24 reported killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza after Hamas fires rockets at Israel

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel on Monday.
Khalil Hamra | AP

Updated: May 11, 3:07 a.m. | Posted: May 10, 12:18 p.m.

A new round of Israeli-Palestinian violence continued to escalate Monday as Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza toward Jerusalem and Israel responded with airstrikes.

Palestinian health officials said 24 people, including nine children, were killed in the strikes. The Israel Defense Forces would not confirm those figures but said three Palestinian militants were killed in a targeted attack.

The IDF said militants in Gaza fired more than 200 rockets toward Israel, leaving several Israelis wounded.

The exchange followed clashes in Jerusalem on Monday morning and night that left 520 Palestinians wounded, with more than 333 transferred to hospitals, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency medical service.

Israeli police used stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and water cannons at or nearby the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is located on what Muslims call Haram al-Sharif and Jews call the Temple Mount.

More than a dozen police officers were also hurt.

Undercover Israeli security force members arrest a Palestinian protester Monday at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
Undercover Israeli security force members arrest a Palestinian protester Monday at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
Ilia Yefimovich | dpa | picture alliance via Getty Images

The Red Crescent also said more than 200 Palestinians were wounded in clashes on the occupied West Bank.

The violence prompted organizers to cancel the annual Jerusalem Day march through the Old City, which marks Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967. They did so after the government barred Jewish nationalists from marching through Palestinian areas of the city.

Yaakov Novik, a march organizer, said it was the first time in decades that officials prevented them from marching through Damascus Gate, a major entry point to the Old City and a Palestinian gathering area.

"It is succumbing to terror," Novik told NPR.

More violence had been predicted to come later Monday when Jewish religious nationalists and youths were poised to walk in the annual Flag March — part of the Jerusalem Day celebrations.

"Jerusalem is currently a powder keg that could explode," Amos Gilad, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told Army Radio on Monday, according to local media outlets, as he urged officials to cancel the march.

Israeli political and security officials decided to redirect Flag March participants away from their annual route through Palestinian neighborhoods of the Old City, instead rerouting it through the Jewish quarter.

Late Sunday, police sprayed foul-smelling water on Palestinian boys and youths who were gathering, some throwing rocks and water bottles.

The U.S. and other international entities are urging both sides to de-escalate tensions and halt the violence.

"We are extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah," a State Department spokesperson said Friday, referring to Palestinian areas of Jerusalem.

But the violence continued on Saturday as skirmishes broke out with police outside the mosque, where tens of thousands of Muslims had gathered for the Night of Destiny. The holy night, also called the Night of Power, marks the day when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Even before Jerusalem Day, Palestinians have been upset by Israeli police tactics during Ramadan. The holy month of fasting and prayer, which ends this week, has routinely been marred by nighttime skirmishes among Palestinians, police and anti-Arab Jewish gangs. Palestinians call the police actions an affront; police have said their goal was to assert crowd control.

Some Israeli commentators have accused new police leadership of an excessive response, saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is focused on his own political survival in Israel's fraught political landscape.

With Jerusalem on edge, Israeli authorities have postponed a court hearing that could force some Palestinians to turn over their homes in the city to a Jewish settler group. In that long-running dispute, the settlers claim ownership rights stemming from a land purchase in the 1800s. But many Palestinians have lived there for decades after being displaced during the 1948 war that immediately followed Israel's creation.

The U.S. has expressed concerns about those possible evictions because Jewish settler groups are motivated ideologically to establish a Jewish majority in Palestinian areas.

NPR's Bill Chappell reported from Washington, D.C.

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