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Israel, Gaza militants exchange rocket fire as violence continues

Israel, Gaza militants exchange rocket fire as violence continues
© Getty

Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip exchanged rocket fire Saturday as violence escalates during Ramadan.

The pre-dawn firing of rockets from Gaza broke months of relative quiet along the border with the enclave and drew retaliatory airstrikes from the Israeli military. 

The Israeli armed forces said 36 rockets were fired, six of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. There were no reports of injuries or fatalities. 

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Israel responded by striking a slew of targets, including underground infrastructure used by Hamas and rocket launching sites. 

Aviv Kohavi, the military’s chief of staff, held a “situational assessment at IDF HQ to instruct a series of steps for possible responses and prepare in the event of an escalation of the current situation” and has decided to postpone his trip to the U.S., the armed forces said.

The exchange of fire comes amid nearly nightly clashes in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. 

Ultranationalist Israelis were seen chanting, “Death to Arabs” and waving banners reading, “Death to terrorists” this week, and Palestinians were throwing firecrackers and setting garbage bins on fire. Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at West Bank checkpoints were also reported.

Police responded with skunk water to try to disperse the crowds in Jerusalem on Friday and arrested more than 50 people, according to Reuters

The State Department said Friday that it is “deeply concerned” about the rise of violence. 

“We are deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in Jerusalem. The rhetoric of extremist protestors chanting hateful and violent slogans must be firmly rejected. We call for calm and unity, and urge authorities to ensure the safety, security, and rights of all in Jerusalem,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

The violence in Jerusalem, which is common during Ramadan, is located at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The eastern part of the city is holy to both Jews and Muslims, and both Israelis and Palestinians claim it should be their capital in a potential two-state solution. Hamas and other groups in Gaza have joined calls for Palestinian resistance in the city.