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30 Palestinians, 3 Israelis Reported Killed As Violence Escalates

Medics and youths chant slogans while carrying the covered body of a man who Palestinian officials say was killed in Israeli airstrikes on his apartment building Tuesday in Gaza City.
Adel Hana
Medics and youths chant slogans while carrying the covered body of a man who Palestinian officials say was killed in Israeli airstrikes on his apartment building Tuesday in Gaza City.

Updated May 11, 2021 at 6:06 PM ET

Israel warned that airstrikes on Gaza would continue over the coming days as at least 30 Palestinians and three Israelis were reported killed amid rising cross-border violence sparked by clashes in Jerusalem.

A confrontation on Friday between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City has escalated rapidly since the weekend, leaving Israelis and Palestinians alike bracing for more violence as the holy month of Ramadan comes to a close this week.

Over the last two days, Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets from Gaza toward Jerusalem and coastal Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv. Israel has responded with scores of airstrikes it said are targeting militants in Gaza. Israeli officials said they are preparing to expand their offensive.

Two Israelis were killed Tuesday when rockets struck two houses in the port city of Ashkelon. Another rocket hit an empty school that had been ordered closed due to the risk of strikes. A rocket barrage Tuesday night killed a third Israeli in the Tel Aviv suburb Holon. Israel's international airport halted arrivals during the rocket fire.

Some rockets have been intercepted by the Israeli army's missile defense system, while others fell short and landed within Gaza.

Addressing the country Tuesday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Gaza militants would "pay a heavy price" for the rocket fire.

Early Tuesday morning, Israeli warplanes and drones conducted at least 130 airstrikes over Gaza. Officials with the Israel Defense Forces said they targeted operatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, killing 15, including the chief of Islamic Jihad's special rocket unit.

Health officials in Gaza said at least 30 people have been killed in the strikes, some of them militants, but also civilians and at least 10 children. More than 150 Palestinians in Gaza have been injured, they said.

The border between Gaza and Israel has been closed to journalists due to the rocket fire.

Israel's army chief of staff has ordered the military to prepare to widen its operation against Gaza "with no time limit." At a press briefing Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz told reporters Israel plans to "deal a hard blow to Hamas" in the coming days, referring to the militant Palestinian group that governs Gaza.

The recent round of violence erupted after weeks of tension in Jerusalem, where Israeli police had routinely confronted Palestinian protesters, mostly around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City. The mosque is in an area known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Anti-Arab Jewish gangs have contributed to the unrest, attacking groups of Palestinians.

Beginning Friday, Israeli police have used stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and water cannons to disperse the growing crowds of demonstrators. The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency medical service said more than 1,000 Palestinians have been injured since Friday, with hundreds hospitalized. Roughly a dozen Israeli police officers have been hurt.

The escalation in violence prompted international calls for calm and criticism from Israel's Arab neighbors.

Jordan's foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, was in Washington over the weekend, where he met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Speaking to reporters ahead of their meeting, Blinken urged both sides to de-escalate.

"We're very focused on the situation in Israel, West Bank, Gaza, very deeply concerned about the rocket attacks that we're seeing now, that they need to stop, they need to stop immediately," Blinken said ahead of the meeting with Safadi.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan also met with Safadi during his visit to Washington, and spoke by phone with his Israeli counterpart to urge calm and denounce violence.

NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.

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