Israeli Military Says Rockets Fired From Gaza Toward Jerusalem
Category: News & PoliticsVia: vic-eldred • 3 months ago • 79 comments
By: Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber (WSJ)
JERUSALEM—Gaza militants launched rockets toward Jerusalem as thousands of young Jewish nationalists were marching through the contested city, according to Israel's military, sharply escalating tensions following days of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.
Israel's military said seven rockets were fired from Gaza toward Jerusalem and the nearby city of Beit Shemesh, including one that was intercepted. Sirens were also heard near the border and in the city of Ashkelon.
The Israelis were marching on a new route that avoided Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered police to redirect them. The Israeli police said the decision was aimed at de-escalating tensions following a violent morning of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians around the Al Aqsa Mosque.
Hamas had warned of further escalation Monday if Israel didn't withdraw its security forces from the Al Aqsa complex and Sheikh Jarrah by 6 p.m. local time.
The marchers, carrying Israeli flags, were headed toward the Western Wall for celebrations and speeches marking Jerusalem Day, an Israeli holiday commemorating Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Blaring sirens and loud booms disrupted the festive mood. Marchers continued on their route toward the Western Wall several minutes after the sirens stopped.
On Monday morning, more than 300 people were injured as the police fired flash grenades, tear gas and sponge-tipped bullets at Palestinian worshipers at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, according to Palestinian medics and social-media videos. Israeli police said they used riot-control methods after hundreds of Palestinians began throwing stones and shooting fireworks at them near an entrance to the site. According to Hebrew media, 20 Israeli police officers were also injured.
The compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and Jews as the Temple Mount, has become a focal point of Palestinian anger over what they see as years of efforts to push them out of Jerusalem and limit their access to land they claim, as well as infringe on their basic rights. The situation has been aggravated by right-wing Jewish Israeli efforts to assert control in East Jerusalem, which Israel claims as part of its undivided capital.
In another move that could inflame tensions, Israel’s Parliament is expected to hold a vote Monday afternoon on legislation that would legalize unauthorized settlements in the West Bank, a measure pushed by Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party as his rivals try to form a government.
Ofir Gendleman, a spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu, said Monday’s clashes were planned ahead of time.
“Extremist Palestinians planned well in advance to carry out riots today on the . What we see now is the result of that,” he said on Twitter . “We guarantee the freedom to pray, not the freedom to riot and attack innocent people. The police [are] working to restore calm.”
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan called Israel’s national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat on Sunday to express Washington’s “serious concern” about clashes at the Al Aqsa mosque during the last days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
According to a U.S. readout of the call, senior American officials have pressed Israeli and Palestinian officials in recent days to take steps to ensure calm, de-escalate tensions and denounce violence.
Mr. Sullivan specifically urged Israel “to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Jerusalem Day commemorations.”
Israel considers all of Jerusalem its sovereign territory and governs all of its inhabitants, but Palestinians want the eastern portion of the city to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Both Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Fatah in the West Bank have called on Palestinians to step up confrontations with Israeli authorities and push back against Israeli activity in Jerusalem.
In Israel, some officials and analysts see the recent violence as an inflection point in what they describe as a passive approach to dealing with the Palestinians.
Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, said the escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem stem from Israel’s failure to decide what its goals are with regards to the Palestinians.
“This failure to decide is effectively a decision in its own right, one that is leading us to a reality in which there is one state that is neither democratic nor Jewish,” Mr. Yadlin said in an opinion piece that appeared on Channel 12’s website on Monday.