Deadly flare-up between Israel and Palestinians

Published May 17, 2021, 6:21 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

Israel and the Palestinians are mired in their worst violence in years in which Islamist groups have fired rockets and Israel has pounded Gaza with air strikes.

A ball of fire erupts from a building in Gaza City’s Rimal residential district on May 16, 2021, during massive Israeli bombardment on the Hamas-controlled enclave. Bashar TALEB / AFP

Here is a recap:

– Palestinian eviction threat –
On the evening of May 3, clashes erupt in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, sparked by a years-long bid by Jewish settlers to take over Arab homes.

On May 6, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain urge Israel to end its settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories and expulsions from east Jerusalem.

– Clashes at Al-Aqsa compound –
Major clashes break out on May 7 as tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers pack the revered Al-Aqsa mosque compound — a site also holy to Jews as the Temple Mount — to pray on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

Israeli police say Palestinians hurl stones, bottles and fireworks at officers, who fire rubber-coated bullets and tear gas.

Video footage shows Israeli forces storming the mosque’s plaza and firing sound grenades inside the building.

Clashes erupt over the following days in other parts of east Jerusalem.

On May 10, hundreds of Palestinians and 32 Israeli police officers are wounded in renewed clashes, mainly in the mosque compound.

The violence coincides with what Israel calls “Jerusalem Day”, marking its 1967 seizure of the city’s eastern sector.

More than 700 Palestinians are wounded in the violence at Al-Aqsa and other parts of east Jerusalem over several days.

– Israel-Hamas escalation –
On the evening of May 10, the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, launches volleys of rockets towards Israel, which responds with deadly strikes on the Palestinian enclave.

The next day, Hamas rains rockets down on Tel Aviv after an Israeli air strike destroys a 12-storey Gaza City building where senior Hamas officials are said to have offices.

– Riots in mixed towns –
On the evening of May 11, unrest flares in mixed Jewish-Arab towns.

Israel declares a state of emergency in Lod, near Tel Aviv, after police report rioting by some Arab residents following the death of an Arab Israeli.

Up to 1,000 border police are called up as reinforcements. More than 400 people, Jews and Arabs, are arrested.

– Build-up near Gaza –
On May 12, the US says it is rushing an envoy to Israel and the occupied territories while Russia calls for an emergency meeting of the Middle East Quartet — the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations.

The next day, Israel masses armoured vehicles and troops along the border with Gaza. The defence ministry gives the army the green light to mobilise thousands of reservists if needed.

On May 14, Israel continues to pound Gaza.

The next day, an Israeli air strike on a building in the Shati refugee camp kills 10 members of an extended family — two mothers and their four children each.

Hours later another strike flattens a 13-floor building housing Qatar-based Al Jazeera television and the US news agency the Associated Press in the Gaza Strip.

After that raid, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells US President Joe Biden that Israel is doing its utmost to safeguard civilians during its Gaza bombing campaign.

Biden expresses his “grave concern” over the flare-up in violence.

The White House also says it has cautioned Israel about the importance of protecting independent media.

– West Bank clashes –
Demonstrations across the occupied West Bank have led to clashes with the Israeli army, leaving 11 Palestinians dead on May 14 alone and more than 150 wounded, according to health officials and medics.

– Israel destroys Hamas leader’s home –
On May 16, Israel says strikes destroyed the home of Hamas’ political leader in Gaza, while medics said raids across the territory left at least 42 dead, the highest daily death toll.

UN chief Antonio Guterres appeals for an immediate end to the “utterly appalling” violence, but a virtual meeting of the Security Council results in no joint statement.

A car-ramming attack wounded several people including six police officers in the flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of annexed east Jerusalem, police said, adding that the attacker was “neutralised”.

Since Monday, the death toll has risen to 192 in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza, including at least 58 children, and to 10 in Israel, according to authorities on each side.

Israel’s army says some 3,000 rockets have now been fired from the coastal strip controlled by Hamas.