Explosions heard in Israel as Hamas claims to have fired rockets

Hamas fires rockets from Gaza at Israel in response to violent clashes in Jerusalem that left hundreds of Palestinians injured

  • Hamas has fired rockets from Gaza at Israel in response to clashes in Jerusalem that left hundreds wounded 
  • Israel said anti-tank missiles had been fired, while witnesses reported three explosions as sirens sounded 
  • Came after Hamas issued an ultimatum to Israel to withdraw security forces from Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, where clashes took place with Palestinians today, and Muslim areas of the Old City  
  • Tensions have been simmering since the start of Ramadan last month but exploded into violence on Friday and have been ongoing since, with more than 300 injured today 

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. 

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.’

Israel diverted flights away from the Gaza strip in response, and closed train services, roads, lookout points and beaches near the strip amid fears they could be targeted. 

Israel also called off a training exercise involving virtually all of the IDF taking place this week ‘to focus on operational needs.’

Earlier in the day, more than 305 Palestinians were injured in clashes near the Al Aqsa Mosque including 205 who were taken to hospitals for treatment, Palestinian Red Crescent medics said, with five in serious condition. 

Some 21 police were hurt, including one in serious condition, Israeli security forces said. 

Shocking CCTV has revealed the moment Palestinian protesters pelted an Israeli man’s car with rocks during clashes near Jerusalem’s Old City, before he drove into crowds

A gun-waving policeman eventually came to the man’s aid as protesters continued throwing rocks, with hundreds of people injured in violence today

Moments later, the man was involved in a fist-fight with police just inches away amid the worst violence that Jerusalem has seen in recent years

Palestinian medics evacuate a wounded protester from the Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City amid clashes with security forces that have seen hundreds hurt

Israeli police detain a protester near the compound that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque during clashes today

Israeli police arrest a Palestinian man at the Lions’ Gate, as clashes continue at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem

Medics evacuate a protester who was injured near the Lions’ Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City amid fresh violence on the streets today

Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians began during Ramadan, but dramatically escalated at the weekend with fighting around the Al-Aqsa mosque

Paramedics take the injured Palestinians after Israeli police moved into the Temple Mount compound – known to Muslims as Haram esh-Sharif – to clear demonstrators away

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.

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’. 

Medical workers evacuate a wounded protester from near the Dome of the Rock, Judaism’s holiest site that sits just next to the Al Aqsa Mosque which has been at the centre of clashes

An injured man is helped to his feet by a passerby inside the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif compound in Jerusalem

A Palestinian man strikes an Israeli security officer amid bitter clashes around Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday

Israeli security forces detain a Palestinian protester amid clashes at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City amid some of the worst clashes in the city for years

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinian protesters at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound today

A member of Israeli police aims a weapon during clashes with Palestinians at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli riot police are seen forming a shield wall near the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City amid violent clashes with Palestinian protesters that have entered their third day

Israeli police confront a Palestinian man near the Lions’ Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City amid a day of bitter clashes

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.

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City

A member of Israeli security forces runs amid clashes with Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem’s Old City

Israeli police detain a Palestinian during clashes at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount

Medics tend to a wounded Palestinian during clashes with Israeli police at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque

A Palestinian man is confronted by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City

An Israeli police officer carries a shattered riot shield through the Temple Mount compound surrounded by rocks following clashes with Palestinian protesters

Why are violent clashes taking place in Jerusalem?

East Jerusalem has seen nightly clashes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with Palestinians pitted against Israeli police and settlers.

The issues and the scale of the protests have varied, covering religion, land and politics, but running through them all is the core conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over the city, which has sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Here are some of the factors that have brought Jerusalem to near boiling point:

When did the protests start?

From the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April, Palestinians clashed nightly with Israeli police, who put up barriers to stop evening gatherings at the walled Old City’s Damascus Gate after iftar, the breaking of the daytime fast.

Palestinians saw the barriers as a restriction on their freedom to assemble. Police said they were there to maintain order.

Why did the violence flare up again?

An Israeli Supreme Court hearing was due on May 10 in a long-running legal case about whether several Palestinian families would be evicted and their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood near Damascus Gate that was given to Israeli settlers.

Some settlers have already moved into the street affected – living next door to the Palestinians facing possible removal.   

As the court hearing neared, Palestinians and left-wing Israelis began holding larger demonstrations, saying more evictions could cause a domino effect throughout the overwhelmingly Palestinian neighbourhood.

Sheikh Jarrah also contains a site revered by religious Jews as the tomb of an ancient high priest, Simon the Just, leading to frequent tensions between Palestinian living there and religious Jews visiting it.

International attention

The case, in which a lower court ruled that the land in question belonged to Jews in East Jerusalem before the 1948 War, has gathered domestic and international attention, amid criticism of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.

On Sunday U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to his Israeli counterpart to express “serious concerns about the potential evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood,” the White House said. read more

And United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “his deep concern over the continuing violence in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as the possible evictions of Palestinian families from their homes,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Sunday.

What next?

On Sunday the Supreme Court hearing on the evictions was postponed, pushing at least one flashpoint past the end of Ramadan and allowing more time for a resolution. A new session will be scheduled within 30 days. read more

Monday is Jerusalem Day, Israel’s annual commemoration of its capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 war. The event usually sees a march through the walled Old City by Jewish pilgrims, including ultra-nationalists, which could be another flashpoint.

Why is Jerusalem so sensitive?

Politics, history and religion.

At the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City is the hill known to Jews across the world as Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism – and to Muslims internationally as The Noble Sanctuary. It was home to the Jewish temples of antiquity. Two Muslim holy places now stand there, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam.

Christians also revere the city as the place where they believe that Jesus preached, died and was resurrected.

Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern section as a capital of a future state. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is unrecognized internationally.

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