Jerusalem tensions: Death toll rises amid rocket fire and airstrikes | News | DW | 12.05.2021
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Jerusalem tensions: Death toll rises amid rocket fire and airstrikes

Violence has continued into a fifth day in Israel. Hamas has launched rocket attacks towards Tel Aviv after an Israeli airstrike destroyed an office tower in Gaza.

  • More than 200 rockets fired toward Israel since Monday
  • Over 20 people killed in Gaza, including children, after Israel retaliated
  • Two Israeli citizens in Ashkelon have died from rocket fire
  • Hamas has launched rockets at Tel Aviv after a major Israeli airstrike in Gaza
  • Germany urges all sides to "avoid further civilian casualties"

This live updates article has now been closed.

For more up-to-date coverage, read here: Israel-Gaza violence: Tel Aviv targeted with new Hamas rocket fire

Sirens in Tel Aviv as rockets fired

The Israeli Defense Forces said that more rockets were being fired at Tel Aviv in the early hours of Wednesday morning, forcing people to rush to bomb shelters.

Hamas said that it had fired hundreds of rockets at Tel Aviv and the town of Beersheva in retaliation for the building that was destroyed in Gaza.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Another building in Gaza struck by Israeli aircraft

The Associated Press reported that Israeli aircraft struck a high-rise building in Gaza City early Wednesday morning. 

The nine-story building houses residential apartments, medical production companies and a dental clinic. Warning shots were reportedly fired in advance and there have been no immediate reports of casualties. The AP reported smoke and debris had reached its office in Gaza, which is located 200 meters away from the building. 

Another 13-story building in Gaza was flattened by an Israeli airstrike earlier in the day.

Netanyahu heads to mixed Arab-Israeli city amid riots

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed to the Israeli city of Lod on Tuesday night after implementing a local state of emergency.

Police accused Arab residents in the city of engaging in "wide-scale riots." Netanyahu was headed to the city as more security reinforcements were also being sent in, the Times of Israel newspaper reported.

UN Middle East peace envoy warns of 'full scale war'

Tor Wennesland, the United Nation's special coordinator for the Middle East peace process joined the numerous voices calling for an immediate end to the violence on Twitter, but added the ominous warning that the situation is "escalating towards a full scale war."

One Indian national killed by rocket fire

The Israeli government has revealed that one of the three deaths in Israel killed by rocket fire was not an Israeli citizen, but rather an Indian national working as a caregiver.

Israel's Ambassador to India, Ron Malka, expressed his condolences over to the loss.

Gaza militants will pay 'heavy price,'  Netanyahu says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said militants in the Gaza Strip will pay a "heavy price" after a barrage of rockets targeted Israel's largest city, Tel Aviv. He said the ongoing Israeli military operation in Gaza "will take time." 

"We are at the height of a weighty campaign," Netanyahu said during a televised address with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Gantz said the Israeli military has a "great many targets in the pipeline" that it can strike in Gaza.

"This is just the beginning," Gantz said.

Hamas has vowed to react to further airstrikes. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh claimed Tuesday that militants "have defended Jerusalem."

The UN Security Council is expected to meet Wednesday to discuss the violence.

One Israeli citizen killed near Tel Aviv

Israeli medics say a 50-year-old woman near Tel Aviv has died due to the rocket fire. 

A bus in the city of Holon, near Tel Aviv, was also struck by a rocket, injuring six people.

Watch video 03:22

Tel Aviv struck by rocket attack: DW's Tania Krämer reports

A total of three Israeli citizens have now died in the latest round of conflict between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza.

An Israeli energy pipeline between the cities of Eilat and Ashkelon has also been damaged due to the rockets, according to local media.

Israel has 'right to defend itself," German Foreign Minister says

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas defended Israel's response to rockets from Gaza in a statement. 

"The firing of rockets towards Israel is unacceptable and must end," Maas said in a tweet. "Israel has the right to self-defense in this situation. The escalation of violence shall neither be tolerable or acceptable."

The White House has also condemned the rockets and said Israel has a right to defend itself.

Israeli airstrike flattens 13-story building in Gaza

An Israeli airstrike has flattened the 13-story Hanadi Tower office building in Gaza. 

Israel claims the building houses the offices of top Hamas officials. The Israeli military says it gave occupants one hour to vacate the premises prior to the airstrike.

It's unclear if there any casualties due to the airstrike. Electricity in the surrounding area went out following the building's collapse.

The leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group said it will now launch rockets towards Tel Aviv in retaliation. 

Rocket alarms have gone off in Tel Aviv. All flights have been halted at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

In a statement, Hamas said it shot off 130 rockets at Tel Aviv and its surrounding suburbs.

Burnt cars near Tel Aviv following rocket fire from Gaza

Burnt cars in the Israel town of Holon, near Tel Aviv, following a new barrage of rockets from Gaza

Israel's National Ambulance Service says at least one person in the Tel Aviv area has been critically injured from the rocket fire.

Iran's Ayatollah Khamanei criticizes Israel

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized recent actions by Israel and called on Palestinians to revolt.

"Zionists understand nothing but the language of force, so the Palestinians must increase their power and their resistance to force the criminals to surrender and stop their brutal acts," Khamenei said in a statement aired on Iranian state-run TV.

Iran and Israel have a tense relationship, with Israel firmly against Tehran's nuclear enrichment program. 

UN calls on Israel to exercise restraint, condemns rockets from Gaza

The UN called on Israel to exercise restraint in its security operations, while also condemning rocket fire from Gaza. 

"Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and calibrate their use of force. The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israeli population centers is unacceptable," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said. She claimed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is "saddened" by the mounting number of casualties from recent fighting.

A Israeli soldier takes cover as an Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept a rocket from the Gaza Strip

Israel's Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept a rocket from the Gaza Strip

Hamas says it found method to bypass Israeli Iron Dome system

Hamas claims it found a method to bypass Israel's Iron Dome defense system, which normally intercepts the majority of rockets coming from the Gaza Strip.

"For the first time, we utilized the tactic of firing Sjeel missiles at Ashkelon, which have a high destructive power and succeeded in overcoming the Iron Dome," Hamas' armed wing said in a statement.

Israeli broadcast media reports that the Iron Dome malfunctioned during a rocket barrage towards Ashkelon. There was reportedly an issue with a battery in the Iron Dome, which has now been fixed.

Egypt said it did not receive 'necessary response' for deescalation

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Tuesday that Egypt has reached out to Israel and other countries in the region regarding the conflict. 

"In the last few days, Egypt reached out to Israel and other concerned countries, urging them to exert all possible efforts to prevent the deterioration of the situation in Jerusalem," Shoukry said in a statement. "But we did not get the necessary response."

Palestinian officials says 28 people have died so far due to Israeli airstrikes. Israel says two Israeli citizens have died due to rockets fired from Gaza.

Hamas 'on a path to provocation', Israeli ambassador to Germany tells DW

Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff told DW on Tuesday that Israel is working to deescalate tensions and blamed Hamas for recent violence.

"We have been talking to the highest levels of governments in the world, and I've been talking to my counterparts in Germany to ask the Palestinians, Jordanians, these options to do all they can to bring down this conflict and resume calm and tranquility," Issacharoff said.

"I do not see the same steps taken by Hamas or by the Palestinian Authority to defuse the situation," he said.

Issacharoff said Hamas "is clearly on a path to provocation"  and added that Israel is seeking to limit the damage of its retaliatory airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

Watch video 06:19

Israeli ambassador: Hamas on a 'path of provocation'

France says Israel's response to rockets must be 'proportionate'

French Deputy Foreign Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said Israel's response to rockets from Gaza must be "proportionate."

"Quite clearly, we call for a proportionate use of force by Israeli authorities," Lemoyne told lawmakers in the French parliament. He said France is working towards a political solution to the crisis.

Italy also condemned rocket fire into Israel and called for deescalation.

In a new statement, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit blamed Israel for escalating tensions in the region. 

Israel reports two dead in Ashkelon

Israeli emergency service Magen David Adom says two Israeli women have died after rockets targeted Ashkelon, which lies north of the Gaza Strip. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military will now increase its intensity and frequency of strikes on the Gaza Strip in retaliation. Hamas "will receive blows now that it didn't expect," Netanyahu said.

An Egyptian intelligence official said Egypt is working to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, according to AP news agency. The official said a ceasefire will hopefully occur before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which comes later this week.

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv

Militants in the Gaza strip have reportedly extended their rocket attacks on Israel northwards towards Tel Aviv, according to the Israeli army.

Warning sirens have sounded in the coastal town of Ashdod, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the city.

Ashdod is north of the city of Ashkelon, where rockets had already fallen – one onto a school where no lessons were being conducted.

The Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Amnesty speaks out over 'abusive force' against protesters

Amnesty International said Israel is using "abusive and wanton force against largely peaceful Palestinian protesters" in east Jerusalem. The unrest, which began on Saturday, has seen hundreds of people wounded, including dozens of police officers.

Israel has come to the defense of its security forces, insisting they have responded to violent Palestinian rioters with appropriate measures.

But Amnesty described some of those measures as "disproportionate and unlawful," accusing forces of "unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators."

IDF expansion

The Israeli army said in a statement, reported by local media, that the chief of staff has called in troop reinforcements in the country's south, as tensions continue to rise despite international calls for the opposite.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has ordered the mobilization of 5,000 reserve troops to expand the current campaign "and deepen home front defense."

UN: 'Deeply concerned'

The United Nations said it is "deeply concerned" over the recent escalation of violence in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

"We condemn all violence and all incitement to violence and ethnic division and provocations," spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

Watch video 04:51

Analyst Yara Hawari: Palestinians uniting in resistance to 'ethnic cleansing'

Casualties rise

Some details are emerging on the airstrikes from Monday night and Tuesday morning, carried out by both Hamas and the Israeli military.

The Israeli army accused the Palestinian militants of launching more than 200 rockets toward Jerusalem, and thus responded by firing rockets back.

DW's Jerusalem correspondent Tania Krämer said: "The focus has shifted now to Gaza and the south of Israel where we have seen continued rocket strikes on Gaza militants." 

"The Israeli army said in a briefing this morning that about 200 rockets were fired from Gaza. According to the army, they attacked what they called military targets — 130 sites in the Gaza Strip. There were casualties in Gaza, there are injuries in Israel."

She also said there was no end in sight for the current outbreak of violence. "From what we understand from the army, they say this is in the early stages and that they will respond forcefully to this very serious aggression, they call it. And what we're hearing from the military groups in Gaza, they will also continue."

Twenty-four people, including nine children, have died in Gaza from the overnight attacks, the enclave’s health ministry has announced.

Arab League joins condemnation

Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip were "indiscriminate and irresponsible," Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Tuesday, as the death toll increased to at least 20.

He said that Israel was responsible for a "dangerous escalation" in Jerusalem, and urged the global community to act immediately to bring an end to the violence.

Saudi Arabia says Israeli attacks 'violate international laws'

Saudi Arabia has condemned the Israeli attacks at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque in the "strongest terms" possible, stating the events of recent days "violate all international norms and laws."

The kingdom's foreign ministry called on "the international community to hold the Israeli occupation responsible for this escalation and to immediately stop its escalatory actions," it added.

Saudi Arabia reiterated its support for a just and comprehensive solution to the troubles, as well as establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel guilty of 'ethnic cleansing,' activists say

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, who served as an official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process, told DW that Israel was deliberately provoking Palestinians and was "carrying out what we call demographic engineering or ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem."

Israel has "been getting away, literally, with murder — and it has been carrying out a systematic campaign of provocation and violence and assault," Ashrawi, who now acts as a legislator and activist, said.

"Israel has targeted the holy site. Israel has targeted the worshippers. It's clear that this is a deliberate provocation, cynically used also for domestic reasons, but at the same time to show the Palestinians who is boss, to show their control."

She said the issue would not be resolved by simple compensation.

"Israel has been carrying out what we call demographic engineering or ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem. It has been taking over Palestinian homes. It has been kicking Palestinians out of their own homes, it has been demolishing Palestinian homes."

"So the issue is not evicting people and giving them compensation. The issue is that they want to get rid of Palestinians and to cleanse the city of Palestinians."

Watch video 04:33

Jerusalem tensions - Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi talks to DW

Palestinian academic Dr. Yara Hawari also told DW that the evictions are tantamount to "colonization" as Israel seeks to "Judaize" Jerusalem, and that the latest unrest has been caused by the "ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians."

Israeli army: '15 Hamas terrorists killed'

Palestinian militants have fired more than 200 rockets from the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli military. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted in the early hours of Tuesday that groups in Gaza had been firing rockets "nonstop" for 10 hours. Later on Tuesday, the IDF tweeted: "In response to 200+ rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel, we killed 15 Hamas terrorists and struck 130 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror targets in Gaza overnight."

US, EU and UK call for calm

The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have all urged Israel and the Palestinians to decrease tensions as soon as possible, yet the violence escalated on Monday night after Palestinian militants fired rockets toward Jerusalem, only for Israel to launch airstrikes of its own.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also called for calm, as he urged all sides to "avoid further civilian casualties" after Israel launched deadly airstrikes on Gaza in response to the barrage of rockets fired by the Islamist movement Hamas.

"Nothing justifies rockets being fired on the civilian Israeli population," Maas tweeted, adding it "certainly does not lead to the resolution of the conflict" but is in fact "a senseless new escalation of violence."

Violence shows no signs of easing up

Welcome to DW's rolling coverage of the events in Jerusalem as violence continues for a fourth day.

The intensity of the attacks has spiraled since clashes with Israeli police at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound wounded hundreds of Palestinians on Saturday.

Al-Aqsa is Islam's third-holiest site. It is also a major holy site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

jsi,wd/rt (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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