Violent clashes over Jerusalem escalated dramatically on Monday with Gaza health officials saying at least 20 people, including nine children, were killed by Israeli air strikes launched after Palestinian militant groups fired rockets close to Jerusalem.
Israel’s military said it carried out strikes against armed groups, rocket launchers and military posts in Gaza after militants there crossed what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “red line” by firing on the Jerusalem area for the first time since a 2014 war.
Israeli air strikes continued late into the night, with Palestinians reporting loud explosions close to Gaza City and across the coastal strip. Shortly before midnight local time. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said more than 300 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli police, who fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas in the compound.
The upsurge in violence came as Israel celebrated “Jerusalem Day”, marking its capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In an effort to defuse tensions, police changed the route of a traditional Jerusalem Day march, in which thousands of Israeli flag-waving Jewish youth were due to walk through the Old City near Damascus Gate, a flashpoint in recent weeks.
But although the trouble had died down by mid-morning, there were other focal points of tension, including the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem just north of the Old City where several Palestinian families face eviction from homes claimed by Jewish settlers in a long-running legal case. Demanding that Israel remove its police from Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah, Hamas set a 6 p.m. deadline for the forces to be withdrawn.
Even as the marchers were diverted toward Jaffa Gate, sirens sounded alerting Israelis to incoming rockets from Gaza, forcing the marchers and other Israelis to flee for cover in Jerusalem, nearby towns and in Israeli communities near Gaza.