Palestinian health officials in the Gaza Strip said 20 people, including nine children, have been killed as violence between Palestine and Israel worsens.
Israel said it launched airstrikes on Monday as retaliation to rockets fired by Hamas, a militant group in Palestine. The rocket launch follows the expiration of the group’s ultimatum demanding Israel to stand down forces from the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
The said compound is the third holiest in Islam, and is also revered by Jews as Temple Mount. It is the most sensitive site in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. (Read: Pope Appeals for Peace in Jerusalem Amid Ongoing Clashes)
Tensions in Jerusalem
Earlier on Monday, Israeli police stormed the mosque, firing rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas. More than 300 Palestinians were wounded in the clash, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
The clashes began when thousands of Palestinians gathered overnight at the holy site ahead of Jerusalem Day, which celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967. The Palestinians were said to have collected numerous rocks and other makeshift weapons.
This caused the police to bar Jewish entry to the site. The Palestinians then started rioting and hurling rocks, causing police to enter the compound. (Read: A Feast Day Prayer to the Holy Innocents)
A Heavy Price
Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesperson for the Hamas, said that the clash is “a real massacre and war crime.”
“We call on our entire nation to take to the streets and clash with the occupation,” he said, adding that “Israel will pay a heavy price for its forcible takeover of Al-Aqsa.” (Read: Pope Francis Expresses Grief Over Brutal Attacks in West Africa)
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the terrorist organizations crossed a red line on Jerusalem Day and attacked us, on the outskirts of Jerusalem.”
He added that “Israel will respond very forcefully. We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, our capital, our citizens, and our soldiers. Whoever strikes us will pay a heavy price.”
Rocket Launches in Israel
Soon after, Hamas claimed responsibility for the rockets fired at Israel near the Gaza border.
Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, said the rocket attack was a response to what he called Israeli “crimes and aggression” in Jerusalem. “This is a message the enemy has to understand well,” he said.
He threatened more attacks if Israel again invades the Al-Aqsa compound or carries out the forced expulsions of Palestinian families from their homes in a neighborhood of East Jerusalem. (Read: A Prayer to Heal the World From Sufferings)
Israel, on the other hand, responded with a missile attack that killed one Palestinian and injured several others. The raids continued late into the night, with Palestinians reporting loud explosions close to Gaza City. Nine people were killed, including children but the Israeli military has not issued a statement.
As of writing, violence is still ongoing between the two countries. The United Nations Security Council has held an urgent meeting to address the unrest in Jerusalem, but has said that a statement will be “counterproductive”