Gaza: At least 24 Palestinians, including nine children, have been killed as Israeli air strikes hit blockaded Gaza. The renewed Israeli aggression comes on top of the military raids in Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank in which 700 unarmed Palestinians have been injured in the past 24 hours.
Israel unleashed its air power on Gaza early on Tuesday as an embattled patchwork of Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza vowed to retaliate as most of the world continues to ignore the plight of Palestinians.
The Israeli army announced the launch of Operation Guardian of the Walls late Monday against Gaza, the heavily controlled Palestinian area where food and medicines can enter only after Israeli permission.
Israel insists its air attack was in response to the many rockets that were fired from Gaza into southern Israel. Most of the rockets are homemade, manufactured in makeshift workshops using scrap metal. No one in Israel was killed from the rocket attacks.
Arab League Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit described the Israeli air strikes as “indiscriminate and irresponsible.”
He said that Israel was responsible for a “dangerous escalation” in occupied East Jerusalem, and called on the international community to act immediately to stop the violence.
Scores of deaths
Since sundown Monday when the cross-border fighting erupted, 24 Palestinians – including nine children – were killed in Gaza, Gaza health officials said. The Israeli military claimed 15 of the dead were militants.
More than 700 Palestinians were hurt in the excessive force used by the Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and across the West Bank in the past 24 hours, including nearly 500 who were treated at hospitals.
The Israeli military said six Israeli civilians were hurt by rocket fire Tuesday morning.
By Tuesday morning, Hamas and other Gaza resistance fighters had fired more than 200 rockets – most of them causing little damage in Israel.
It set off air raid sirens throughout Jerusalem, and explosions could be heard in what was believed to be the first time the city had been hit since a 2014 war.
In a statement issued early Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the rocket attacks would continue until Israel stops “all scenes of terrorism and aggression in Jerusalem and Al Aqsa mosque.
Two Islamic Jihad commanders killed in strikes
Islamic Jihad, one of the main Palestinian groups in Gaza, said on Tuesday that two of its commanders were killed in Israeli air strikes targeting the enclave.
Sources within the group said the strikes in central Gaza City, also “wounded eight people, including a woman and her two children.”
In recent weeks, tension has been soaring in Jerusalem, marked by Israeli police using excessive force against Palestinian protesters in the walled Old City, located in occupied East Jerusalem which Israel captured and annexed in the 1967 war.
One of the flashpoints in the Old City has been Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site of Judaism.
Another driver of Palestinian anger has been the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in an East Jerusalem neighbourhood by Israeli settlers.
Last week, Israeli settlers swarmed in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem after an Israeli court ordered the eviction of Palestinian families who have been living in the area for generations.
Palestinians protesting in solidarity with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah have been targeted by Israeli forces.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 – a move that has never been recognised by the international community.
Gaza’s main border crossings closed
Israel closed the Kerem Shalom or Karem Abu Salem crossing, Gaza’s main commercial trade route, early on Tuesday to all entries except humanitarian aid and fuel oil.
The decision was taken to close the crossing between Israel and Gaza immediately until a second order is issued, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) affiliated with the Israeli Defence Ministry said in a statement.
There are concerns that the closure of Gaza’s main commercial trade route will cause serious humanitarian problems in Gaza, where more than 2 million people have been under blockade for 14 years.
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