A confrontation between Israel and Hamas sparked by weeks of tensions in Jerusalem escalated Tuesday. Israel unleashed new airstrikes on Gaza, killing a number of militants and civilians, while militants barraged southern Israel with hundreds of rockets, killing two Israelis, per the AP. The barrage of rockets leaving Gaza and airstrikes coming into the territory continued almost non-stop throughout the day, in what appeared to be some of the most intense fighting between Israel and Hamas since their 2014 war. The fire was so relentless that Israel’s Iron Dome rocket-defense system seemed to be overwhelmed. Meanwhile, columns of smoke rose from many places in Gaza. Since sundown Monday, 28 Palestinians—including 10 children—have been killed in Gaza, most by airstrikes, health officials said. The Israeli military said at least 16 of the dead were militants.
Two women were killed by rockets fired from Gaza that hit their homes in the city of Ashkelon—the first Israeli deaths in the current violence. After those deaths, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said officials decided to “increase both the strength and rate of the strikes” against militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. Egypt was trying to broker a cease-fire, but the cycle of violence was gaining momentum. Even before the two Israeli deaths, the Israeli military said it was sending troop reinforcements to the Gaza border and the defense minister ordered the mobilization of 5,000 reserve soldiers. The barrage of rockets and airstrikes was preceded by hours of clashes Monday between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, including dramatic confrontations at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a sacred site to both Jews and Muslims.
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