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Illustration by Security Management

Clashes Escalate as Israelis and Palestinians Exchange Fire

It was a violent night in Jerusalem. Rising tensions—from weeks of threatened evictions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem to make room for Jewish settlers, altercations between protesters and police, restrictions of access to gathering places where Palestinians would meet after breaking their Ramadan fasts, and Israel’s annual celebration of its capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, according to the BBC—finally erupted in violence earlier this week. In fighting across the city and the West Bank, more than 700 Palestinians and two dozen police officers were hurt.

Then the unrest sharply escalated as Hamas, which controls Gaza, began firing rockets after giving Israel a deadline to withdraw security forces from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where four days of conflict had resulted in injuries and damage to the compound.

According to Israeli military spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, Gaza militants fired more than 250 rockets at Israel, with about a third falling short and landing in Gaza. Israeli military sources told the BBC that more than 90 percent of the rockets had been intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defense system. More than 30 Israelis have been injured since the attacks began on Monday night, and at least two have been killed.

In response, Israel launched airstrikes against Palestinian targets, hitting 130 targets in Gaza, including the high-rise home of a Hamas field commander, The Washington Post reported

The Gaza Health Ministry reported that nine children were among the 24 Palestinians killed overnight, mostly by the airstrikes. Israeli military leaders blamed Hamas, saying that the group places military supplies and targets in residential neighborhoods. According to Conricus, Israeli forces killed 15 militants.

The violence—the worst clashes since 2017—earned sharp rebukes from world leaders, with foreign secretaries in the United States, UK, and EU calling for the immediate de-escalation of violence, particularly where civilian populations are concerned. Neighboring Egypt and Qatar have been working behind the scenes to ease tensions. However, it appears unlikely that the violence will end soon—on Tuesday morning, the Israeli military called up eight reserve border police battalions and received approval to call in another 5,000 reservists, the Post reported.