Confrontations escalated to airstrikes, rocket attacks in Jerusalem

After weeks of confrontation, violence between Israelis and Palestinians escalated this week in Jerusalem, the worst in years, renewing world attention and calls for peace. Both sides say they expect the fighting to continue.

The clashes center around Jerusalem’s Old City, the location of major religious sites important to Jews, Christians and Muslims, The Associated Press reported

Violence increased in April after the Israeli government blocked gatherings of Palestinians during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, and planned to evict Palestinians from an East Jerusalem neighborhood, the AP said. 

Tuesday, Israeli airstrikes in Gaza killed at least 26 Palestinians, and rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza killed two Israelis and wounded 10 others.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City is the flashpoint of the conflict. The mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam but is also a holy site for Jews, AP reported.

Events that preceded the latest round of violence:

April 12: Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, begins. Palestinians say Israeli police impose severe restrictions on gatherings.

April 22: Hundreds of far-right Israelis march in Jerusalem chanting, “Death to Arabs.” Nearly 100 are injured in clashes. Israeli police arrest 50 people.

April 24: Militants in Gaza fire nearly three dozen rockets into Israel. No injuries are reported. Israel retaliates with jet and helicopter attacks.

May 10: The Palestinian Red Crescent Society says more than 300 Palestinians are injured in a clash with Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Reuters reports. Israel observes Jerusalem Day, the 54th anniversary of its capture of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War in 1967.

The United Nations Security Council meets to discuss unrest in Jerusalem but does not issue a statement.

May 11: Israel launches airstrikes in Gaza, targeting buildings believed to house militants. Hamas and other groups fire rockets into southern Israel, AP reports.

Israel says it is sending more troops to the Gaza border and will mobilize 5,000 reserve soldiers.

Hamas fires more rockets at Tel Aviv, The New York Times reports.

Israel is using a missile defense system called Iron Dome to defend against rocket attacks. 

How the Iron Dome system works

Iron Dome, Israel’s air defense system that began in 2011, is designed to shoot down short-range rockets and artillery shells in midair. Here’s a look at the system’s three main pieces: 

1. The radar unit detects and tracks incoming rockets, while the battle management and weapon control unit analyzes the paths of the rockets to determine a point of impact.

2. After a point of impact is calculated, the missile firing units fire Tamir interceptor missiles that explode close enough to the incoming rockets to detonate them.

SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press

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