According to official sources and images, Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have been exchanging fire throughout the night following clashes in Jerusalem on Monday that left hundreds injured and tensions sky high, prompting an increase in violence.
According to Palestinian health officials, Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 24 people in Gaza, including nine children. According to the Israel Defense Forces, 15 militants were killed.
Meanwhile, at least six people were injured on Tuesday morning in the Israeli city of Ashkelon after a residential building was hit by rocket fire from Gaza and the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ militant wing, vowed to “make Ashkelon hell.”
Pictures from the scene showed holes in the building’s wall, blown-out windows, and damage to cars on the street outside the building.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) reported on Tuesday morning that 200 rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel since hostilities erupted on Monday.
According to IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, 90% of rockets that crossed the Gaza-Israel border were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system.
According to Conricus, the IDF killed 15 Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives. He also claimed that Israeli forces struck about 130 “military targets,” most of which were said to belong to Hamas and included manufacturing and storage facilities, as well as military bases or compounds. According to Conricus, the IDF hit a Hamas operations and intelligence room in southern Gaza, as well as a Hamas battalion commander in a high-rise building.
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.”
For several weeks now, Jerusalem has seen repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians, with Palestinians accusing Jewish nationalists of provocation and police of heavy-handed tactics.
The violence on Monday took a grim new turn, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describing the missile barrage as “crossing a line” and vowing to “respond with great force.”
“We are in a fight on several fronts: Jerusalem, Gaza and elsewhere in the country. This evening, on Jerusalem Day, the terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony at Ammunition Hill to mark Jerusalem Day.
Netanyahu also said that while Israel does not seek an intensification of hostilities, “the current conflict could continue for some time.”
The violence in and around the Al Aqsa mosque on Monday was the most serious seen in the city in recent weeks. The early-morning video showed Israeli police firing stun grenades inside the mosque. Palestinians were caught on camera throwing rocks. After a brief respite during the day, there were more clashes in the late evening when Israeli police returned to the mosque after night prayers.
“The police were targeting us directly as paramedics… and were preventing us from conducting our duties and taking out the injured,” said Ramzi Halaq, who was inside the mosque when the police entered a second time.
By midnight, the Palestinian Red Crescent reported that 520 people had been injured during the day, with 333 requiring hospital treatment. On Monday, a car was pelted with stones and crashed into two pedestrians near the Lion’s Gate entrance to the Old City, according to video of the incident.
The car, which was carrying religious Israelis, was attacked by young Palestinians as it attempted to change direction before accelerating forward and mounting the curb, hurling two people backwards.
According to police, the driver lost control of the vehicle, and the occupants were only slightly injured. It is unknown what happened to the two people who were hit.