Middle East Eye / May 10, 2021
At least 25 people have been killed in Israel’s bombing of enclave, while protests continued across Jerusalem and Israel.
Several people were killed during Israeli bombing in the early hours of Tuesday, taking the total deaths resulting from the raids on Gaza since Monday to 25, including nine children, Gaza’s health ministry has said.
Those killed included a Palestinian woman whose home was targeted in the besieged coastal enclave.
The woman was killed in the Al-Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Her children were also wounded in the attack, but their condition was reported to be stable.
More than 100 people have been wounded in the air strikes, some of them are in critical condition.
In a statement on Tuesday, Jason Lee, Save the Children’s country director in the occupied Palestinian territory, said: “There is no possible justification for children being killed or injured.
“We condemn and demand an immediate stop to the indiscriminate targeting and killing of civilians, including children.
“This is a grave violation of children’s rights and perpetrators must be held to account for their actions and brought to justice.”
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, described the air strikes as “indiscriminate and irresponsible”.
He said that Israel was responsible for a “dangerous escalation” in Jerusalem, and called on the international community to act immediately to stop the violence.
Meanwhile, the military wing of Hamas movement, the de facto ruler of Gaza, said it carried out rocket attacks on Ashkelon, located 13km north of Gaza, in retaliation for the night raid that killed the Palestinian woman.
Israel had announced on Monday the launch of a new operation on the Gaza Strip following rockets fired by Palestinian militant groups on Israel in protest against the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Tensions continued to escalate on Monday as Palestinians continue to protest the forced evictions set to take place in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
On 2 May, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered that 40 residents of Sheikh Jarrah, including 10 children, be removed from their homes, which would subsequently be given to Israeli settlers. The order sparked massive protests in East Jerusalem, which have spread across cities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israeli forces have been particularly brutal in their attacks on protests near al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims. Israeli forces stormed the mosque complex again on Monday morning, injuring hundreds of Palestinians.
The Gaza-based Hamas movement launched several homemade rockets into Israel following the raid, with its military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, immediately taking responsibility for the attacks, warning they came in response to Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.
The rockets that Hamas fired injured a 49-year-old man, who was described as “in a moderate condition” after being injured by shards of glass. No other injuries were reported from the Hamas rockets.
Earlier on Monday, the movement had given Israel a 6pm deadline to withdraw from Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah and to release all detainees arrested during the recent crackdown on protests. Israeli forces did leave the mosque for a few hours, but just after sundown, there were reports they had again stormed the holy site.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian man was killed in the Israeli city of Lod after he was shot dead late on Monday evening as protests continued inside Israel in solidarity with Al-Aqsa and Gaza.
In footage widely shared online, the man was seen laying on the ground with many people crowded around him calling for medical attention.
The Palestinian news website Arab48 cited local sources as saying the protester was shot dead by an Israeli settler, while the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the cause of death was not yet confirmed. Israeli police confirmed the fatality without further explanation.
Arab 48 website identified the victim as Moussa Hassona. It cited a member of the Popular Committee in Lod, Tayseer Shaban, as saying that Israeli settlers fired indiscriminately on crowds of Palestinian demonstrators. He said the protesters “erupted peacefully in support of Al-Aqsa, and were surprised by the bullets of the occupation and its settlers.
Arabs in Israel held massive demonstrations in support of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque on Monday, while Israeli police arrested dozens of protesters, and wounded many others as they tried to disperse the protests with rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters.
The mass protests erupted in Nazareth, Shfaram, Umm al-Fahm, Ain Mahal, Tamra, Baqa al-Gharbia, Jaffa, Lod, Ramla and Jaljuliya to protest the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the attack on worshipers and protesters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and Bab al-Amud Square.
At least 46 Palestinians have so far been arrested in the protests, according to Israeli police.
‘Palestinians deserve protection’
Within hours of Hamas’ missile strikes, Israel responded with air strikes, claiming it had killed three Hamas fighters. Palestinians have denied the strikes were targeted, however, as they caused widespread damage.
Among those killed were two brothers from the Al-Masri family, Ibrahim, 11, and seven-year-old Marwan, from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
“The children were playing with their cousins in front of the house when a man on a motorcycle passed by, and the occupation targeted him twice,” Youssef al-Masri, the children’s father, told Middle East Eye.
“My children were martyred. I cannot find any justification whatsoever for targeting someone passing through overcrowded civilian neighbourhoods where dozens of children usually play,” he continued.
Following the strike, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz declared the area within 80km of the Gaza Strip under military control for the following 48 hours.
The Palestinian health ministry said it had put its hospitals, ambulances and emergency services on high alert.
The international community, including leaders in the US and UK, have been largely silent over Israel’s air strikes on the Gaza Strip, instead focusing condemnation against Hamas’ rockets and calling for calm “on both sides”.
US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said the Biden Administration is ‘concerned’ about the escalating violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque and in Gaza and urges ‘calm’ from both sides.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday that the United Kingdom condemned the firing of rockets at Jerusalem and locations within Israel.
“The ongoing violence in Jerusalem and Gaza must stop. We need an immediate de-escalation on all sides, and an end to targeting of civilian populations”, Raab said on Twitter.
US House Representative Ilhan Omar, however, quickly labelled Israel’s strikes “an act of terrorism”, saying it would be “unconscionable to not condemn” them.
“Palestinians deserve protection. Unlike Israel, missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome, don’t exist to protect Palestinian civilians,” she said in a post to Twitter.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who have recently signed normalisation agreements with Israel, issued statements condemning that Al-Aqsa attack “in the strongest terms.”
“We express our condemnation in the strongest terms for the blatant attacks carried out by the Israeli occupation forces, against the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the safety and security of worshipers,” the ministry of foreign affairs said in a Twitter statement.
It urged the international community to hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian rights, and expressed solidarity with Palestinians.
Egypt’s ministry of foreign affairs also issued a statement expressing its condemnation of the Israeli forces’ repeated storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the assault on Palestinian worshipers.
The statement urged Israel to “assume its responsibility regarding these rapid and dangerous developments,” which could lead to further tension and escalation.
Meanwhile, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb condemned the world’s “shameful silence towards the brutal Zionist terrorism and its shameful violations of the right of Al-Aqsa Mosque, our brothers and our sanctities in Arab Palestine.”
In Turkey, thousands took part in demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara in defiance of a Covid-19 curfew to protest against Israel’s raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque and deadly air strikes in Gaza.
President Recep Tayyib Erdogan, according to a statement from his office, told King Abdullah of Jordan that the “inhumane” attacks against Palestinians were aimed at all Muslims, adding that Turkey and Jordan needed to work together to stop them.
In Jordan, thousands protested near Israel’s embassy in Amman on Monday, calling on their government to cancel its peace treaty with Israel in the face of attacks on al-Aqsa mosque and Gaza.
Riot police blocked roads leading to the fortified embassy complex to keep back demonstrators who gathered around the Kaloti mosque in the capital near the Israeli mission.
Jordan, which established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1994, summoned the Israeli charge d’affaires in Amman on Sunday to voice the kingdom’s condemnation over Israeli “attacks on worshippers” around the Al-Aqsa compound.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, condemned the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque in a statement on Twitter.
“It wasn’t enough for the Israeli regime to steal people’s land & homes; Create an Apartheid regime; refuse to vaccinate civilians under illegal occupation,” he said.
“It had to shoot innocent worshippers inside Islam’s 3rd Holiest Mosque upon Islam’s Holiest Eid,” he added.
Israeli nationalists march
Meanwhile, hundreds of nationalist Israeli youth gathered at the Western Wall to mark “Jerusalem Day”, the anniversary of Israel’s victory in the 1967 war.
Crowds under the protection of Israeli police made their way into the plaza after a march through parts of Jerusalem’s Old City. The celebrations were seen as highly provocative, given recent events.
While the nationalist march was originally scheduled to start at Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Old City’s Muslim quarter where Palestinians had gathered in demonstrations, police redirected the marchers to the Jaffa Gate to avoid further confrontations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting with his security cabinet ahead of the march, with Israeli journalist Barak Ravid reporting that it was the prime minister, not the police chiefs, who altered the nationalist march’s route.
Ravid reported that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan suggested the route change during a phone call with his Israeli counterpart on Sunday.
‘Nefarious occupation’ in Sheikh Jarrah
With recent tensions beginning in Sheikh Jarrah, the issue of the forced eviction notices remains a central focus of unrest. While the order has been postponed, Israeli authorities have continuously put off attempts to reschedule a hearing in case.
Two far-right Israeli Knesset members belonging to the Religious Zionism political alliance showed up in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood on Monday morning, as did several members from the Joint List, a party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Ayman Odeh, one of the Joint List members in attendance, was quoted by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper as saying that “everything that’s happening [in Sheikh Jarrah] is part of the nefarious occupation”.
“There is a nation of people here that deserve self-determination – the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel,” he said.
According to Mohammed al-Kurd, a Palestinian belonging to a family threatened with eviction, no Palestinians were allowed in the part of Sheikh Jarrah threatened with evictions on Monday – not even journalists.
Protests in Sheikh Jarrah and around greater Jerusalem are expected to continue throughout the week. As Wednesday marks the Islamic Eid celebration – the end of Ramadan’s month of fasting – tens of thousands of worshippers are expected to flock to Al-Aqsa Mosque, increasing the potential for violence in Israel’s ongoing crackdown at the holy site.