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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Gaza Violence Intensifies As Jerusalem Clashes Resume

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TEL AVIV, April 21 (AP): Israel’s air force and Palestinian militants traded fire across the Gaza frontier early Thursday as clashes erupted again at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, worsening an escalation that has been eerily similar to the lead-up to last year’s Israel-Gaza war.

The violence along the Gaza front, fuelled by the unrest between Israeli police and Palestinians in Jerusalem, appears to be the heaviest-cross-border fighting since last year’s 11-day war and comes despite efforts to prevent a repeat. A rocket fired from Gaza this week shattered a months-long period of calm that followed the war.

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Palestinian militants fired two rockets toward Israel from the Gaza Strip late Wednesday and early Thursday, and Israeli aircraft hit militant targets in the seaside, Hamas-ruled enclave. One rocket landed in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, a frequent target, and another fell short and landed in Gaza, the Israeli military said. The launches set off air-raid sirens across parts of southern Israel, disrupting the quiet of the Passover holiday week.

Early Thursday, Israeli warplanes conducted airstrikes in the central Gaza Strip, local media reported. Social media posts by activists showed smoke billowing in the air. The Israeli military said the airstrikes were aimed at a militant site and the entrance of a tunnel leading to an underground complex holding chemicals to make rockets.

The military later said its planes attacked another Hamas compound after an anti-aircraft missile was fired from Gaza. It said the missile failed to hit its target and no injuries or damage were reported.

The latest Israeli-Palestinian tensions boiled over after a series of deadly attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, which then sparked days-long arrest raids by the military in a flashpoint West Bank city and spread into daily clashes in Jerusalem. This year, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has coincided with Passover, a time of heightened religious observances and visits by large numbers of people to Jerusalem.

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Israeli police said dozens of masked protesters holed up in the Al-Aqsa Mosque early Thursday, sealed the doors and began throwing rocks and firecrackers. Police said they attempted to disperse the Palestinians using “riot dispersal means,” without elaborating, and that forces did not enter the mosque itself.

A Palestinian official from the Waqf, which administers the site, said large numbers of police used stun grenades to clear out the site. He said police also fired stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets against Palestinians who had sealed themselves inside the mosque. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the incident with the media.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 20 people were injured, one critically.

Similar clashes have taken place throughout the week, while fiercer ones broke out at the site earlier this month, wounding more than 150 Palestinians and three police officers.

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