Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that the country would step up attacks on Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas after two Israeli women were killed by rockets fired from the enclave.
“Since yesterday, the army has carried out hundreds of attacks against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza… and we will further intensify the power of our attacks,” Netanyahu said in a video released by his office, adding that Hamas “will be hit in ways that it does not expect”.
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More than 300 rockets have been fired by Palestinian militants towards Israel since Monday, with over 90% intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said earlier.
Israel fighter jets and attack helicopters have carried out more than 130 strikes on military targets in the enclave, said Conricus.
They have killed 15 Hamas commanders, he added, while the group Islamic Jihad confirmed two of its senior figures were also killed.
Conricus said Israel had no confirmation its strikes had impacted Gaza civilians, or whether the casualties there were caused by Palestinian rockets misfiring.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz authorised an army request to mobilise 5,000 reservists if necessary.
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Tensions in Jerusalem have flared into the city’s worst disturbances since 2017 in the days since Israeli riot police clashed with large crowds of Palestinians on the last Friday of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Diplomatic sources told AFP that Egypt and Qatar, who have mediated past Israeli-Hamas conflicts, were attempting to calm tensions.
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit condemned Israel’s Gaza strikes as “indiscriminate and irresponsible … and a miserable display of force at the expense of children’s blood”.
Hamas had Monday warned Israel to withdraw all its forces from the mosque compound and the east Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, where looming evictions of Palestinian families have fuelled angry protests.
Sirens wailed across Jerusalem just after the 1500 GMT deadline set by Hamas as people in the city, including lawmakers in the Knesset legislature, fled to bunkers for the first time since the 2014 Gaza conflict.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas had “crossed a red line” by targeting Jerusalem and vowed that the Jewish state would “respond with force”.
Hamas’ Qassam Brigades said “this is a message that the enemy must understand well: if you respond we will respond, and if you escalate we will escalate”.
An Israeli Arab died from gunshot wounds in clashes with Israeli Jews in the central city of Lod, police said Monday, without providing details.
“They shot everyone, young and old people,” claimed Palestinian man Siraj, 24, about Israeli security forces in an earlier confrontation in which he suffered a spleen injury from a rubber bullet.