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Death toll climbs as calls for an Israel-Hamas cease-fire go unheeded

Israel launches overnight airstrikes on Gaza
Israel launches overnight airstrikes on Gaza 06:43

Tel Aviv — Three huge explosions shook Gaza City early on Tuesday morning as the conflict between Hamas and Israel continued unbated. Thousands of Palestinians heeded the call for a national strike in Israel, and there were new confrontations as Palestinians joined protests at flashpoints on a "day of rage" to vent anger over the deadly strikes on Gaza.

Thousands of demonstrators came out in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where they set tires alight and hurled rocks at Israeli police. CBS News' Haley Ott said the police responded with tear gas and gunfire. Clashes were also reported in Bethlehem and at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, one of the sites where religious tension first boiled over, sparking the current conflict.

Palestinian officials said one protester was killed and 16 others sustained gunshot wounds during the clashes in Ramallah. The Israeli military said two troops sustained gunshot wounds to the their legs during the melee.

Palestinians protest over Gaza fighting
A Palestinian demonstrator uses a sling to hurl stones at Israeli forces during a protest amid cross-border violence between Palestinian militants in Gaza and the Israeli military, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 18, 2021. MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/REUTERS

Meanwhile, CBS News' Imtiaz Tyab reported from Tel Aviv that dozens more rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on Tuesday, as Israeli airstrikes continued hammering the Palestinian enclave. 

The violence raged on just hours after President Biden voiced his support for a cease-fire in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While Mr. Biden has not yet explicitly called for a truce, the United Nations has, and there was mounting pressure on the U.S. leader from fellow Democrats in Washington to do the same.    

The Health Ministry in Gaza said at least 212 people had been killed by the Israeli airstrikes, including 61 children. Israeli officials said the rocket fire from Gaza had killed 12 people since the fighting started eight days ago, including two children.

In Gaza City, five-month-old Omar was cradled by his father Mohammed al-Hadidi, the only family he has left after his mother and four brothers were killed in an Israeli strike.

Omar has no way of understanding the conflict, but he'll bear the scars of it for the rest of his life. When rescuers pulled the infant out of rubble, his tiny body was covered in injuries, including a broken leg.

"Israeli warplanes targeted (my family) without warning, without calling them, with no regard for humanity or babies," al-Hadidi said as he returned to see what was left of his home.

Across Gaza, the scale of the devastation caused by Israel's bombing campaign is hard to fathom. Neighborhoods have been left in ruins. Hospitals are at a breaking point trying to help the wounded. Vital infrastructure, including roads, water treatment plants and telecom lines are on the brink.

Identity at the heart of Mideast conflict 07:49

As the United Nations warned that Gaza's only power plant was likely to run out of fuel on Tuesday, potentially plunging one of the most densely-populated patches of ground on Earth into darkness, Palestinian authorities said Israel had decided to briefly open a border crossing to let in some fuel, along with medicines and emergency food supplies.

The U.N. welcomed the move, but called for a second major border crossing to be opened as well, so that more desperately needed supplies could get into Gaza. The U.N.'s humanitarian agency said on Tuesday that the Israeli strikes had destroyed at least 132 buildings and left 316 severely damaged, displacing more than 52,000 Palestinians — many of whom had sought shelter at Gaza's U.N.-run schools.  

Palestinian officials later said that Israel had not let the diesel needed to run Gaza's power plant across the border, instead letting in only a small supply of fuel specifically for U.N. facilities. So the prospect of a dark night was left hanging over Gaza's inhabitants, piling more uncertainty on top of an already miserable situation.

A missile is launched by an "Iron Dome" battery
A missile is launched by an "Iron Dome" battery, a short-range missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in a July 14, 2014 file photo, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. Getty

In Israel, the barrage of Hamas rockets also continued on Tuesday. More than 3,000 have been fired at Israel since the fighting began more than a week ago. Most are intercepted by the country's advanced "Iron Dome" missile defense system, but some slip through, raining down and terrifying residents as they slam indiscriminately onto streets, vehicles and homes.

Israel's military brought Tyab to see one of the installations of its multibillion-dollar Iron Dome system, which has been partially funded by U.S. taxpayers.

An Israeli Brigadier General told CBS News that without the "life-saving system," Israel would have suffered far more casualties.

In Gaza, there are no such defenses.

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