Al Aqsa Mosque
© Associated Press
Israeli forces invade the sanctuary of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem Monday, May 10, 2021, firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. Hundreds of Palestinians attending services were injured.

Comment: The Guardian's Holmes pens a text-book example of how the Western media distorts a story in Israel's favour. He neglects to mention the fact that Hamas launched its rockets hours after a sustained attack on, and invasion of the al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites the heart of Jerusalem, on one of the holiest days of the Islamic calendar. Israel's actions were calculated to give the maximum provocation

Read on to see how it's done.

Militant Palestinian groups in Gaza have fired rockets into Israel, with Israel responding with strikes on the Palestinian coastal enclave as tensions escalated dramatically on Monday.

The rocket attacks were launched just minutes after the passing of a Hamas-issued ultimatum for Israel to withdraw security forces from both the Jerusalem compound that is home to the al-Aqsa mosque and the Old City's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

The two locations have been the scene of increasingly violent confrontations between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in recent days that have drawn mounting international concern.

Comment: Notice the complete lack of context regarding Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in Old Jerusalem which has been under decades of methodical and sustained pressure to cleanse (there is no other word) all Palestinian inhabitants. The Zionists want all of Jerusalem regardless of any agreements they have made otherwise.

Jerusalem residents reported hearing air-raid sirens shortly after 6pm local time, when the ultimatum was due to expire, and the sound of explosions, although it was not clear if the detonations were rockets exploding or anti-rocket systems being deployed.

Air-raid sirens were also reported near the coastal city of Ashkelon and in other areas close to the Gaza border. The Israeli army said there was an initial burst of seven rockets, one was intercepted, and rocket fire was continuing in southern Israel.

The Gaza health ministry said nine Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes in the Palestinian territory after the barrages against Israel. An Israeli military spokesman said it had started to attack Hamas military targets in Gaza.

The rocket strike on Jerusalem was a significant escalation and raised the likelihood of a tough Israeli response.Commenting on the rocket strikes, Israel's defence minister, Benny Gantz, said: "Palestinian terrorism must be fought with an iron fist," while opposition leader Yair Lapid called for a "strong and determined action to restore deterrence" raising the prospect of further military action

The Hamas ultimatum, issued on Monday afternoon, followed the latest clashes around the compound earlier in the day, which left more than 300 people injured.

Comment: The Guardian and other craven mouthpieces love the word "clashes", don't they? Makes it sound as if there is blame all around.

In anticipation of the rocket fire, Israel had ordered roads near Gaza closed, while the mayor of Ashkelon ordered public bomb shelters to be opened. Flights into Ben Gurion airport were also reportedly diverted to a northern flight path away from Gaza.

The rocket attacks, and retaliatory air raids, followed a day of rapid escalation that came after Israeli police stormed the compound early on Monday, firing stun grenades and teargas and clashing with Palestinians inside following days of worsening incidents.

Comment: And there it is, the real reason for the Hamas rockets, TEN paragraphs in. The Guardian editors must believe their audience has the attention span of a gnat.

Earlier, in an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities had changed the planned route of a march by ultranationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

The marchers were ordered to avoid the area and sent on a different route circumventing the Muslim Quarter on their way to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

Hamas had issued its ultimatum during the afternoon, prompting Israel to rapidly redeploy military forces engaged in its biggest military exercise in three decades. Within minutes of the ultimatum passing sirens began sounding in both Jerusalem and coastal areas close to Gaza as an initial barrage of seven rockets was launched out of the coastal enclave.

An Israeli vehicle close to the Gaza border was also hit with what was described as an anti-tank missile causing injuries to its occupant.

Hamas's military wing claimed responsibility for the first wave of rocket fire in a statement saying it struck Jerusalem in response to Israel's "crimes and aggression in the Holy City, and its harassment of our people in Sheikh Jarrah and al-Aqsa mosque".

"This is a message that the enemy should understand well," said a spokesperson. Islamic Jihad in Gaza also claimed to launched its own rocket attacks.

The growing tensions follow the most serious clashes in the city since 2017. Anger had been mounting for weeks among Palestinians ahead of a now-delayed Israeli court ruling on whether authorities were able to evict dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and give their homes to Jewish settlers.

Comment: The parades of fanatical settlers taunting the neighborhoods under threat might have something to do with it.

Hundreds of Palestinians and several dozen police officers have been hurt in recent days in clashes in and around the Old City, including the sacred compound, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary - or Haram al-Sharif.

Confrontations on Monday continued until after dawn, when police moved in to an Old City compound housing the al-Aqsa mosque, and fired stun grenades at worshippers, who threw stones. Footage from the scene showed crowds of people running in front of the mosque through clouds of smoke.

The incursion raised tensions significantly given the huge historical sensitivity over the site, not least during the holy month of Ramadan.

Seven of the injured from Monday's clashes were in serious conditions, with local media reporting that a seven-month-old Israeli had been injured by stones thrown at her family's car.

The latest violence occurred as the UN security council scheduled closed consultations on the situation in Jerusalem on Monday. Diplomats said the meeting was requested by Tunisia, the Arab representative on the council.

A decision on Monday to reroute the part of the annual Jerusalem Day "flag march" that enters the Muslim Quarter Old City followed concerns from senior Israeli security officials that it could worsen the already dangerous situation.

Palestinian residents of the Old City have long complained that the flag march, to mark Israel's capture of Jerusalem and its Jewish holy sites in 1967 during the Six Day war, is deliberately provocative.

Addressing a special cabinet meeting before Jerusalem Day, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel "will not allow any extremists to destabilise the calm in Jerusalem. We will enforce law and order decisively and responsibly".

The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, expressed "serious concerns" about the violent clashes in Jerusalem in a phone call on Sunday with his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, the White House said.

Israel has faced mounting international criticism of its heavy police response and the planned evictions. Last week a UN rights body described the expulsion of Arabs from their homes as a possible war crime.

In East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, Palestinians feel an increasing threat from settlers who have sought to expand the Jewish presence there through buying homes, constructing buildings, and court-ordered evictions, such as the case in Sheikh Jarrah.

Nabeel al-Kurd, a 77-year-old whose family faces losing their home, said the evictions were a racist attempt to "expel Palestinians and replace them with settlers".

Under Israeli law, Jews who can prove a title from before the 1948 war that accompanied the country's creation can claim back their Jerusalem properties. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs were displaced in the same conflict but no similar law exists for Palestinians who lost their homes in the city.