JUDY WOODRUFF: President Biden spoke today with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the spiraling violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Biden said he hoped this latest conflict would end sooner than later. But Netanyahu said they will continue to strike Hamas militants and their military capabilities. Thus far, at least 53 Palestinians, including 14 children, have been killed. Seven Israelis have died in rocket attacks. Even so, as John Yang reports, Israel stepped up airstrikes in Gaza, and Hamas militants continued rocket fire into Israel.
JOHN YANG: Today, plumes of gray smoke marked the sites of more Israeli airstrikes that pummeled the Gaza Strip, as the latest spasm of violence showed no signs of letting up. Most of a high-rise building in Gaza City collapsed. In Khan Yunis, at the Southern end of Gaza, people searched through the rubble for victims in a building hit by an airstrike. Ambulances rushed the injured to a hospital after a car was hit.
ABED ALDAYAH, Gaza Resident (through translator): What should I say? This is a crime. They were civilians, a woman, her children, a barber and a shop owner. These are the people who were at the scene. They didn't hit a militant, nor an official. We are civilians.
JOHN YANG: At a nearby morgue, a woman grieved the loss of her grandchild killed in a blast and those who remain missing.
UM MOHAMMAD AL-TELBANI, Grandmother of Child Killed in Airstrike (through translator): My son's wife and my son's son died, and my son's daughter is missing without any trace. The Jews target women and children. My son's wife is five months pregnant. This is terrorism. They bombed them without any warning.
JOHN YANG: Several leaders of the militant wing of Hamas have been killed, including its Gaza City commander, the highest-ranking Hamas official killed since 2014. At least one Israeli soldier has died. Israelis and Palestinians are grappling with the worst conflict since the 50-day war in 2014, with no resolution in sight. Steven David is a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University:
STEVEN DAVID, Johns Hopkins University: There is a spiral of escalation, and the spiral of escalation, sadly, not only is killing and wounding many people, but is supporting the political interests of the belligerents.
JOHN YANG: In the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Lod, home to Israel's international airport, burned cars filled the streets. Arab-Israeli protesters set them and a nearby synagogue on fire overnight in response to the airstrikes. Israelis gathered Torah scrolls left in the aftermath.
AVRAHAM SAGRON, Local Rabbi (through translator): We had a nightmare of a night, a real riot by hundreds of Arab youths. They came in masses, torched car after car, trash bins, broke windows. And it was really dangerous to leave the house.
JOHN YANG: Police have since imposed a curfew there. In the northern city of Umm al-Fahm, Arab-Israeli protesters set off fireworks at Israeli police firing stun grenades. But, in Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv, a mob of Israelis pulled an Arab man from his car and savagely beat him. Earlier today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the unrest.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli Prime Minister (through translator): We are in a struggle on multiple fronts. We are continuing our efforts to stop the anarchy and restore governance to the cities of Israel, with an iron fist, if needed, with all forces needed and all authorities required.
JOHN YANG: At the State Department, Secretary Antony Blinken renewed American support for Israel's defense against Hamas, while calling for de-escalation.
TONY BLINKEN, U.S. Secretary of State: Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people. And, as I said, Palestinian people have the right to safety and security. And we have to, I think, all work in that direction.
JOHN YANG: Later, Netanyahu tweeted that he had spoken with Blinken by phone: "I thanked him for American support for Israel's right to self-defense, a right that the secretary of state repeated in our conversation." At the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden was working to fill the vacant post of U.S. ambassador to Israel.
JEN PSAKI, White House Press Secretary: That's in process. And when it's ready, we will announce that. But, in the meantime, we have great confidence in our team on the ground in Jerusalem.
STEVEN DAVID: The conflict in the Middle East enormously complicates the Biden administration's efforts to, if not ignore, to at least disregard the Middle East. But while the United States may want to leave the Middle East alone, the Middle East does not want to leave the United States alone.
JOHN YANG: Amid the conflict, many Muslims on the West Bank are preparing for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But not all are in the mood to celebrate what is usually a joyous occasion.
IMAD SAMARAH, Nut Seller (through translator): The conditions are a bit tough. Not a bit, actually. They are very tough on everyone. This is not the Eid atmosphere. Look at the market. It is deserted because of what is happening in Gaza, in Jerusalem, in Al-Aqsa.