Weeks of Palestinian protests over efforts to remove Muslim families from portions of Jerusalem spilled over into military conflict Monday. Israeli police raided the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the site of the simmering weekslong standoff, resulting in clashes that wounded several hundred Palestinians, as well as some police officers, prompting an exchange of rocket fire between Hamas militants in Gaza and Israeli defense forces. Hamas fired as many as three hundred rockets, a small number of which targeted the city of Jerusalem for the first time since 2014. There were a smattering of injuries from the rockets that prompted Israeli airstrikes that killed at least 20, including nine children, according to Palestinian officials.
The escalating cycle of reprisal attacks comes after weeks of Palestinian protests over Israeli restrictions on daily life of Muslim residents in East Jerusalem. Tensions have centered on a single neighborhood in the city, Sheikh Jarrah, where a Jewish settler group has been attempting to use the courts to evict six Palestinian families from their homes. “The issue became a rallying cry for Palestinians, who saw the moves as ethnic cleansing and illegal, and right-wing Israeli Jews, who said they were fighting for their property as landowners while also attempting to ensure Jewish control over East Jerusalem,” the New York Times reports. Palestinian protests over the planned evictions has prompted clashes with right-wing pro-settler activists and Israeli police.
Monday’s violence was the most significant in the region in years and the spiraling of the localized clashes into a military skirmish left the already volatile region on edge.