Israeli jets launched missiles at targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday, as the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas called for violent resistance after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier in the week.
Israel carried out the airstrikes after coming under fire from rockets launched by suspected terror groups, according to the Times of Israel. Some of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, but one landed near a residential area in the town of Sderot, without causing injuries.
The Gaza Health Ministry said the air strikes killed two men. Israeli military officials said the strikes targeted “instigators” of violent riots along the Gaza-Israel border, where more than 4,000 Palestinians gathered to protest against the U.S. decision.
“Hits were confirmed,” Israeli officials said, according to the Washington Post.
The exchange of missile fire marked an escalation of violence in the wake of the President Donald Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announce plans to move the U.S. embassy there. A decisive change from longtime U.S. policy, the move was widely supported in Israel, but drew condemnation from Arab leaders and many Western allies.
Fighting broke out on Friday in Jerusalem’s Old City and across the West Bank, as thousands of Palestinian protesters took to the streets in a “day of rage.” Clashes erupted in the West Bank cities of of Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus, while the largest demonstrations occurred along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, has called on its followers to mount at third mass uprising, or intifada, against Israel over the perceived change of Jerusalem’s status. The first two intifadas devolved into a cycle of violent reprisals, resulting in of thousands military and civilian deaths on both sides.
“Today we declare an uprising against the occupation, and there are no half-solutions,” Fathi Hammad, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said on Friday, according to the Washington Post. “We call upon all the free people of the world to boycott America and Israel, and we call on the Arab and Islamic countries to take a serious stand and support our people.”
The U.S. has defended its policy change against criticism from Arab and Western governments, who say it will hurt the chances of a negotiated settlement leading to the creation of a Palestinian state. During an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Washington won’t be “lectured” about its support for Israel and Middle East peace.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a slightly more diplomatic tone while speaking in Paris, noting that Trump’s decision did not indicate any “final status” for Jerusalem. Tillerson said the issue of sovereignty in Jerusalem would eventually be decided through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
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