Hamas terrorists claimed responsibility for firing rockets from Gaza at Israel
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Hamas has fired rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israel as witnesses reported hearing three explosions and warning sirens sounded across the south of the Jewish state.
Israeli security forces said at least one anti-tank missile was fired into its territory though it was not immediately clear whether the missile struck anything or was shot down. Images showed two more missile exhaust trails in the skies over Gaza City.
Hamas, a militant group which controls the Gaza Strip, had issued a 6pm ultimatum for Israel to withdraw security forces from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem which had earlier been the site of clashes between police and Palestinians that left hundreds of people wounded.
‘The leadership of the resistance gives the occupation until 6pm to withdraw its soldiers… from the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque and Sheikh Jarrah [in the Old City],’ Hamas said. ‘You have been warned.’
The rockets were fired shortly after the ultimatum lapsed. Israel had already diverted flights away from Gaza and closed train services, roads, lookout points and beaches near the strip amid fears they could be targeted.
It comes after days of clashes around the Al-Aqsa Mosque which began on Friday last week and have continued nightly since, amid tensions over access to the site.
Violence flared again today, with more than 305 Palestinians injured including 205 who were taken to hospital, with five seriously hurt. Some 21 police were hurt, including one in serious condition, Israeli security forces said.
In perhaps the most serious incident, CCTV captured the moment crowds of Palestinians pelted a car driving near Jerusalem’s Old City with rocks before the Israeli driver accelerated on to the pavement – sending people flying.
People continued to pelt the driver after the car came to a halt, suspended on a nearby wall, before a gun-waving police officer arrived. The officer helped the man from the car, before he was again attacked by a pedestrian.
Police then cancelled a right-wing Israeli march that was due to pass through the Old City and its Muslim Quarter in an effort to calm tensions.
The fighting has drawn calls for de-escalation from the international community and sharp rebukes from across the Muslim world.
Fears of further chaos in the Old City had eased somewhat today when Israeli organisers cancelled a march to celebrate the Jewish state’s 1967 capture of east Jerusalem that was due to pass through the Old City.
But then came the Hamas warning, followed shortly after by the rockets.
‘An alarm has just been sounded in Jerusalem. Police forces have begun evacuating hundreds of people’ gathered at the Wailing Wall to safer locations, police said in a brief statement.
Hamas has fired several rockets towards Israel in recent days, some intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, while militants in Gaza have deployed incendiary balloons that have sparked dozens of fires in Israeli territory.
Israel’s army earlier announced widespread road closures in communities near the Gaza border, following a ‘situational assessment’, and two municipalities near Gaza, Ashkelon and Kyriat Malachi, confirmed that they had opened their bomb shelters.
Monday’s clashes mark the fourth straight day of fighting between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in Jerusalem, the most serious period of violence the city has seen since 2017.
Tensions between the two sides had been simmering since mid-April because Israeli forces had restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.
But the clashes suddenly escalated on Friday with violence in and around the mosque, which drew more people on to the streets. Protesters have also been angered by a long-running court battle between Jewish settlers and Palestinian homeowners in east Jerusalem, where the Old City is located.
A court that was due to rule on the issue today has postponed the date
The leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, Bezalel Smotrich, announced a visit Monday to the tense Sheikh Jarrah district which is at the centre of property disputes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended Israel’s response to the protests and rioting.
‘We will uphold law and order – vigorously and responsibly,’ Netanyahu said while vowing to ‘guard freedom of worship for all faiths’.
Monday’s clashes broke out after Palestinians gathered around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in anticipation of the arrival of the Jerusalem Day march, which is due to end at the nearby Dome of the Rock.
Israeli security forces said demonstrators barricaded themselves inside the mosque, and officers were sent in to clear them out. Rocks were thrown at police, who opened fire with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Witnesses said some of the tear gas grenades landed inside the mosque. The BBC also reported confrontations in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, and near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The scenes around Al-Aqsa Mosque mirror those which took place on Friday and have seen Israeli forces criticised for heavy-handed tactics.
All six Arab nations that have diplomatic ties with Israel – Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – have condemned the Jewish state.
In Jordan, the custodian of Jerusalem’s holy Islamic and Christian sites, King Abdullah II condemned ‘Israeli violations and escalatory practices at the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque’.
Jordan and Egypt both summoned Israeli envoys on Sunday to lodge protests.
Tunisia said the UN Security Council was to hold a closed-door meeting Monday, at its request, on the violence.
The Middle East quartet of envoys from the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations – and Pope Francis – have all called for calm.
‘Israeli authorities must exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,’ UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
The UN children’s agency UNICEF said that over two days, 29 Palestinian children had been injured in east Jerusalem, including a one-year-old.
The unrest of past weeks in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital, has multiple causes.
Much of the recent violence stems from a long-running legal effort by Jewish settler groups to evict several Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
A lower court ruling earlier this year backing the settlers’ decades-old claim to the plots infuriated Palestinians.
A Supreme Court hearing on a Palestinian appeal had been set for Monday, but the justice ministry said Sunday that in light of ‘all the circumstances’ it would delay the hearing.
Old City shopkeeper Mohammad said Israeli police told him he must close Monday afternoon, when Israeli Jews plan to march with Israeli flags to mark Jerusalem’s ‘reunification’.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem following the 1967 takeover, a move not recognised by most of the international community.
The unrest has spread across the Palestinian territories, including demonstrations and clashes in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has expressed ‘full support for our heroes in Al-Aqsa’.
Hamas Islamists who control the Gaza Strip have also voiced support for the Palestinian protesters and warned Israel of retribution if evictions proceed in Sheikh Jarrah.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh called Sunday for a united Arab and Muslim response against Israel’s ‘provocative desecration of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque’.
Four rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel on Sunday, the army said, as well as incendiary balloons that started 39 fires on Israeli territory, according to the fire services.
The Israeli military said late Sunday that ‘tanks just struck Hamas terror targets in Gaza’, without giving further details.
Source: Daily Mail