Sunday, June 13, 2021

international

Gaza militants fire rockets near Jerusalem as violence swells


Gaza Strip militants fired rockets toward the Jerusalem area and southern Israel on Monday as weeks of confrontations between Israel and the Palestinians exploded on the day Israel celebrated its control over the contested city.

A rocket landed on a house in Kiryat Anavim, outside Jerusalem, but no one was hurt, according to Channel 12. Antitank fire from Gaza struck a car in southern Israel, but no one was seriously injured, Army Radio said.

One of seven rockets fired toward Israeli territory was intercepted by a missile defense system, the military said. Rockets headed for open areas aren't intercepted.

The attack coincided with a 6 p.m. deadline the Gaza Strip's militant Hamas rulers had set for Israel to vacate the al-Aqsa Mosque, a Jerusalem shrine that earlier in the day had been the site of one of the most serious confrontations between Israel and the Palestinians in years. Air raid sirens were heard over Jerusalem for the first time since 2014, and the shrine was vacated, as was the parliament building, Israel media reported. The shekel fell 0.4%.

"Al-Qassem Brigades are now firing missiles against the enemy in occupied Jerusalem in response to its crimes and aggression against the holy city and the harassment of our people in Sheikh Jarrakh and the al-Aqsa Mosque," a spokesman for Hamas's military wing, Abu Obeidah, said in a statement.

Sheikh Jarrakh is a traditionally Arab neighborhood near the mosque that has become a recent flash point for violence over Israeli plans to evict some longtime Palestinian residents from their homes.

In the morning confrontation, Palestinians hurled rocks, other heavy objects and firecrackers from the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is Islam's third-holiest site and the location of Judaism's biblical temple. Israeli police stormed the mount, firing stun grenades and rubber bullets. The Associated Press reported that more than 300 Palestinians, 21 Israeli police officers and seven Israeli civilians were wounded.

As Jerusalem seethed, militants in Gaza again launched rockets and flaming balloons into southern Israel, setting fires but causing no injuries. The rocket fire led authorities to revise the flight paths of air traffic headed to Ben-Gurion International Airport, the Kan broadcaster reported.

The Israeli military ordered the closure of roads adjacent to Gaza, and the cancellation of some trains in the country's south. A military drill scheduled for Tuesday was also canceled "to focus all efforts on preparations and readiness for escalation scenarios."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting of his security cabinet to discuss the swelling confrontations.

The escalating clashes coincided with Israel's celebration of Jerusalem Day, marking its capture of the city's eastern sector from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. The day is traditionally a fraught one as a parade by Jewish nationalists cuts through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, in a display of Israeli hegemony that Palestinians deplore.

Israeli officials allowed the parade to go ahead. But in an effort to de-escalate tensions, police barred Jewish visitors from the hilltop compound and later changed the route of the parade to skirt the Muslim neighborhood, instead planning to divert marchers to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site at the foot of the shrine.

Israeli media reported that march organizers canceled the event because of the route change.

The city has been experiencing its worst unrest in years since the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan more than three weeks ago. Israeli restrictions on gathering at a traditional Ramadan meeting place outside the Old City touched off the tensions, but after they were lifted, protests were rekindled by the threatened evictions.

The violence is flaring at a time when Netanyahu's rivals are trying to piece together a government after the fourth election in two years.Over the weekend, Palestinian medics said dozens of Palestinians were wounded in confrontations with security forces at the al-Aqsa

Mosque compound and in other parts of the city. The shrine, known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram-as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, is the most contested piece of land in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has been a frequent site of violence.

Palestinians who seek the city's eastern sector as the capital of a future state, as well as most of the international community, consider east Jerusalem occupied territory.

Published : May 11, 2021

By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Alisa Odenheimer