Hamas militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel on Monday, including a barrage that set off air raid sirens as far away as Jerusalem, after hundreds of Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli police at a flashpoint religious site in the contested holy city.
The rocket fire drew heavy Israeli retaliation in the Gaza Strip. Health officials said at least 20 people, including nine children, were killed in fighting, making it one of the bloodiest days of battle between the bitter enemies in several years.
Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused Hamas of crossing a “red line” with the rocket attack on Jerusalem, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Gaza, and promised a tough response.
“Whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price,” he said, warning that the fighting could ”continue for some time.”
Earlier, Israeli police firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets clashed with stone-throwing Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is Islam’s third-holiest site and considered Judaism’s holiest.
More than 270 Palestinians were injured, including 205 who went to hospitals and clinics for treatment, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Five of the injured were in serious condition.
In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by ultra-nationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to mark Jerusalem Day, which celebrates Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem.
Greece expresses its ‘deep concern’ at violence:
In a statement this morning, the Greek Foreign Ministry has expressed its ‘deep concern’ over the violence in Jerusalem in recent days.
“Greece expresses its deep concern over the violent incidents that have taken place in Jerusalem in recent days and have resulted in the injury of hundreds of people, some of whom are in critical condition,” the statement reads.
“In this context, Greece calls on all parties to refrain from the use of force, which could lead to escalation.”
This follows a statement by the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem calling for an end of violence against Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
“We the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem, are profoundly disheartened and concerned about the recent violent events in East Jerusalem,” the statement reads.
“These concerning developments, whether at the Al Aqsa Mosque or in Sheikh Jarrah, violate the sanctity of the people of Jerusalem and of Jerusalem as the City of Peace.
“We call upon the International Community and all people of goodwill to intervene in order to put an end to these provocative actions…”
The number of Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land is estimated to be approximately 500,000 individuals – the majority of them are Palestinian.