Hamas fires rockets toward Jerusalem and southern Israel


Rockets were launched at Israel by Hamas from the Gaza Strip on Monday, triggering air raid sirens in the capital city of Jerusalem and neighboring communities in a major escalation of conflict amid an outbreak of violence between Palestinians and Israelis over the past few weeks.

Hamas, which is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, said in a press release Monday that it launched rockets into Israel in retaliation for "crimes and aggression" in the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

The Israel Defense Forces wrote on Twitter that the rocket attacks triggered sirens in Jerusalem and the neighboring community of Beit Shemesh, sending people fleeing for bomb shelters. 

The IDF further said a barrage of rockets are targeting southern Israel. 

The latest attack comes after the IDF said an anti-tank missile was launched from Gaza into Israel, though it did not specify how far it traveled. 

Hamas launched the rockets following a deadline it had earlier imposed calling for Israel to remove its security forces from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, The Associated Press reported, where police clashed with Palestinians on Monday and more than 300 Palestinians were reportedly hurt.

Hamas called for Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank to "to face off" against Israelis and Israeli security forces across Israel and at "flashpoints and checkpoints."

The rocket attacks being launched from the Gaza Strip follow weeks of increased violence in Jerusalem, with clashes between right-wing, nationalist Israelis and Palestinians that have erupted over religious and political tensions.

The violence in Jerusalem has drawn concern and condemnation from the international community.

The Biden administration has called for calm on both sides.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat on Sunday expressing "concern" about the violence on the compound where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, referred to as Haram al-Sharif in Islam and the Temple Mount in Judaism.

The compound is under the authority of the Jordanian-funded Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, the caretaker for the site that is both holy to Muslims and Jews, but Israeli police can exercise security.

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