Israel unleashed new airstrikes on Gaza early Tuesday, hitting a pair of high-rise buildings believed to be housing militants, as Hamas and other armed groups bombarded southern Israel with hundreds of rockets, killing two Israeli civilians and wounding 10 others. 

In response,Israeli airstrikes toppled most of a massive high-rise building in central Gaza City on Wednesday, in the latest escalation in Israel-Hamas fighting. The collapse was broadcast on Israeli TV channels, with commentators predicting Gaza militants would respond with a rocket barrage.Gaza health officials saying at least 20 people, including nine children, were killed by Israeli air strikes launched after Palestinian militant groups fired rockets close to Jerusalem

Israel’s military said it carried out strikes against armed groups, rocket launchers and military posts in Gaza after militants there crossed what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “red line” by firing on the Jerusalem area for the first time since a 2014 war.

Hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians are not new and have gone on for decades. However, the latest violence follows a month of rising tensions between both sides. The tensions are often high between Israel and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank.This time things escalated since the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in mid-April 2021, with nightly clashes between police and Palestinians. The threatened eviction of some Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has also caused rising anger

Gaza – Problem and challenges

Israel views Jerusalem as its “unified, eternal” capital. It had captured east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians want those territories for their future state, with east Jerusalem serving as their eventual capital. But Israel annexed the eastern part of the city in a move not recognized internationally

Palestinians want East Jerusalem – captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, as the capital of a future state.Peace talks have been taking place on and off for more than 25 years, but so far have not solved the conflict.The main challenges include what should happen to Palestinian refugees, whether Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank should stay or be removed.Another big challenge faced by both is whether the two sides should share Jerusalem.The most tricky challenge is whether a Palestinian state should be created alongside Israel or not.

The holy hilltop

Monday’s clashes took place in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City. The mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam and sits on a sprawling plateau that is also home to the iconic golden Dome of the Rock. Muslims refer to the compound as the Noble Sanctuary.

The walled plateau is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount, because it was the location of biblical temples. Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D., with only the Western Wall remaining. The mosques were built centuries later.

Neighboring Jordan serves as the custodian of the site, which is operated by an Islamic endowment known as the Waqf. The site is open to tourists during certain times but only Muslims are allowed to pray there. The Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray.

In recent years, groups of religious and nationalist Jews escorted by police have been visiting the compound in greater numbers and holding prayers in defiance of rules established after 1967 by Israel, Jordan and Muslim religious authorities. The Palestinians view the frequent visits and attempted prayers by Jews as a provocation, and it often ignites scuffles or more serious violence.

Some Israelis say the site should be open to all worshippers. The Palestinians refuse, fearing that Israel will eventually take over the site or partition it. Israeli officials say they have no intention of changing the status quo.

The recent nightly clashes began at the start of Ramadan, when Israeli police placed barriers outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, a popular gathering place after the evening prayers during the holy month when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. They later removed the barriers, but then protests escalated over the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

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