After border clashes, Israel launches airstrikes in Gaza

Published : August 23, 2021 13:57 IST

Israel said it launched airstrikes in response to the border clashes that left a border officer injured. Photo: Ali Jadallah/AA/picture alliance

The violence is one of the worst since the 11-day Israel-Hamas conflict in May.

Israeli fighter jets struck Hamas sites in Gaza late on August 21 following clashes between Palestinians and border troops that left dozens wounded. A 13-year-old Palestinian boy and an Israeli Border Police solider were among those critically injured in what was one of the worst flareups since the May 21 truce.

Health authorities in Gaza said the boy was shot in the head. They described most of the other injuries as moderate, including gun shots to limbs, backs and abdomens. "Forty-one civilians were wounded with various injuries," Gaza Health Ministry said in a statement.

How did the latest clashes begin?

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered near the Gaza Strip's heavily fortified border for a protest organized by the enclave's Islamist rulers Hamas and other factions. Hamas said the protest was called to mark the burning 52 years ago of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. "Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line, and any attack on it will be met with valiant resistance from our people," Hamas said in a statement, adding that "thousands" of protesters had taken part.

Crowds of young Palestinians hurled rocks and firebombs toward Israeli soldiers and set tires on fire. The protesters also tried to scale the Gaza border wall while some tried to wrest a rifle off a soldier.

In response, the Israeli army fired volleys of tear gas toward the protesters. Israeli troops "responded with riot dispersal means, including when necessary live fire," the army said.

An Israeli soldier was injured when protesters opened fire. "An Israeli Border Police soldier was critically injured by live fire emanating from Gaza, and is currently receiving medical treatment at a hospital," the army said in a statement.

Airstrikes hit Hamas targets

The airstrikes were launched in response to the shooting of the soldier, the Israeli military said. Israeli "fighter jets have struck four weapons storage and manufacturing sites belonging to" Hamas, the military said in a statement.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the strikes. Bracing for more hostilities, the Israeli army said it had reinforced the Gaza division with additional troops. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the airstrikes on August 21 showed Israel was "trying to cover up its failure and disappointment in front of the steadfastness of our people and their valiant resistance."

The latest escalation of hostilities come exactly three months after Israel and Hamas reached a truce following 11 days of the deadliest conflict in years. Over the 11 days in May, Israel carried out airstrikes in Gaza while Hamas fired rockets toward Israeli cities from the enclave. Hamas said it took action after Israeli security forces stormed Al-Aqsa in May. At least 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the violence.

On August 16, Israel said its missile defense system, "Iron Dome," shot down a rocket fired by Gaza militants toward Israel — the first such attack since the truce. It came after four Palestinians were killed in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

adi/sri (AFP, Reuters)

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