Palestinians fired uninterrupted barrages of rockets into Israel, as its military pounded Gaza with air strikes through the early hours of Tuesday, in a dramatic escalation of clashes in Jerusalem, Reuters reported.
Explosions shook buildings throughout Gaza and rocket sirens sent Israelis in many southern towns scurrying for shelter overnight. Two Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded in air strikes, Palestinian officials said.
Six Israelis were wounded by a rocket, medics said.
Nine children were among the 20 dead in Gaza on Monday and scores of rockets were launched into Israel, many that were intercepted by missile defences, Reuters reported.
The events were unleashed by Gaza militants firing on the Jerusalem area for the first time since a 2014 war, crossing what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “red line”.
Reuters reported the upsurge in violence came as Israel celebrated “Jerusalem Day”, marking its capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The escalation began with confrontations at Al-Aqsa Mosque in the heart of the walled Old City on the compound known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary – the most sensitive site in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said more than 300 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli police, who fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas in the compound. Police said 21 officers were hurt in the skirmishes.
Although the trouble died down after a few hours, there were other focal points of tension, such as the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem just north of the Old City, where several Palestinian families face eviction from homes claimed by Jewish settlers in a long-running legal case, Reuters reported.
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, set an evening deadline for Israel to remove its police from Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah. When it expired, sirens wailed in Jerusalem and rockets pounded the city’s outskirts.
Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern part annexed after the 1967 war in a move that has not secured international recognition.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem for the capital of a state they seek in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire on Jerusalem.
Tension had been building for weeks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters prompting international concern that events could spiral out of control.
Turkish airstrikes on Syrian border posts kill 17
Turkish airstrikes on Syria border posts run by regime forces killed 17 fighters on Tuesday, according to a war monitor, prompting the Damascus government to threaten retaliation.
“Seventeen fighters were killed in Turkish airstrikes that hit several Syrian regime outposts… near the Turkish border,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It did not specify if the victims were affiliated with the government or Kurdish forces.
At least three Syrian soldiers were among the dead and six were wounded in the Turkish raids, said the official SANA news agency, citing a military source.
“Any attack on a military outpost run by our armed forces will be met with a direct and immediate response on all fronts,” read the report.
The strikes took place near the Kurdish-held town of Kobane, the site of overnight clashes between Turkish forces and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Kurdish forces also struck inside Turkish territory overnight, killing one soldier, Turkey’s defense ministry said.
“Thirteen terrorists were neutralised” in retaliatory attacks by Ankara inside Syria, the ministry said, adding that operations in the region were ongoing.
Turkey has stepped up its attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to green-light a fresh offensive against Kurdish fighters viewed by Ankara as terrorists.
Turkey has fervently opposed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backing rebels calling for his removal and opening its doors to refugees.
US, South Korea, Japan hold missile defense exercise with eye on North Korea, China
The United States, South Korea and Japan participated in a ballistic missile defense exercise off Hawaii’s coast last week, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, reviving combined drills with an eye on North Korea as well as China.
It was the first time the three countries have held such drills since 2017, after relations between Seoul and Tokyo hit their lowest in years in 2019 amid renewed historical disputes dating to Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula, Reuters reported.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative who took office in May, has vowed to improve relations with Japan and deepen the U.S. alliance to better deter North Korea, including by expanding or resuming joint drills.
The missile warning and ballistic missile search and tracking exercise took place Aug. 8-14 during the multinational Pacific Dragon drills, and demonstrated the three countries’ commitment to respond to challenges posed by North Korea, protect shared security and bolster the rules-based international order, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The participants shared tactical data link information in accordance with a trilateral information sharing agreement, the statement said.
U.S.-led joint missile defence measures have been a sore point with China, which retaliated economically against South Korea’s 2016 decision to host a U.S. military Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.
Beijing says the THAAD radar can penetrate its territory and has called on Yoon to honour assurances made by his predecessor to not to increase THAAD deployments, participate in a U.S.-led global missile shield or create a trilateral military alliance involving Japan.
Yoon has said those do not represent formal agreements and that Seoul is not bound by them.
South Korea’s ministry of defense also confirmed on Tuesday that its troops would resume long-suspended live field training during their joint military drills with the United States to be held from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1.
The two sides have scaled back combined military drills in recent years due to COVID-19 and efforts to lower tensions with the North, which has accused the exercises of being a rehearsal for invasion.
Putin says Russia and North Korea will expand bilateral relations
Russian President Vladimir Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong-un the two countries will “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts,” Pyongyang’s state media reported on Monday.
In a letter to Kim for Korea’s liberation day, Putin said closer ties would be in both countries’ interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the Northeastern Asian region, North Korea’s KCNA news agency said.
Kim also sent a letter to Putin saying Russian-North Korean friendship had been forged in World War II with victory over Japan, which had occupied the Korean peninsula, Reuters reported.
The “strategic and tactical co-operation, support and solidarity” between the two countries has since reached a new level is their common efforts to frustrate threats and provocations from hostile military forces, Kim said in the letter. KCNA did not identify the hostile forces, but it has typically used that term to refer to the United States and its allies.
Kim predicted co-operation between Russia and North Korea would grow based on an agreement signed in 2019 when he met with Putin.
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