The Israeli army said Tuesday it had killed 15 members of Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip, where it carried out 130 strikes in response to rocket attacks on the Jewish state.
“We have hit 130 military targets that belong mainly to Hamas,” army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters. “According to our current estimates, we have killed 15 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” referring to Islamist movements in the Palestinian enclave.
“We are in the initial phase of our response against military targets in Gaza,” Conricus said. “We are ready for an escalation.
The rocket salvos fired from the Gaza Strip constitute “a serious aggression against Israel, which we cannot fail to respond to,” he added.
Local authorities in Gaza reported 22 dead, including nine children, in the Israeli strikes, the largest since November 2019.
In Israel, Israeli rescue workers reported several injuries after the rocket fire.
According to the latest army report, 200 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel since Monday, more than 90% of which were intercepted by the “Iron Dome” missile shield. Many other rockets have fallen inside the Gaza Strip, a territory controlled by Hamas.
Earlier Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met top security officials warning that the hostilities could drag on, despite calls for calm from the US., Europe and elsewhere.
The current violence has been triggered by unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – a holy place for both Muslims and Jews
The month of Ramadan tends to be a time of heightened tension but this has been fueled by the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinians from a neighbourhood of east Jerusalem.
The United Nations, Egypt and Qatar — which frequently mediate between Israel and Hamas, are all reportedly trying to halt the fighting.
The new strikes and rocket attacks come against a backdrop of violence in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian sector of the city illegally occupied and annexed by Israel under international law.
On Monday, some 520 Palestinians and 32 Israeli police officers were injured in fresh clashes with Israeli police on the Esplanade of the Mosques, Islam’s third holiest site and Judaism’s holiest, and in other parts of East Jerusalem.
Hamas had threatened the Hebrew state with a new military escalation if its forces did not withdraw from the esplanade by 18:00 (15:00 GMT).
The violence coincided with “Jerusalem Day”, which according to the Hebrew calendar marks the capture of the Palestinian-populated eastern part of the Holy City by the Israeli army in 1967. They also come after weeks of tension in Jerusalem.