At least 28 Palestinians, including 10 children, and two Israelis have been killed as tensions in Jerusalem escalated into airstrikes and exchanges of rocket fire between Israel and the Gaza Strip that lasted overnight into Tuesday.
The clashes prompted international calls for calm and raised fears that the situation could ignite into a wider conflict.
The Israeli military called up 5,000 reservists for active duty, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning that Israel would “increase both the intensity of the attacks and the rate of attacks.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on the United Nations Security Council to intervene to stop “the Israeli aggression against our people.”
In Ashkelon, an Israeli city less than 10 miles from Gaza, two people were killed in rocket attacks Tuesday, Israel’s Zaka emergency response team said.
Hamas, a militant group that controls the strip and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, has launched 200-plus rockets into Israel, including targeting Jerusalem.
In response to the rockets, the Israeli Defense Forces bombed 130 targets in Gaza, including a Hamas commander’s home. The IDF released photos of fighter jets laden with missiles.
Netanyahu said in a video posted online that Hamas “will receive blows here that it did not expect.” A day earlier he had warned that the “conflict may continue for some time.”
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that 26 people were killed, including nine children, and 122 people were wounded.
Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit called the Israeli airstrikes “indiscriminate and irresponsible” and said Israel was responsible for the “dangerous escalation” in Jerusalem, Reuters reported.
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As in other years, recent hostility centered around Jerusalem’s Old City, which has some of the holiest sites for Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians claim the city as their capital.
On Monday night, unrest spread to Lod, a city southeast of Tel Aviv, where Mayor Yair Revivo said “Arab youths” vandalized public property, threw Molotov cocktails and lowered the Israeli flag to be replaced with the Palestinian one. He said one person was shot to death, with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reporting it was an Arab man killed by a Jewish resident.
Nightly clashes have punctuated Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. The unrest has been fueled by plans to evict Palestinian families from a neighborhood in east Jerusalem whose land is claimed by Jewish settlers.
Tensions escalated Friday and Monday as Israeli police used stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets on Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site of Judaism.
Israeli officials said this was in response to Palestinians throwing stones toward the Western Wall, where thousands of Jews had gathered to pray. Netanyahu’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeted that “extremist Palestinians planned well in advance to carry out riots.”
But a spokesperson for the mosque said the clashes began when police tried to evacuate the compound, where many Palestinian worshippers sleep during Ramadan, to allow Israelis in.
The violence came as some Israelis were celebrating the anniversary of their country’s capture of the Old City and its eastern neighborhoods in the 1967 Six-Day War.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S has “urged Israelis to de-escalate, we have urged Palestinians to de-escalate” and he “condemned in the strongest possible terms, the Hamas rocket fire, that is, within recent minutes, has been raining down on Israel.”
The European Union’s executive branch said in a statement that “firing of rockets from Gaza against civilian populations in Israel is totally unacceptable and feeds escalatory dynamics.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said in a tweet that “rocket fire on Israeli civilians is not justifiable under any circumstances.”
Alexander Smith reported from London, and Lawahez Jabari and Paul Goldman reported from Jerusalem. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.