Israeli warplanes bomb Gaza after second night of police violence in Jerusalem

Israeli warplanes bomb Gaza after second night of police violence in Jerusalem
Israeli jets pounded Gaza after residents of the besieged Palestinian enclave protested in solidarity with Palestinians in east Jerusalem, who were subject to police violence for a second night running.
3 min read
24 April, 2021
Israeli fighter jets struck Gaza following violence in east Jerusalem [Anadolu/Getty]

Israeli warplanes and attack helicopters pounded the Gaza Strip early on Saturday as Hamas launched rockets into Israel following a second night of police violence against Palestinians in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem.

The rockets landed in areas of  Israel surrounding the Gaza Strip, with at least 10 rockets hitting Israeli towns and triggering air raid sirens, according to The New Arab's Arabic-language service. 

The Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip, which has been besieged by Israel for years, voiced support for Palestinian protests in east Jerusalem which came after Jewish extremists marched through east Jerusalem under Israeli police protection, chanting "Death to Arabs" and attacking and injuring over 100 Palestinians.

The march was organised by the far-right Israeli group Lehava, which was founded byf ollowers of the banned Kach movement, a racist group designated as a terrorist organisation in Israel, the US and the EU.

On Friday, thousands of Gazans defied coronavirus restrictions to protest in solidarity with Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

The United States said it was "deeply concerned" by the escalating violence in the city, while the United Nations and the European Union appealed for restraint.

"The rhetoric of extremist protesters chanting hateful and violent slogans must be firmly rejected," State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted, referring to the far-right Israeli marchers who attacked Palestinians.

Tensions have been running high in east Jerusalem over a ban on gatherings, with Jewish extremists taking to the streets to bully Palestinian residents of the city.

Extremist Jews have posted videos online purporting to show Palestinians attacking Orthodox Jews, while at the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Israeli police have tried to stop the call to prayer being given from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third most holy site, and prevented Palestinians from breaking their fast there.

'Playing with fire'

Skirmishes broke out again on Friday when tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers left  Al-Aqsa mosque compound after night prayers and found themselves confronted by dozens of armed police, some on horseback.

Police fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd, after water bottles were thrown in their direction.

Hundreds of Palestinians also gathered at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank

The office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas condemned "the growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups advocating for the killing of Arabs".

In a statement on the Palestinian official WAFA news agency, it urged the international community to intervene to protect Palestinians.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi condemned "racist attacks" by Israelis against Palestinians in east Jerusalem and called for "international action to protect them".

 "Jerusalem is a red line and touching it, is playing with fire," he warned.

Gaza rocket fire

Hamas's military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, voiced support for the east Jerusalem protesters.

"The spark you light today will be the wick of the explosion to come in the face of the enemy," it said in a statement.

An alliance of Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas and its smaller ally Islamic Jihad, issued a statement warning we "cannot remain silent" in the face of the violence.

Militants in Gaza fired a first salvo of three rockets at Israel shortly before midnight (2100 GMT) on Friday, the military said.

The Israeli army said later that all 36 rockets fired were intercepted or hit open ground.

Israeli tanks shelled Gaza afterwards but Palestinian militants then launched a new volley of rockets.

Israel then launched airstrikes against suspected launch sites operated by Hamas, the army said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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