Israel has claimed that more than 1000 rockets and mortars have been launched towards Jerusalem from the Gaza strip by Hamas since the clashes began on Monday. They claimed to have intercepted most of the missiles fired with the help of their Iron Dome air defense system and hit back Hamas-based set up in Gaza in an act of retaliation, killing more than 50 people, including children and women.
Early on Wednesday, Hamas confirmed that its Gaza city’s commander Baseem Issa, one of the most prominent figures, along with several other fighters in the group was killed in Israeli airstrikes. This came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of war against Hamas’ terrorists and other Jihadi groups, with the intention of continuing violence.
Several political leaders and experts believe that violence in Jerusalem and parts of the Gaza strip will lead to further tension across the Middle East. This was the first major deadly incident since the Abraham Accords that were signed between Israel, the UAE, and the USA in September 2020.
How Did Violence Erupt?
A minor skirmish between Israelis and Palestinians took place on May 6, when local Jews people were observing ‘Jerusalem Day’ – marking the day Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1969 – across the country.
On May 7, the 25th day of Ramadan, thousands of Palestinians gathered to pray outside the Dome of the Rock at the famous Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem. After the Friday prayer, Palestinian demonstrators came out on streets with Palestine and Hamas flags in the evening. In response, Israeli authorities deployed heavy security across the city and blocked the roads leading to the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Things took a deadly turn on Monday, May 10, when Israeli armed forces entered the Al-Aqsa mosque and opened fire at Palestinian worshippers in the hall, injuring more than 300 people including children and women. During the violence, the Israeli security forces allegedly fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at Palestinian people in the hall.
The next day, on May 11, in response to an Israeli attack against peaceful worshippers, Hamas started launching multiple rockets in Jerusalem and southern Israel.
Why Is The Al-Aqsa Mosque Important?
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered the second holiest site after the Kaaba (Mecca, Saudi Arabia) in Islamic history, and is located in Old Jerusalem. According to the Quran, Prophet Mohammad traveled to Al-Aqsa Mosque from Mecca in “one night”. Al-Aqsa means – “the farthest” and in this context, it means “farthest from Mecca”. A mosque is a sacred place for both Muslims and Jews. Muslims call this site Haram al-Sharif while Jews refer to it as the Mount Temple.
In 1967, Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem, of which Old Jerusalem is a part, from Jordan in a six-day war. Since then, Israel has had absolute control over the entire region. Israel also recognized Jerusalem as the country’s capital, but it was never accepted by the UN and other countries.
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A Test For Abraham Accords
Several middle eastern countries, including those part of the Abraham Accords which were signed in order to bring peace and stability to the region, have strongly condemned Israel’s actions against Palestinians.
UAE, the first country in the middle east to sign the agreement, said in a statement that Israel must immediately stop the violence against the people of Palestine. They urged Israel to end all attacks and practices that are leading to continued tension.
Bahrain has strongly criticized the violence in Jerusalem saying that Israel must stop these rejected provocations against the Palestinians, and work to prevent its forces from attacking worshipers in this holy month. Bahrain became a part of the Abraham Accords last year.
Saudi Arabia, which welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu in November last year, also condemned Israel’s actions.
However, silence on Hamas’ rocket attacks on Jerusalem could worsen relations between Israel and the Gulf countries.
Fears Of Full-Scale War
Urging to stop the violence immediately, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process – Tor Wennesland – warned that a dreadful war can be anticipated.
While speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Israel needs a strong and deterrent lesson. Turkey also urged Muslim nations to unite against Israel.
The current situation between Israel and Palestine has posed a major challenge for US President Joe Biden to de-escalate violence and establish peace in the region.
Speaking with Benjamin Netanyahu, President Biden expressed that he hoped the violence will be stopped as quickly as possible. He also emphasized that Israel has the right to defend its territory against rocket attacks. The US has sent its envoy to Israel to normalize the situation in the region.