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Jerusalem clashes spark fresh round of escalation between Israel, Gaza

The latest escalation between Israel and Gaza came after scores of people were injured in clashes in East Jerusalem

Saturday April 24, 2021 11:50 AM, Agencies

Jerusalem Clashes

Jerusalem: Tensions in Jerusalem sparked the worst round of cross-border violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip in months on Saturday, with Palestinian militants firing at least 30 rockets and Israel striking back at targets operated by Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

The latest escalation between Israel and Gaza came after scores of people were injured in clashes in East Jerusalem between far-right Jewish activists, Palestinians and Israeli police.

The violence erupted as police tried to keep Palestinians and ultra-nationalist Jewish protesters apart. It follows nights of confrontations in the Israeli-occupied sector amid rising nationalist and religious tensions.

East Jerusalem has long been a flashpoint, with an uneasy coexistence there between Jews and Arabs, the BBC reported.

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war and considers the entire city its capital, though this is not recognised by the vast majority of the international community. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the future capital of a hoped-for independent state.

"Anti-Arab slogans"

The worst fighting in days broke out on Thursday night after hundreds of Jewish extremists from the ultra-nationalist Lehava group marched towards the Damascus Gate entrance of Jerusalem's Old City - where large numbers of Palestinians had gathered - chanting "Death to Arabs".

Stones and bottles were thrown between the two sides, and police used stun grenades, tear gas and water cannon to try to disperse the crowds.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said at least 100 Palestinians were injured, while police said that 20 officers were hurt. More than 50 people were arrested.

Tensions in East Jerusalem have escalated since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on 13 April. Palestinians have clashed with police, accusing them of erecting barriers to stop them from congregating on steps outside Damascus Gate to break the daytime fast. Police say the measures are intended to help pedestrian flow into the Old City.

There have also been a number of attacks by Jews on Arabs in Jerusalem this week, including an incident where Jewish youth chanting anti-Arab slogans assaulted an Arab driver who stopped to remonstrate with them.

"Flare-up in Gaza"

The incidents in Jerusalem triggered a flare-up in Gaza. Hamas’ armed wing warned Israel “not to test” its patience and militants in the Palestinian enclave started firing rockets into southern Israel late Friday and continued through Saturday morning.

The Israeli military said its aircraft and tanks struck rocket launchers and unspecified underground infrastructure for Hamas. The militant group did not claim responsibility for the rocket attacks, but a small military formation affiliated with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said it fired some of the missiles.

Sirens warning of incoming rockets from Gaza kept blaring in southern Israel. Air defenses intercepted some of the rockets. There were no reports of injuries on either side.

At dawn, hundreds of people in Gaza challenged nightly curfews imposed by Hamas to curb the coronavirus outbreak and took to the streets in an act of solidarity with fellow Palestinians in Jerusalem, burning tires.


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