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26 Palestinians, 2 Israelis killed as violence intensifies

26 Palestinians, 2 Israelis killed as violence intensifies
© Getty Images

More than two dozen Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes and two Israeli citizens were killed by Hamas rocket attacks as violence in the region continued overnight Monday into Tuesday.

NBC News and The New York Times reported the death tolls, citing Gaza's health ministry and Israel's Zaka emergency response service.

Tuesday's latest death toll from the violence follows a Monday airstrike in the Gaza Strip carried out by Israeli warplanes that Gaza's Ministry of Health said killed nine children, three Hamas militants and other civilians.

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Back-and-forth rocket attacks and airstrikes have occurred in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip over the past 48 hours as violence continues to escalate between the two communities. Late Monday evening, video showed hundreds of Israelis dancing in Jerusalem as a tree next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest places in the Muslim religion, burned in the background.

The mosque previously saw violence over the weekend as Israeli police stormed the building, injuring hundreds of worshippers and protesters whom police said were throwing rocks at them.

The Pentagon and State Department on Monday defended the Israeli airstrikes and the country's right to self-defense amid questions from reporters about whether both sides had such right.

"Today’s rocket attack from Gaza into Israel is unacceptable, and the United States supports Israel’s right to self defense, and here at the department we’re going to continue our cooperation to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend and protect itself," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

"Obviously we don’t want to see innocent lives taken and nobody wants to see this level of violence," he added. "But as I said ... these rocket attacks from Gaza are unacceptable."