israel continued — Israel said two were intercepted over Tel Aviv on Friday and shrapnel from another damaged an apartment building in the coastal city of Ashkelon. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was said to be working in Cairo to build support for a two-stage cease-fire plan that would halt hostilities for seven days while broader terms were discussed but allow Israeli troops to remain in Gaza and perhaps even continue to destroy the tunnels they have discovered leading into their territory.
Israeli news outlets reported that Kerry would fly to Paris on Friday and meet with his counterparts from France, Britain, Qatar and Turkey, as well as the European Union’s foreign policy chief and the secretary-general of the Arab League. Ban Ki Moon, U.N. secretary-general, was also in Cairo and scheduled to address journalists later Friday.
Israel’s senior ministers were scheduled to meet Friday to consider Kerry’s initiative — as well as a possible expansion of the aerial bombardment of Gaza that began July 8 and the ground operation that followed July 17.
“The conditions brought by Secretary of State Kerry are acceptable, in the main, to Israel, and they relate to the fact that we will not leave the area, and we will continue with the tunnel operation,” Yaakov Peri, a centrist minister and former head of Israel’s internal security service, said on Israel Radio as he headed to the meeting. “I certainly have my doubts that Hamas will agree. If Hamas does not agree, there won’t be a humanitarian cease-fire.”
A statement by the Israeli military said 65,000 reservists had been mobilized for the Gaza operation, up from a previous estimate of 59,000. It said 843 rockets had been launched toward Israel since the ground offensive began; 658 landed in Israel and 166 were intercepted. Israeli forces targeted 45 sites in Gaza overnight, the military statement said.