NOTE: This article contains images of death that some readers may find disturbing.
The health ministry of the Gaza Strip, a tiny piece of land run by the Hamas group but whose borders are strictly controlled by Israel, said on Tuesday that at least 26 people had been killed by Israeli airstrikes in the area. territory, including nine children.
The IDF said it was targeting militant Hamas leaders in retaliation for a steady barrage of rockets fired from Gaza at Israel – more than 250 in a single day, and rising rapidly.
Another round of rockets hit homes in the Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod on Tuesday, but many projectiles launched failed and landed in Gaza or were intercepted by the advancing Israeli ”“Missile defense system.
Israeli emergency response officials said two women were killed in the dam on Tuesday afternoon and at least one more remained in critical condition. Previous authorities said at least 10 people had been treated for unspecified injuries in Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, claimed to have launched 137 rockets at the two towns in southern Israel in just five minutes on Tuesday afternoon, adding in a threatening post online: “We have even more in our sleeves. ”
The IDF’s response to the rocket attacks began swiftly on Monday, and officials said 15 militants were killed in the air and drone strikes were carried out in Gaza.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the deaths of civilians in Palestinian territory, which it regularly accuses of using human shields.
The al-Qassam Brigades said on Tuesday that Israel had hit “a target where our mujahedin were present amid the measures taken by the group to increase our readiness to repel aggression.” He said some of his fighters were killed and others were missing as a result of the attack.
Islamic Jihad, another of the main Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, said two of its main commanders were killed in Israeli strikes. Members of the group told AFP news agency that the Israeli missiles “also injured eight people, including a woman and her two children” as they struck a residential area in crowded Gaza city, killing them. commanders.
There were calls for calm overnight, with the US and UK condemning the Palestinian rocket attacks in particular and the United Nations expressing “grave concern” at the escalation in general.
Clashes between Israeli security forces and protesters in Jerusalem have been escalating for weeks. The clashes began at the start of Ramadan, nearly a month ago, when Israeli police erected barriers to arrest people sitting in Damascus Gate Square, a popular gathering place during Ramadan. Young Palestinians protested against what they saw as Israeli authorities disrupting their religious and social traditions.
The tension escalated when Israel imposed a 10,000-person limit on prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque, refusing tens of thousands of Palestinians.
Another seething conflict has also fueled Palestinian anger: an Israeli plan to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, to allow Jewish settlers to settle.
The protests escalated into serious violence between protesters and police over the weekend, then on Monday they spilled over.
Israel said more than 30 police officers were injured in clashes around the revered al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday. The Palestinian Red Crescent said more than 700 civilians, many of whom were at the mosque praying, were injured during an Israeli police raid on the holy site.
Amid the continued exchange of rocket fire, new protests and riots broke out in other major Israeli cities overnight, with clashes between Arab Israelis and security forces in Haifa and Lod. Property belonging to Jews was damaged and set on fire as sectarian unrest spread through cities of Israel in a way it had not done in years.
Elizabeth Palmer, Michal Ben-Gal and Khaled Wassef of CBS News contributed to this report.