Israel launches first Gaza airstrikes since ceasefire

James Marshall
June 16, 2021

The targets were used by Hamas' Khan Yunis and Gaza Brigades for "terror activities", according to the IDF.

The U.S. and United Nations had called for restraint before the march, which Bennett's new administration had authorized.

WAFA, the official Palestinian News Agency also reported the airstrikes in Khan Younis and said "material" damage occurred.

The so-called March of the Flags, which celebrates the anniversary of Israel's 1967 occupation of the city's eastern sector, was originally scheduled for last Thursday but was delayed due to Israeli police opposition to the route and warnings from Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas.

Prior to Tuesday's march, Israel beefed up its deployment of the Iron Dome anti-missile system in anticipation of possible rocket attacks from Gaza.

"The flags march is like an explosive that will cause a new campaign to protect Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to ignite", Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif Qanou said in a statement Monday.

Mansour Abbas, whose four-seat Raam Islamic party was vital to the coalition, called Tuesday's march a "provocation" that should have been cancelled.

Israel carried out air strikes on the Gaza Strip early Wednesday after militants in the Palestinian territory sent incendiary balloons into the south of the country, in the first major conflict between the two sides since a flare-up in May in which hundreds were killed.

Meanwhile, Palestinians called it a "day of rage" as prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned it as a provocation saying that it may lead to "dangerous repercussions".

"We warn of the unsafe repercussions that may result from the occupying power's intention to allow extremist Israeli settlers to carry out the Flag March in occupied Jerusalem tomorrow", Shtayyeh tweeted in English.

In light of the threats, the US Embassy in Jerusalem issued a ban on its diplomats and their families from the area.

After capturing east Jerusalem in 1967, Israel annexed it in a move not recognised by most of the global community.

At the time, tensions already were high following weeks of confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators around the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, as well as attempts by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinians from their homes in a nearby neighborhood.

Throngs of mostly young religious men sang, danced and waved flags at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City that was cleared of its usual Palestinian crowds.

The attacks were the first launched by Israel and Gaza militants since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire took effect.

"Our patience has run out", the group said in a statement.

According to reports in Israeli media, incendiary balloons launched from Gaza sparked multiple fires in southern Israel.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz met with the military chief of staff, the police commissioner and other senior security officials.

"The right to demonstrate is a right in all democracies", said Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev. "We warn that this incident will likely reignite the region and will lead to violence and a unsafe escalation", the party wrote.

Damascus Gate is a focal point of Palestinian life in east Jerusalem.

In past years, the march passed through Damascus Gate and into the heart of the Muslim Quarter, a crowded Palestinian neighbourhood with narrow streets and alleys. Palestinian protesters repeatedly clashed with Israeli police over restrictions on public gatherings during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April and May.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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