Twenty people, including nine children, killed in Israeli air strikes, Gaza officials say, as day of Israeli aggression also leaves more than 300 Palestinians wounded in occupied East Jerusalem.

Fire billow from Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip on May 10, 2021.
Fire billow from Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip on May 10, 2021. (AFP)

Israel has killed 20 Palestinians, including nine children, and wounded 65 others in blockaded Gaza, Health Ministry officials said, following an Israeli raid on Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem that left over 300 Palestinians wounded.  

The evening air strikes by Israel on Monday drastically escalated what already are heightened tensions throughout the region following weeks of aggression and onslaught by Israeli police and illegal settlers on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem that have threatened to become a wider conflict. 

The death toll made it one of the bloodiest days of Israeli aggression in several years.

At least seven members of one family, including three children, were killed in an explosion in northern Gaza.

Bodies of nine people, including three children, and several other people wounded have been brought to the Beit Hanoun Hospital in the northern Gaza, Ashraf al Qudra, a ministry spokesperson, said in a statement. 

Earlier Gaza Health Ministry said the Palestinians were killed "in a series of strikes in northern Gaza".

Israeli air strikes came Gaza-based Hamas said it fired rockets in response to Israeli aggression and "crimes" against Palestinians at Al Aqsa Mosque compound, where Israeli forces wounded hundreds since Monday morning. 

"We have started, and I repeat started, to attack military targets in Gaza," Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters. 

Conricus confirmed that Israeli forces had targeted "a Hamas military operative," while Hamas sources in Gaza confirmed to AFP news agency that one of its commanders had been killed. 

US said it "recognises Israel's legitimate right to defend itself and to defend its people and its territory."

Storming of Al Aqsa

Hundreds of Palestinians were wounded after Israeli police forcibly removed worshippers from Al Aqsa Mosque, medics said, while radical Israelis cancelled a planned march to commemorate Israel's illegal annexation of the city in 1967.

Israeli forces stormed Islam's third holiest site with stun grenades targeting thousands of Palestinians who had gathered in the compound after morning prayers, some of whom are reported to have suffered serious wounds.

At least 305 Palestinians have been wounded during the raid, Palestinian Red Crescent said in a statement.

"Seven of them are in serious condition," it said.

Three people lost one eye each, said surgeon Firas Abu Akari at East Jerusalem's Maqassed hospital.

The agency earlier said that some of its employees were prevented from entering the compound.

Loud booms and angry screams echoed from the ancient stone walls of the compound, revered by both Jews and Muslims, where tear gas filled the air and the ground was littered with stun grenade fragments, plastic bullets and other debris.

Israeli police retreated from the site after a four-hour assault against Palestinians with tear gas, plastic bullets and sound bombs. 

Israeli ultra-nationalists' march cancelled

Earlier police barred Jewish worshippers from visiting the site on Monday, which Israelis mark as "Jerusalem Day" to celebrate Israel's illegal annexation of the Palestinian city in 1967.

The police changed the route of a planned march by hardline Israeli ultra-nationalists through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, an annual event widely perceived as a provocative display of Jewish hegemony over the occupied city.

The original route had planned to go through Damascus Gate and into the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and on to the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray. 

Instead, the route has been changed to reach the Western Wall, in the Jewish Quarter, in a more roundabout way.

Later in the evening, organisers said they cancelled the planned rally citing police curbs. 

Vigil at Al Aqsa

Thousands of Palestinians performed their morning prayers in Al Aqsa in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem. 

After the prayer, Palestinians held a demonstration in the courtyard of the mosque compound.

After the demonstration, many Palestinians stayed in the compound to keep watch in order to prevent a possible raid by hardline Israeli nationalists. The Palestinians built barricades at some points with wood and materials that they found.

Hours later, Israeli police started firing tear gas and stun grenades on Palestinian protesters inside the holy site as protesters responded by throwing stones and other objects. 

Fanatic Jewish organisations have made a call for a raid on the Al Aqsa Mosque. 

Turkey condemns Israeli aggression

Also on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh separately over the phone.

In a statement by the Turkish Communications Directorate, they discussed Israeli attacks on Palestinians and Al Aqsa Mosque.

Erdogan said he strongly condemns the attacks which hurt the consciousness of all humanity, not just Muslims, and the persecution of Palestinians.

He said Turkey will do everything in its power to mobilise the whole world, especially the Islamic world, to stop Israeli "terrorism and occupation."

Turkey's presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter that Israel must stop attacking Palestinians in Jerusalem and prevent the occupiers and settlers from entering the Holy Mosque. 

"Israel bears sole responsibility for any violence," Kalin said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also took to Twitter to lambast Israeli violence against innocent civilians in Palestine.

"Those who do not speak out against this atrocity should not talk about Middle East Peace Process," Cavusoglu said.

Court hearing over expulsion postponed

Weeks of unrest in occupied East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital, has multiple causes.

But much of the recent violence stems from a long-running legal effort by illegal Jewish settler groups to expel several Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.

A lower court ruling earlier this year backing the settlers' decades-old claim to the plots infuriated Palestinians.

A Supreme Court hearing on a Palestinian appeal had been set for Monday, but the Justice Ministry said on Sunday that in light of "all the circumstances" it would delay the hearing.

Jewish settlers driven out of Sheikh Jarrah

Early on Monday, hundreds of illegal Jewish settlers who approached the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem withdrew from the area after encountering a large group of Palestinian youths, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter.

This came after the loudspeakers of a mosque in the nearby Isaiah neighbourhood called on Palestinians to march to Sheikh Jarrah, where tensions have been rising due to conflicts between the Israeli police and Palestinian residents who were forcibly evicted from their homes.

Following the call from the mosque, Palestinians hailing from several areas of occupied Jerusalem flooded the neighbourhood on foot or by car, prompting the illegal settlers to retreat. 

Al Aqsa Mosque is the world's third-holiest site for Muslims. Jews call the area the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognised by the international community.

Religious war against Palestinians

Israel was waging a "religious war against Palestinian worshipers" in the occupied city of Jerusalem, Hamas said.

"What is happening inside the Al Aqsa Mosque at the time of storming and assaulting worshippers is proof of the brutality of the Zionist occupation," Muhammad Hamadeh, the movement's spokesperson for the city of Jerusalem, said.

He called on the Palestinians to "remain steadfast and prevent settlers from entering Al Aqsa."

The Hamas spokesperson held Israel responsible for its "incursion into the Al Aqsa Mosque," saying, "The occupation will pay a heavy price."

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, accused "Israeli occupation forces" of conducting a "brutal raid" at Al Aqsa.

Hamas also fired several rockets inside Israel in response to Israeli aggression and "crimes" against Palestinians.

The rockets were fired shortly after a 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) deadline issued by Gaza's governors Hamas for Israel to withdraw its forces from the flashpoint Al Aqsa Mosque compound. 

Security meeting in Israel

Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency security meeting, his spokesperson said, while Israeli military said it has suspended a major drill in order to focus possible escalation of violence. 

"PM Netanyahu has instructed to convene the Security Cabinet within one hour in light of today's events in Jerusalem and in southern Israel," Ofir Gendelman, Netanyahu's spokesperson said.  

The Israeli military said it has suspended plans to begin its biggest exercise in 30 years, codenamed "Chariots of Fire".

But following a situational assessment, Chief of StaffLieutenant-General Aviv Kohavi decided to suspend the exercise for the coming day and has instructed forces "to focus all efforts on preparations and readiness for escalation scenarios," a military statement said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies