The Citizen (Gauteng)
Palestinians killed in Gaza
ISRAEL, HAMAS EXCHANGE MISSILES Netanyahu says Hamas has ‘crossed a red line’ by targeting Jerusalem.
Israel and Hamas exchanged heavy fire yesterday – with 22 Palestinians killed in Gaza – in a dramatic escalation between the bitter rivals sparked by unrest at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Nine children were among those killed in the blockaded Gaza Strip that is controlled by the Islamist movement and 106 people there were wounded, local health authorities said.
More than 200 rockets have been fired by Palestinian militants towards Israel since Monday, with over 90% intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defence system, army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said. At least six Israelis have been injured.
Israel has responded with 130 strikes carried out by fighter jets and attack helicopters on military targets in the enclave, killing 15 commanders from Hamas, and of the group Islamic Jihad, Conricus told reporters.
More rockets were launched from the coastal enclave yesterday, as Hamas’ Qassam Brigades armed wing vowed it would turn the southern Israeli community of Ashkelon into “a hell”.
Conricus said Israel had no confirmation its strikes had impacted Gaza civilians, or whether the casualties there were caused by Palestinian rockets misfiring.
He listed the sites hit by Israel as weapons manufacturing and storage facilities, militant training areas and the home of a Hamas commander, among other targets.
Tensions in Jerusalem have flared into the city’s worst disturbances since 2017, since Israeli riot police clashed with large crowds of Palestinian worshippers on the last Friday of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Nightly unrest since then at the Al-Aqsa compound in annexed east Jerusalem has left hundreds of Palestinians wounded, drawing international calls for deescalation and sharp rebukes from across the Muslim world.
Diplomatic sources told AFP that Egypt and Qatar, who have mediated past Israeli-Hamas conflicts, were attempting to calm tensions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken strongly condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas, saying they need to stop immediately. “All sides need to deescalate, reduce tensions, take practical steps to calm things down.”
Hamas on Monday warned Israel to withdraw all its forces from the mosque compound and the east Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, where looming evictions of Palestinian families have fuelled angry protests.
Sirens wailed across Jerusalem just after the 3pm deadline set by Hamas as people in the city, including lawmakers in the Knesset legislature, fled to bunkers for the first time since the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas had “crossed a red line” by targeting Jerusalem. –