Israeli police clash with worshipers at Jerusalem holy site
Israeli police raided Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City early Wednesday and attacked Palestinian worshippers, Palestinian media reported, raising fears of wider tensions as Islamic and Jewish holidays overlap. The incidents sparked a wave of Palestinian protests, condemnations and violence. The Israeli military said sirens warning of incoming rockets sounded in Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip. Tension has already been high in east Jerusalem and the West Bank for months, and fears of further violence were fueled with the convergence of the Muslim holy fast month and the Passover. Such confrontations at the contested holy compound, the third holiest shrine in Islam that is also the most sacred site in Judaism and referred to as the Temple Mount, have sparked deadly cross-border wars between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers in the past, the last was in 2021. Videos on social media purportedly showed Israeli police officers beating Palestinians with batons and rifle butts at the mosque in the contested hilltop site revered by both Muslims and Jews. The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, reported that dozens of worshipers, who spend all the night in Ramadan praying, were injured when the police raided the mosque. It was not immediately clear what sparked the violence. The Israeli police said it used force to evacuate worshippers who were holed up at the mosque with fireworks, rocks, and sticks. They added that an officer was injured in his leg by a stone and that dozens of “rioters” were arrested. Talab Abu Eisha, 49, said more than 400 men, women and children were praying at Al-Aqsa when the police encircled the mosque. “The youths were afraid and started closing the doors,” he said, adding that police forces “stormed the eastern corner, beating and arresting men there." ”It was an unprecedented scene of violence in terms of police brutality and intention to hurt the youths," he said, denying police claims that young men were hiding fireworks and rocks. He added that the police prevented all men under 50 years old from passing through the Old City's gates leading to the compound for the dawn prayers. The violence in Jerusalem triggered protests and condemnations from Palestinians. in Gaza, Hamas called for large protests and people started gathering in the streets, with calls to head for the heavily guarded Gaza-Israel frontier for more violent demonstrations. The Palestinian leadership condemned the attack on the worshippers. The spokesman of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, warned Israel that such a move “exceeds all red lines and will lead to a large explosion." In Gaza, Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad also called for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel to go and gather around Al-Aqsa Mosque and confront Israeli forces. The Israeli military said Gaza militants fired two barrages of rockets toward southern Israel. Five rockets were intercepted and four landed in open areas. There were no reports of casualties or damage. Earlier on Tuesday, a Palestinian suspect stabbed two Israelis near an army base south of Tel Aviv , police said, in the latest incident in a yearlong spate of violence that shows no sign of abating. The Magen David Adom paramedic service said first responders treated two men for serious and light stab wounds in the incident on a highway near the Tsrifin military base. The men were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment their injuries. Israeli media identified the two victims as soldiers. Police said that civilians at the scene apprehended the suspected attacker, who was taken into police custody for questioning. Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged over the last year, as the Israeli military has carried out near-nightly raids on Palestinian cities, towns and villages and as Palestinians have staged numerous attacks against Israelis. At least 88 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire this year, according to an Associated Press tally. Palestinian attacks against Israelis have killed 15 people in the same period.
Palestinian officials say house fire in Gaza Strip kills 21
A fire set off by stored gasoline in a residential building killed 21 people Thursday evening in a refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, the territory's Hamas rulers said, in one of the deadliest incidents in recent years outside the violence stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The blaze erupted on the third floor of a three-story building in the crowded Jabaliya camp, according to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. No one inside the house survived. The Civil Defense in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, attributed the cause of the fire to gasoline that was being stored in the building. It was not immediately clear how the gasoline ignited. Officials said an investigation was underway. Flames were seen spewing out of the windows of the burning floor as hundreds of people gathered outside on the street, waiting for fire trucks and ambulances. Read more: 4 Palestinians killed in flare-up as Israel counts votes Gaza, ruled by Hamas and under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade, faces a severe energy crisis. People often store cooking gas, diesel and gasoline in homes in preparation for winter. House fires have previously been caused by candles and gas leaks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered condolences to the families of the dead and declared Friday a day of mourning. Tor Wennesland, the United Nations’ Middle East peace envoy, expressed “heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families, relatives and friends of those who died in the accident; the Government, and the Palestinian people.” Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian Authority official, called on Israel to open its border crossing with Gaza to allow for the evacuation of those injured who need advanced medical care to Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It was later confirmed that all in the house had died. COGAT, the Israeli body controlling the Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip, did not comment. Read more: Israel and Gaza militants exchange fire after deadly strikes But Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz sent his condolences to the Palestinians, writing on Twitter that “we have offered our assistance in evacuating injured civilians to hospitals via COGAT. The State of Israel is prepared to provide life-saving, medical aid to Gaza residents.”
Death toll from weekend Israel-Gaza fighting rises to 47
The death toll from last weekend's fighting between Israel and Gaza militants has risen to 47, after a man died from wounds sustained during the violence, the Health Ministry in Gaza said Thursday. Israeli aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group fired more than a thousand rockets over three days of fighting, the worst cross-border violence since an 11-day war with Hamas last year. According to the Health Ministry, 47 people were killed, among them 16 children and four women. Israeli strikes appear to have killed some 30 people, among them several militants and two senior Islamic Jihad commanders, one of whom Israel said it targeted in order to foil an imminent attack. As many as 16 people might have been killed by rockets misfired by Palestinian militants. Also read: Cease-fire between Palestinians, Israel takes effect in Gaza It wasn't immediately clear how the man whose death was announced Thursday was wounded. A cease-fire took hold Sunday night, bringing an end to the fighting, in which no Israelis were killed or seriously wounded. Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers have fought four wars and several smaller battles over the last 15 years at a staggering cost to the territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents. Also read: Israel, militants trade fire as Gaza death toll climbs to 24
Palestinians clash with Israeli police at major holy site
Palestinians clashed with Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on Friday as thousands gathered for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan. Medics said more than 150 Palestinians were wounded in the most serious violence at the site in nearly a year. The holy site, which is sacred to Jews and Muslims, has often been the epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian unrest, and tensions were already heightened amid a recent wave of violence. Clashes at the site last year helped spark an 11-day war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. The clashes come at a particularly sensitive time. Ramadan this year coincides with Passover, a major weeklong Jewish holiday beginning Friday at sundown, and Christian holy week, which culminates on Easter Sunday. The holidays are expected to bring tens of thousands of faithful into Jerusalem’s Old City, home to major sites sacred to all three religions. Hours after the clashes began, the police said they had put an end to the violence and arrested “hundreds” of suspects. The mosque was re-opened, and some 60,000 people attended the main Friday prayers midday, according to the Waqf, the Islamic endowment that administers the site. Also read: Palestinian killed, 31 injured by Israeli soldiers in WB After prayers, thousands of Palestinians marched around the esplanade, chanting “with our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you, Al-Aqsa,” in addition to slogans in support of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. Less than a kilometer (mile) away, thousands of Christians marched in a procession retracing the traditional journey of Jesus to the cross in honor of Good Friday. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was open to visitors, who are returning to the Holy Land in large numbers for the first time since before the pandemic. The violence was confined to the mosque compound. Israeli authorities said that before the unrest broke out they had negotiated with Muslim leaders to try to ensure calm. But the police say Palestinians stockpiled rocks and other objects inside the compound and hurled stones at the Mughrabi Gate, which leads to the Western Wall — a major Jewish holy site — triggering the violence. Palestinian witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns, said a small group of Palestinians threw rocks at police, who then entered the compound in force, setting off a wider conflagration. Palestinians view any large deployment of police at Al-Aqsa as a provocation. Palestinians threw rocks and fireworks, and police fired tear gas and stun grenades on the sprawling esplanade surrounding the mosque. Dozens of Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the mosque as they fought Israeli security forces. Israeli police later entered the mosque and arrested people inside. The police rarely enter the building, which is seen by Palestinians as an escalation. The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said it treated 152 people, many of them wounded by rubber-coated bullets or stun grenades. Video footage showed police beating a photographer for the Waqf with batons before knocking him to ground and kicking him. The Waqf said the photographer, Rami Khatib, suffered a broken hand. There was no immediate comment from police. The Israeli police said three officers were wounded from “massive stone-throwing,” with two evacuated from the scene for treatment. Neighboring Jordan, which has custodianship over the holy site, and the Palestinian Authority issued a joint statement accusing Israel of “a dangerous and condemnable escalation that threatens to explode the situation.” Egypt also condemned the “Israeli raid.” Israel’s public security minister, Omer Barlev, who oversees the police force, said Israel had “no interest” in violence at the holy site but that police were forced to confront “violent elements” who attacked them with stones and metal bars. He said Israel was committed to freedom of worship for Jews and Muslims alike. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said authorities “are working to calm things on the Temple Mount and throughout Israel. At the same time, we are prepared for any scenario.” The mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. It is built on a hilltop in Jerusalem’s Old City that is the most sacred site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the site of the Jewish temples in antiquity. It has been a major flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence for decades and was the epicenter of the 2000-2005 Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians want the eastern part of the city to be the capital of a future state including the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel also captured during the war nearly 55 years ago. Tensions have soared in recent weeks following a series of attacks by Palestinians that killed 14 people inside Israel. Israeli troops have carried out a wave of arrests and military operations across the occupied West Bank, setting off clashes with Palestinians. Also read: Palestinians vandalise West Bank shrine as tensions soar At least 25 Palestinians have been killed, according to an Associated Press count. Many had carried out attacks or were involved in the clashes, but an unarmed woman and a lawyer who appears to have been a bystander were also among those killed. Weeks of protests and clashes in and around Al-Aqsa during Ramadan last year helped ignite a fourth Gaza war between Israel and Hamas. This year, Israel has lifted restrictions and taken other steps to try and calm tensions, but the attacks and the military raids are fueling another cycle of unrest. Hamas condemned what it said were “brutal attacks” on worshippers at Al-Aqsa, saying Israel would bear “all the consequences.” Earlier this week, Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza had called on Palestinians to camp out at the Al-Aqsa mosque over the weekend. Palestinians have long feared that Israel plans to take over the site or partition it. Israeli authorities say they are committed to maintaining the status quo, but in recent years large groups of nationalist and religious Jews have regularly visited the site with police escorts. A radical Jewish group recently called on people to bring animals to the site in order to sacrifice them for Passover, offering cash rewards for those who succeeded or even tried. Israeli police work to prevent such activities, but the call was widely circulated by Palestinians on social media, along with calls for Muslims to prevent any sacrifices from taking place. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, issued a statement calling on Muslim leaders to act to stop the violence. He also noted that “bringing a sacrifice to the Temple Mount today is in opposition to the decision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.”
Gaza border clashes wound 24 Palestinians, Israeli policeman
Israeli gunfire on Saturday wounded 24 Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head, health officials said. An Israeli policeman was critically wounded by Palestinian gunfire during the clashes along Gaza’s border with Israel. The violence erupted after hundreds of Palestinians took part in a demonstration Saturday organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers to draw attention to a stifling Israeli blockade of the territory. The demonstration grew violent after dozens of people approached the fortified border fence and threw rocks and explosives toward Israeli soldiers from behind a black smoke screen spewing from burning tires. The Israeli military said that hundreds of demonstrators approached one area of the fence in northern Gaza and attempted to climb over while throwing explosives at troops. It said that troops fired tear gas and live rounds toward the protesters. Read:Human Rights Watch: Israeli war crimes apparent in Gaza war It also said a member of the paramilitary border police was hospitalized in grave condition after being shot. Amateur video from the Palestinian side showed a protester running up to the concrete barrier and firing a pistol into a hole used by an Israeli sniper. In Gaza, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said 24 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire. Two of them, including the 13-year-old boy, were in critical condition. The violent confrontations were reminiscent of the weekly border demonstrations organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers in 2018 and 2019 to draw attention to Israel’s stifling blockade over the tiny seaside territory. Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies that have fought four wars and countless skirmishes since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning a Palestinian election. The most recent war, in May, ended in an inconclusive cease-fire after 11 days of fighting. Khalil al-Haya, a senior Hamas official, told protesters that the confrontation with Israel “was still open.” Read:War's trauma apparent in portraits of Gazan children There has been growing tension in recent weeks, with Hamas calling for Israel to ease the blockade, which greatly restricts movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. Israel has imposed the blockade with Egyptian help since 2007, saying it is needed to prevent Hamas from arming itself. In a statement, the Israeli army said troops responded with live rounds after hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated at the Gaza-Israeli border. During the border protests in 2018 and 2019, over 350 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. The protests ground to a halt after mediators, including Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations brokered an unofficial deal in which Israel eased some of its economic restrictions on Gaza and allowed Qatar to deliver tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments to needy Gaza families and Hamas salaries. Since the May war, the new Israeli government, headed by Naftali Bennet, has blocked the Qatari aid, calling for a mechanism to ensure Hamas doesn’t benefit from the cash. It also has blocked the import of key reconstruction materials while demanding that Hamas first return the remains of two soldiers killed in a 2014 war and two Israeli civilians believed to be alive. Running out of patience, Hamas called for Saturday’s protest to signal its frustration with Israel delaying the Qatari cash injections. On Thursday, however, Israel announced an agreement with the Gulf Arab country to resume aid payments to thousands of families in the Gaza Strip step aimed at easing tensions with the Palestinian territory in the wake of the war. Under the new arrangement, the funds are to be transferred by the United Nations directly to Gaza families, while giving Israel oversight over the the list of recipients. The payments are expected to begin in the coming weeks. Read:Israeli airstrikes target Gaza sites, first since cease-fire Hamas made the call for the protest at Gaza-Israel frontier before the new agreement on the resumption of Qatari aid was reached. It also said the protest was meant to mark the anniversary of a 1969 arson attack at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque by an Australian tourist later found to be mentally ill. At least 254 people were killed during May’s Gaza-Israel war, including 67 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza health ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.
Israel strikes Gaza after Hamas fires incendiary balloons
Israel launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip late Thursday for a second time since a shaky cease-fire ended last month’s 11-day war. The strikes came after activists mobilized by Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers launched incendiary balloons into Israel for a third straight day. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the strikes, which could be heard from Gaza City. Israel also carried out airstrikes early Wednesday, targeting what it is said were Hamas facilities, without killing or wounding anyone. The military said fighter jets struck Hamas “military compounds and a rocket launch site” late Thursday in response to the balloons. It said its forces were preparing for a “variety of scenarios including a resumption of hostilities.” Also read: Israeli airstrikes target Gaza sites, first since cease-fire Rocket sirens went off in Israeli communities near Gaza shortly after the airstrikes. The military later said they were triggered by “incoming fire, not rockets.” Surveillance camera footage obtained by The Associated Press showed what appeared to be heavy machine-gun fire into the air from Gaza, a possible attempt by Palestinian militants to shoot down aircraft. Other footage showed projectiles being fired from Gaza, but it was unclear what kind or where they landed. Tensions have remained high since a cease-fire halted the war on May 21, even as Egyptian mediators have met with Israeli and Hamas officials to try and shore up the informal truce. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and countless smaller skirmishes since the Islamic militant group seized power from rival Palestinians forces in 2007. Israel and Egypt have imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, since Hamas took over. Earlier, Israeli police used stun grenades and a water cannon spraying skunk water to disperse Palestinian protesters from Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem, the epicenter of weeks of protests and clashes in the run-up to the Gaza war. After the crowds were dispersed, Palestinians could be seen throwing rocks and water bottles at ultra-Orthodox Jews walking in the area. Calls had circulated for protesters to gather at Damascus Gate in response to a rally held there by Jewish ultranationalists on Tuesday in which dozens of Israelis had chanted “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn.” The police had forcibly cleared the square and provided security for that rally, part of a parade to celebrate Israel’s conquest of east Jerusalem. In a separate incident, a Palestinian teenager died Thursday after being shot by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank during a protest against a settlement outpost, the fourth demonstrator to be killed since the outpost was established last month. The Israeli military said Wednesday that a soldier stationed near the wildcat outpost in the West Bank saw a group of Palestinians approaching, and that one “hurled a suspicious object at him, which exploded adjacent to the soldier.” The army said that the soldier fired in the air, then shot the Palestinian who threw the object. The Palestinian Health Ministry said Thursday that Ahmad Shamsa, 15, died of a gunshot wound sustained a day earlier. Settlers established the outpost, which they refer to as Eviatar, near the northern West Bank town of Nablus last month and say it is now home to dozens of families. Palestinians say it is built on private land and fear it will grow and merge with other large settlements nearby. Also read: Israeli airstrikes kill 6, level large family home in Gaza Nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers live in some 130 settlements across the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians and much of the international community view the settlements as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace. Israeli authorities have evacuated the outpost on several occasions. They appear reluctant to do so this time because it would embarrass Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other right-wing members of the fragile government sworn in over the weekend. Palestinians from the nearby village of Beita have held several protests in which demonstrators have hurled stones and Israeli troops have fired tear gas and live ammunition. Four Palestinians have been killed since mid-May, including Shamsa and another teenager. The Israeli military also shot and killed a Palestinian woman on Wednesday, saying she had tried to ram her car into a group of soldiers guarding a West Bank construction site. In a statement, the army said soldiers fired at the woman in Hizmeh, just north of Jerusalem, after she exited the car and pulled out a knife. The statement did not say how close the woman was to the soldiers, and the army did not release any photos or video of the incident. The family of Mai Afaneh insisted she had no reason or ability to carry out an attack. Also read: Israel, Egypt talk truce with Hamas, rebuilding Gaza Strip In recent years, Israel has seen a series of shootings, stabbings and car ramming attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians in the occupied West Bank. Most have been carried out by Palestinians with no apparent links to organized militant groups. Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups say the soldiers often use excessive force and could have stopped some assailants without killing them. In some cases, they say that innocent people have been identified as attackers and shot. The Palestinians seek the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exerts limited self-rule in population centers, as part of a future state along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Israel captured all three territories in the 1967 war and says Jerusalem is indivisible. There have been no substantive peace talks in more than a decade.
Israel arrests Jerusalem activists in contested neighborhood
Israeli police burst into the home of a prominent family in the contested Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem on Sunday, the family said, arresting a 23-year-old woman who has led protests against attempts by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in the area. The young woman was later released, but her twin brother turned himself in and remained in custody. The arrests came a day after Israeli police detained a well-known Al Jazeera reporter covering a demonstration in the neighborhood. The reporter, Givara Budeiri, was held for four hours before she was released and sent to a hospital to treat a broken hand. It was not clear how her hand was broken, but her boss blamed police mistreatment. Earlier this year, heavy-handed police actions in Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of east Jerusalem fueled weeks of unrest that helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Those tensions are simmering again this week — and could flare anew if Israeli ultranationalists follow through on plans to march Thursday through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli police were expected to hold consultations on whether the parade, which was originally set to take place when the war erupted on May 10, would be allowed to proceed. Read:Jerusalem evictions that fueled Gaza war could still happen Renewed violence could complicate the task of embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents, who formed a fragile and disparate coalition last week, of passing a parliamentary vote of confidence needed for them to replace him and take office. A close ally of Netanyahu oversees the police. In Sheikh Jarrah, Jewish settlers have been waging a decades-long campaign to evict the families from densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods just outside the walls of the Old City. The area is one of the most sensitive parts of east Jerusalem, which is home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims and which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Israel views the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Settler groups and Israeli officials say the Sheikh Jarrah dispute is merely about real estate. But Palestinians say they are victims of a discriminatory system. The settlers are using a 1970 law that allows Jews to reclaim formerly Jewish properties lost during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, a right denied to Palestinians who lost property in the same conflict. The al-Kurd family in Sheikh Jarrah has been at the forefront of months of protests against the planned evictions. Early Sunday, police took Muna al-Kurd, 23, from her home. Her father, Nabil al-Kurd, said police “stormed the house in large numbers and in a barbaric manner.” “I was sleeping, and I found them in my bedroom,” he said. Police then searched the house and arrested his daughter. Video posted on social media showed her being taken away in handcuffs. Read:Netanyahu opponents reach coalition deal to oust Israeli PM “The reason for the arrest is that we say that we will not leave our homes, and they do not want anyone to express his opinion, they do not want anyone to tell the truth,” he said. “They want to silence us.” Police also searched for her brother, Muhammad al-Kurd, but he was not there. Later, he turned himself in to Jerusalem police. The siblings’ lawyer, Nasser Odeh, told journalists outside the police station that his clients were accused of “disturbing public security and participation in nationalistic riots.” Late Sunday, Muna al-Kurd was released. But before she was freed, police briefly clashed with a crowd outside the station, throwing stun grenades. Her brother remained in custody. The arrests came a day after Al Jazeera’s Budeiri, wearing a protective vest marked “press,” was dragged away by police at a protest in Sheikh Jarrah. According to witnesses, police asked Budeiri for identification. Colleagues said police did not allow her to return to her car to retrieve her government-issued press card. Instead, they said she was surrounded by police, handcuffed and dragged into a vehicle with darkened windows. In video footage posted online, Budeiri can be seen in handcuffs, while clutching her notebook and shouting, “Don’t touch, enough, enough.” Read:Gaza’s bereaved civilians fear justice will never come Israeli police said entrance to the neighborhood is limited due to the tense situation, and only accredited journalists are allowed in. They said that when Budeiri was unable to provide her press pass, police “removed her.” They added that Budeiri was arrested after becoming hostile and pushing an officer. “The Israel Police will allow the freedom of press coverage, provided that these are done in accordance (with) the law while maintaining public order,” according to a statement. The statement did not reference her broken hand. Budeiri was held for four hours before she was released and sent to the hospital, said Walid Omary, the Jerusalem bureau chief for Al Jazeera. In addition to the broken hand, Omary said Budeiri also suffered bruises on her body. He said her cameraman’s video camera was also heavily damaged by police. As part of her release, Budeiri is banned from returning to the neighborhood for 15 days, Omary said. “They are attacking the journalists in east Jerusalem because they don’t want them to continue covering what’s happening inside Sheikh Jarrah,” he said. The Foreign Press Association, which represents hundreds of journalists working for international news organizations, said the treatment of Budeiri was “the latest in a long line of heavy-handed tactics by Israeli police” against the media in recent weeks. It said journalists have been hit by stun grenades, tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets and putrid-smelling water. “We call on police to punish the officers who needlessly injured an experienced journalist and broke professional equipment. And once again, we urge police to uphold Israel’s pledges to respect freedom of the press and to allow journalists to do their jobs freely and without fear of injury and intimidation,” the FPA said. Read:Netanyahu could lose PM job as rivals attempt to join forces Last month’s war was triggered by weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint holy site. The war erupted on May 10 when Hamas, calling itself the defender of the holy city, launched a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem. Some 254 people were killed in Gaza and 13 in Israel before a cease-fire took effect on May 21. Al Jazeera’s acting director general, Mostefa Souag, noted that Budeiri’s detention came after Israel’s May 15 war-time destruction of a Gaza high-rise that housed the local office of Al Jazeera. The tower also housed The Associated Press’ office. Israel has alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating from the building. The AP has said it has no indication of a purported Hamas presence and has called for an independent investigation.
Israel, Egypt talk truce with Hamas, rebuilding Gaza Strip
Egypt and Israel held high-level talks in both countries Sunday to shore up a fragile truce between Israel and the Hamas militant group and rebuild the Gaza Strip after a punishing 11-day war that left parts of the seaside enclave in ruins. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry received his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, in Cairo on Sunday as part of Egypt’s efforts to revive the Mideast peace process and to “build on the cease-fire in Gaza,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said. Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said Shukry called for establishing an atmosphere to relaunch “serious and constructive” negotiations between the two sides. He also urged both sides to refrain from “any measures” that could hamper efforts to revive the Mideast peace process. The hourslong visit was the first public one by an Israeli foreign minister to Egypt since 2008, the Israeli Embassy in Cairo said. It wrote that the two ministers would discuss topics including the cease-fire and the release of Israeli soldiers and citizens being held by Hamas. READ: Bangladesh urges UN to take decisive action against Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights “We will discuss establishing a permanent ceasefire with #Hamas, a mechanism for providing humanitarian aid & the reconstruction of #Gaza with a pivotal role played by the intl. community,” Ashkenazi tweeted upon arrival in Cairo. Hamas is holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in a 2014 war. It also is holding two Israeli civilians who were captured after entering Gaza. As part of the cease-fire efforts, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Abbas Kamel, Egypt’s intelligence chief, in Jerusalem. Netanyahu said he had raised the issue of returning the remains of soldiers and the two civilians as well as Israeli demands to prevent Hamas from gaining strength or diverting resources meant for the civilian population. An Egyptian official said Kamel would also meet with Palestinian officials in the West Bank before heading to Gaza for talks with Hamas leaders. The intelligence agency, which is Egypt’s equivalent of the CIA, usually handles Egypt’s ties with Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency said Kamel would convey a message from el-Sissi to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, affirming “Egypt’s full support to the Palestinian people.” It said Cairo would host talks among Palestinian factions to achieve unity between those in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied areas of the West Bank. The report did not provide further details. During a visit to the region last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was seeking to bolster Abbas and weaken Hamas as part of the cease-fire efforts. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas’ forces in 2007, leaving the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in charge of administering autonomous zones in some 40% of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, is branded a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S. and other Western countries. READ: Form independent int’l commission to take legal action against Israel: FS Discussions with Israeli officials have touched on a set of measures that would allow materials, electricity and fuel into the territory, as well as the possible expansion of maritime space allowed for Gaza fishermen, the Egyptian official said. “The role of the Palestinian Authority is central in the talks,” he said. “Egypt is seeking to have it deeply involved in the reconstruction process.” The Egyptian official, who had close knowledge of the proceedings that led to the cease-fire, spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t allowed to brief reporters. The 11-day war killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused heavy destruction in the impoverished coastal territory. Preliminary estimates have put the damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Egypt was key in mediating a deal between the two sides. The official said Egypt has offered guarantees that rebuilding funds will not find its way to Hamas, possibly going through an international committee led by Egypt or the United Nations that would oversee the spending. Kamel has also discussed the situation in Jerusalem and ways to ease tensions in the holy city. That would include understandings at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Israeli police repeatedly clashed with Palestinian demonstrators, and how to prevent the planned eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem, the official said. Egypt last week invited Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for separate talks in Cairo to consolidate the Cairo-mediated cease-fire and accelerate the reconstruction process in Gaza. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is expected to visit Cairo this week, according to the group’s spokesman Abdelatif al-Qanou, who also said Hamas is open to discussing a prisoner swap with Israel.
Israel, Hamas agree to cease-fire to end bloody 11-day war
Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire Thursday, halting a bruising 11-day war that caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip, brought life in much of Israel to a standstill and left more than 200 people dead. At 2 a.m. local time, just as the cease-fire took effect, frenzy life returned to the streets of Gaza. People went out of their homes, some shouting “Allahu Akbar” or whistling from balconies. Many fired in the air, celebrating the truce. Like the three previous wars between the bitter enemies, the latest round of fighting ended inconclusively. Israel claimed to inflict heavy damage on Hamas but once again was unable to halt the Islamic militant group’s nonstop rocket barrages. Almost immediately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced angry accusations from his hard-line, right-wing base that he stopped the operation too soon. Also read: Israel approves unilateral cease-fire in Gaza offensive Hamas, the Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, also claimed victory. But it now faces the daunting challenge of rebuilding in a territory already suffering from poverty, widespread unemployment and a raging coronavirus outbreak. Netanyahu’s office said his Security Cabinet had unanimously accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal after recommendations from Israel’s military chief and other top security officials. A statement boasted of “significant achievements in the operation, some of which are unprecedented.” It also included a veiled threat against Hamas. “The political leaders emphasized that the reality on the ground will determine the future of the campaign,” the statement said. The fighting erupted on May 10, when Hamas militants in Gaza fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem. The barrage came after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound, built on a site holy to Muslims and Jews, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions. The competing claims to Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have repeatedly triggered bouts of violence in the past. Hamas and other militant groups fired over 4,000 rockets into Israel throughout the fighting, launching the projectiles from civilian areas at Israeli cities. Dozens of projectiles flew as far north as Tel Aviv, the country’s bustling commercial and cultural capital. Thousands gathered Friday morning in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis outside the family house of Mohammed Dief, the shadowy Hamas commander who had ordered the rocket attacks. Supporters shouted “victory” and waved green Hamas flags. Israel, meanwhile, carried out hundreds of airstrikes targeting what it said was Hamas’ military infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network. At least 230 Palestinians were killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl, were killed. The United States, Israel’s closest and most important ally, initially backed what it said was Israel’s right to self-defense against indiscriminate rocket fire. But as the fighting dragged on and the death toll mounted, the Americans increasingly pressured Israel to stop the offensive. In a rare public rift, Netanyahu on Wednesday briefly rebuffed a public call from President Joe Biden to wind things down, appearing determined to inflict maximum damage on Hamas in a war that could help save his political career. But late Thursday, Netanyahu’s office announced the cease-fire agreement. Hamas quickly followed suit. Militants continued to launch sporadic rocket at Israel early Friday, before the 2 a.m. cease-fire took effect. Also read: How did Hamas grow its arsenal to strike Israel? In Washington, Biden hailed the cease-fire. “I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress, and I’m committed to working for it,” he said. Biden said the U.S. was committed to helping Israel replenish its supply of interceptor missiles for its Iron Dome rocket-defense system and to working with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority — not Hamas — to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. Netanyahu quickly came under heavy criticism from members of his hawkish, nationalist base. Gideon Saar, a former ally who now leads a small party opposed to the prime minister, called the cease-fire “embarrassing.” In a potentially damaging development for the Israeli leader, the Palestinian militants claimed Netanyahu had agreed to halt further Israeli actions at the Al Aqsa Mosque and to call off the planned evictions of Palestinians in the nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. An Egyptian official said only that tensions in Jerusalem “will be addressed.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing behind-the-scenes negotiations and provided no details. Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the far-right Jewish Power party, tweeted that the cease-fire was “a grave surrender to terrorism and the dictates of Hamas.” The cease-fire comes at a sensitive time for Netanyahu. In the wake of an inconclusive election in March, Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition in parliament. His opponents now have until June 2 to form an alternative government of their own. The war greatly complicated the efforts of his opponents, who include both Jewish and Arab parties and were forced to suspend their negotiations in such a fraught environment. But the inconclusive outcome of the war could give them renewed momentum to restart those talks. Meanwhile in Gaza, a Hamas spokesman, Abdelatif al-Qanou, said Israel’s announcement was a “declaration of defeat.” Nonetheless, the group said it would honor the deal, which was to officially go into effect at 2 a.m. Ali Barakeh, an official with Islamic Jihad, a smaller group that fought alongside Hamas, said Israel’s declaration of a truce was a defeat for Netanyahu and “a victory to the Palestinian people.” Despite the claims, both groups appeared to have suffered significant losses in the fighting. Hamas and Islamic Jihad said at least 20 of their fighters were killed, while Israel said the number was at least 130 and probably higher. Some 58,000 Palestinians fled their homes, many of them seeking shelter in crowded United Nations schools at a time of a coronavirus outbreak. Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated. Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Since then, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has governed autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and has limited influence in Gaza. Also read: Israel unleashes new strikes as expectations for truce rise Israeli attacks have also damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out. Israeli bombing has damaged over 50 schools across the territory, according to advocacy group Save the Children, destroying at least six. While repairs are done, education will be disrupted for nearly 42,000 children.
Israel unleashes new strikes as expectations for truce rise
Israel unleashed a new wave of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip on Thursday and Hamas fired more rockets into Israel, despite growing signs that the sides were close to a cease-fire that would end 11 days of heavy fighting. In an apparent sign of progress, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting of his Security Cabinet, where the issue of a cease-fire was expected to be debated. An Egyptian official said Israel has informed his government, which is mediating a truce, that it intends to end its military operations in Gaza. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing behind-the-scenes diplomacy, he said an announcement was expected following the Security Cabinet meeting. The official spoke shortly after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi talked by phone with President Joe Biden. The two leaders discussed ways to stop violence in the Palestinian Territories, el-Sissi’s office said. In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said reports of a move toward a ceasefire were “clearly encouraging.” She said the U.S. was trying “to do everything we can to bring an end to the conflict.” Also read: Netanyahu’s prospects bolstered amid Israel-Hamas fighting With U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging an immediate cease-fire, a U.N. Mideast envoy was in the Gulf state of Qatar to help with efforts to restore calm, a diplomatic official said. Energy-rich Qatar often helps mediate between Israel and Hamas and has donated hundreds of millions of dollars for development and humanitarian projects in Gaza in recent years. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. Osama Hamdan, a top Hamas official based in Lebanon, also said he expected a cease-fire within the coming day. Biden on Wednesday publicly pressed Netanyahu to wind down the operation. The Israeli leader initially pushed back, appearing determined to inflict maximum damage on Hamas in a war that could help save his political career. But by Thursday evening, Israeli media were reporting that a cease-fire agreement was expected to take effect by early Friday, perhaps sooner. Despite the signs of progress, fighting continued into the evening, with Israeli airstrikes on targets in Gaza and Palestinian militants firing rockets toward Israeli cities. In past rounds of violence, fighting has picked up in the final hours, with each side trying to eke out a final achievement before a cease-fire went into effect. Earlier Thursday, explosions shook Gaza City and orange flares lit up the pre-dawn sky, with bombing raids also reported in the central town of Deir al-Balah and the southern town of Khan Younis. As the sun rose, residents surveyed the rubble from at least five family homes destroyed in Khan Younis. Heavy airstrikes also hit a commercial thoroughfare in Gaza City. Also read: Israel unleashes strikes after vowing to press on in Gaza The Israeli military said it struck at least three homes of Hamas commanders in Khan Younis and another in Rafah, targeting “military infrastructure,” as well as a weapons storage unit at a home in Gaza City. On Wednesday, Biden told Israel on Wednesday that he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire” — but Netanyahu pushed back, saying he was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.” It marked the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began and posed a difficult test of the U.S.-Israel relationship early in Biden’s presidency. Visiting the region, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Israel has “the right to defend itself against such unacceptable attacks.” But he also expressed concern about the rising number of civilian victims and voiced support for truce efforts. Even as the diplomatic efforts appeared to gather strength, an Israeli airstrike smashed into the Khawaldi family’s two-story house in Khan Younis, destroying it. The 11 residents, who were sleeping outside the home out of fear, were all hospitalized, said Shaker al-Khozondar, a neighbor. Shrapnel also hit his own home, killing his aunt and wounding her daughter and two other relatives, he said. Al-Khozondar spoke from the bedroom where his aunt Hoda died. The windows were shattered and the bed pillows and rubble stained with blood. Also read: Israel’s Netanyahu ‘determined’ to continue Gaza operation Weam Fares, a spokesman for a nearby hospital, confirmed the death and said at least 10 people were wounded in strikes overnight. Heavy airstrikes also pummeled a street in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, destroying ramshackle homes with corrugated metal roofs nearby. The military said it struck two underground launchers in the camp used to fire rockets at Tel Aviv. The current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas began May 10, when the militant group fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions. Since then, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says have targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network. Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted. At least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and militant group Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes. Also read: Israeli strikes kill 42, topple buildings in Gaza City Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed. The military said an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza hit an empty bus near the frontier on Thursday, lightly wounding an Israeli soldier. Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated. Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power in 2007. Israeli bombing has damaged over 50 schools across the territory, according to advocacy group Save the Children, completely destroying at least six. While repairs are done, education will be disrupted for nearly 42,000 children. Israeli attacks have also damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.