© Reuters. Israeli police are gathering in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 10, 2021 when they clash with Palestinians on the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount. REUTERS / Ammar Awad
By Jeffrey Heller and Nidal al-Mughrabi
JERUSALEM / GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets into the area of Jerusalem and southern Israel on Monday, threatening to punish Israel for violent confrontations with Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The Gaza Strip Health Ministry said nine Palestinians, including three children, were killed “in a series of strikes in northern Gaza.” She did not specifically blame Israel for the deaths in an area that served as the site of cross-border missile attacks by militants.
Rocket sirens sounded in Jerusalem, in nearby towns and in communities near Gaza, minutes after an ultimatum by the enclave’s ruling Hamas Islamist group, which asked Israel to stop the armed forces on the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and another To lay down focus in the holy city.
When Israel celebrated “Jerusalem Day” on Monday, marking the conquest of the eastern parts of the holy city in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, violence broke out in the mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.
The Palestinian Society for the Red Crescent said more than 300 Palestinians were injured in clashes with police officers who fired rubber bullets, tranquilizers and tear gas at the site, which is also worshiped by Jews at the site of Biblical temples.
The skirmishes at al Aqsa, in which police said 21 officers were also injured, had subsided by the 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) date set by Hamas.
Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip last struck the Jerusalem area during a war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the territory in 2014.
“The terrorist organizations crossed a red line on Jerusalem Day and attacked us on the outskirts of Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech.
“Israel will react very vigorously. We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, our capital, our citizens or our soldiers. Anyone who beats us will pay a high price,” he said.
International efforts to contain the violence appear to have already started. A Palestinian official told Reuters that Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, which have previously brokered ceasefires between Israel and Hamas, have been in contact with the group’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh.
Israeli Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said that on Monday at least six of the 45 rockets fired from Gaza were fired towards the outskirts of Jerusalem, where a house was hit. No casualties were reported.
“We have started attacking Hamas’ military targets,” Conricus said in a briefing to foreign reporters and did not set a timeframe for an Israeli offensive. “Hamas will pay a heavy price.”
He said Israel carried out an air strike against Hamas militants in northern Gaza and is looking into reports that children have been killed.
“We have had several incidents involving rockets fired by terrorists from Gaza. This could be the same,” said Conricus.
Along the fortified Gaza-Israel border, a Palestinian anti-tank missile fired from the tiny coastal area hit a civilian vehicle and injured an Israeli, he said.
Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group took responsibility for the rocket attacks.
“This is a message that the enemy should understand well,” said Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing.
VIOLENCE AROUND AL AQSA MOSQUE
The hostilities caught Netanyahu at an inopportune time when opponents were negotiating the formation of a ruling coalition to oust him after an inconclusive election on March 23.
For Hamas, some commentators said, its challenge to Israel is a sign to the Palestinians, whose own elections were postponed by President Mahmoud Abbas, that they now have the say to hold Israel accountable for events in Jerusalem.
The recent clashes in Jerusalem have raised international concerns about major conflicts and the White House urged Israel to maintain calm during “Jerusalem Day”. [L8N2MX0K2]
The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem was also a focus of Palestinian protests during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Several Palestinian families are evicted from homes claimed by Jewish settlers in a long-standing legal battle by order of the Israeli court.
To ease tension, police changed the route of a traditional Jerusalem Day march, during which thousands of Jewish youths with Israeli flags walk through the old city. They entered through the Jaffa Gate and bypassed the Damascus Gate outside the Muslim Quarter, which has been a focal point for the past few weeks.
Police rushed to hide the protesters at the Jaffa Gate after the sirens went off.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern part, which it annexed after the 1967 war, in a move that has not received international recognition. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they are looking for in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.