At Least 26 Killed by Israel's Retaliatory Rocket Strikes in Gaza, Palestinian Officials Say

At least 26 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, Palestine's Health Ministry reported. The strikes came after Hamas militants launched rockets from the coastal territory towards Israel, amid heightened tensions in East Jerusalem. Two Israelis were killed after a Hamas rocket from Gaza hit Ashkelon, southern Israel, Haaretz reported.

Gaza's health ministry told Al Jazeera on Monday that 26 people, including nine children, had been killed in the attack. Palestine's Mission to the United Nations said an additional 14 children were injured in Jerusalem in the attacks and eight more Palestinian children were arrested.

Israel's military said early Tuesday it carried out the air raids against armed groups, rocket launchers and military posts in Gaza after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem and parts of southern Israel.

The strikes continued late into the night. Israel's Defense Forces (IDF) said on Twitter that in response to more than 200 rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel, it killed 15 Hamas militants and struck 130 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror targets in Gaza overnight, including two attack tunnels, a Hamas military intel facility and weapons manufacturing and storage sites.

It also reported that an apartment in Ashkelon, southern Israel, was hit, injuring six civilians. Among the rockets included a barrage of six targeting Jerusalem, around 60 miles from Gaza, setting off sirens in the contested holy city. It marked the first time the city had been targeted by Hamas since the 2014 war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously called firing at the city a "red line."

Like much of the recent violence between the Israelis and Palestinians, the escalation has been fueled by claims over Jerusalem, which both sides see as their capital.

Violence has flared up in recent days at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the east of the city, which is widely considered by the international community as Palestinian territory. The site houses a mosque considered the third holiest in Islam, but it is also where the most holy site in Judaism, The Temple Mount, is located.

Earlier on Monday, fighting at the compound escalated with more than 300 Palestinians wounded when Israeli police stormed the mosque, firing rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the human cost of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This graphic by Statista shows the human cost of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Statista

Protests erupted in the town of Lod near Tel Aviv in support of the Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa that were injured by police. According to the 2019 census, around 30 percent of the town's population is Arab.

There has been further anger at a threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in East Jerusalem by Israeli settlers.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Monday about the conflict in Jerusalem, after the US national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, telephoned his Israeli counterpart and voiced "serious concerns" about the potential Israeli evictions of Palestinians in the holy city.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu met with senior security officials and warned the fighting could continue, despite calls for calm from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas must end the rocket attacks "immediately," adding that both sides need to "deescalate." White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden was seriously concerned about the violence.

On Twitter, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the rocket attacks "must stop," calling for "an end to targeting of civilian populations."

05/11/21, 09.41 a.m. ET: This story was updated to reflect the latest casualty tally.

Israeli strikes on Gaza
A Palestinian boy watches smoke billowing from targets during Israeli airstrikes on the southern Gaza region of Khan Yunis, controlled by the Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. At least 21 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, Palestine’s Health Ministry reported, after Hamas militants launched rockets from the coastal territory towards Israel. Mahmoud Khatab/Getty