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Israel orders 'massive reinforcement' of forces to quell unrest in cities after Gaza violence

Israel Palestine Photograph:( AFP )
May 13, 2021, 05.22 PM (IST)

Israel Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday ordered a "massive reinforcement" in order to contain internal unrest rocking mixed Jewish and Arab communities within the country.

 

"We are in an emergency situation due to the national violence and it is now necessary to have a massive reinforcement of forces on the ground, and they are to be sent immediately to enforce law and order," he said. 

He specified the forces would be reservists from Israel's border police.

Israel is scrambling to contain unrest on two fronts. There is violence on its own street days after exchange of deadly fire with Islamist militants.

Hundreds of rockets tore through the skies over the Gaza Strip overnight

Israel's air force launched multiple strikes with fighter jets, targeting what it described as locations linked to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza. 

In Gaza, 83 people were reportedly killed since Monday. This includes 17 children. The heavy bombardment has rocked Gaza and has brought entire tower blocks crumbling down.

The Israeli military said it had struck Gaza targets more than 600 times, while Hamas had fired over 1,600 rockets towards Israel. 

Violence at al-Aqsa mosque over weekend has triggered spell of violence unmatched in last seven years. Al Aqsa mosque, considered a holy place by both Jews and Muslims, is in Jerusalem.

The unrest has been driven by anger over the looming evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem.

'Preventing pogroms'

Coinciding with the aerial bombardments is surging violence between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP that violence was at a nadir not seen for decades and that police were "literally preventing pogroms from taking place". 

Hundreds were protesting in the Arab town of Kafr Kassem in central Israel, burning tires and torching police vehicles, he said. 

He added that nearly 1,000 border police were called in to quell the violence, and that more than 400 people had been arrested. 

On Wednesday night, Israeli far-right groups took to the streets across the country, clashing with security forces and Arab Israelis. 

Stalled diplomacy

The UN Security Council has held two closed-door videoconferences since Monday, with close Israeli ally Washington opposing adoption of a joint declaration, arguing it would not "help de-escalate" the situation.

Netanyahu spoke later Wednesday with Biden, who said that "Israel has a right to defend itself".

(With inputs from agencies)