Israeli bombing raids across Gaza have killed at least 28 people, including 10 children, and injured at least 152 more, according to Palestinian health officials. The Israeli military said it had killed more than 15 militants.
Meanwhile in Israel, sirens wailed non-stop on Tuesday in the town of Ashkelon, where two people were killed by rocket fire, according to an Israeli military spokesman. A CNN team heard at least 50 explosions in the coastal town near Gaza, and rocket fire was also reported in the city of Ashdod. At least 17 Israeli civilians have been treated for injuries from rocket attacks, the military said.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza have fired at least 500 rockets into Israel since Monday. The militants say it is a response to the actions of Israeli police who fired stun grenades inside the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, one of the city’s holiest sites Monday morning. Hundreds of Palestinians were treated in hospital in ensuing clashes with Israeli police, in the most serious violence seen in the city in weeks. Video from the compound showed long-running exchanges between Palestinians throwing rocks and Israeli police firing rubber coated bullets.
Hamas issued a statement saying “as long as the Israeli occupation continues to perpetrate crimes and violations against the Palestinian people, the Palestinian resistance groups, including Hamas, will respond and defend Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Gaza Strip.” The statement goes on to say, “we have the right to respond to the Israeli offensive and protect the interests of our people as long as the Israeli occupation continues the escalation.”
There were no signs of de-escalation over Gaza on Tuesday. Israel called up 5,000 reserve troops to active duty, and an Israeli military spokesman said it would “enhance” its operation in Gaza after militants in Gaza extended the range of their rocket fire. The Israeli military had conducted more than 150 strikes in Gaza as of Tuesday afternoon, the spokesman said.
A number of deaths were reported in strikes in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza. Among them were Amira Abdel-Fattah, 57, who was killed in her apartment along with her son who has special needs, Ibrahim al-Masri, 11, and his brother Marwan, 7, the Palestinian health ministry said. The Israeli army says it is investigating.
A Palestinian man in Gaza told CNN over the phone that the sounds of Israeli strikes throughout the night, as well as the sound of outgoing rocket fire, had been “horrifying.”
The man, who declined to be named, described a mood of anger in Gaza over recent events in Jerusalem. “It’s the fact the Israelis targeted Al Aqsa, during Ramadan, while people were praying” that has so riled people, he said. The man added that Israel’s actions would only embolden support for Hamas, and that he believed militants should continue firing rockets.
Meanwhile, Arab citizens of Israel demonstrated Monday evening and Tuesday in the streets of several Israeli cities and villages, including Haifa and Lod, in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem.
In Lod, a 25-year-old Arab-Israeli man was shot dead by a 34-year-old Jewish resident who said he was responding to stones being thrown at him. Two people were arrested in connection with that incident, police said.
Israeli police said around 150 violent protesters had been arrested in multiple locations. Rioters attacked drivers, threw stones at passing cars, blocked roads and ignited trees tires and a car, according to police.
International community calls for calm
The United States and European Union called for a de-escalation of violence while several countries in the Middle East, including Turkey, condemned the Israeli police response to tensions in Jerusalem.
One of the main sources of growing unrest in recent days has been the possible eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Israeli police have clashed with Palestinians in the neighborhood, as well as other locations, for several weeks now, with Palestinians accusing Jewish nationalists of provocation and police of heavy-handed tactics. Nearly a thousand Palestinians were injured in East Jerusalem, and over 200 in the West Bank, between May 7 and May 10, according to the United Nations and the Palestinian Red Crescent.
On Tuesday, UN human rights experts expressed “grave concerns about Israel’s aggressive response to protests in East Jerusalem, and called on Israel, as an occupying power, to immediately lift its threat to evict hundreds of Palestinian households from their legally protected homes.”
“Re-establishing calm in Jerusalem is important, but creating the conditions for justice and equality in the City are even more important,” the experts said in the statement.
The UN also denounced Israeli airstrikes in Gaza as well as Palestinian rocket shelling.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed “serious concerns” about the violence in Israel and said President Joe Biden was continuing to monitor the situation.
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