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Hundreds killed and injured in an eruption of violence between Israel and Gaza

This week, Israelis and Palestinians have experienced the most harmful use of explosive weapons in the past seven years. The violence, which erupted on Monday (10 May 2021), has caused at least 670 casualties – almost all of which are due to rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and air strikes by Israel on Gaza.

Between Monday 10th May and Thursday 13th, the Hamas-run health ministry reported that 83 people have died, including 17 children, and an additional 480 others have been reported wounded – most as a result of airstrikes carried out by Israel.

The Israeli army has reported that over 1,000 rockets and mortar shells have been fired from Gaza on Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and other areas of southern Israel to overwhelm Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’. By Wednesday morning, rockets fired by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement resulted in the death of six people in Israel, including two women, and the injury of at least 100 others. As of Wednesday evening, the number dead in Israel rose to seven, as a six-year-old child was killed in an attack on a block of flats. Five others were wounded.

From these attacks, distressing testimonies are emerging from both sides:

Harrowing images show the impact of the Israeli airstrikes as they toppled residential buildings in the Gaza strip. The streets are full of debris, where rows of buildings have been reduced to rubble. Entire families are reported to have been killed: five members of one family were killed in an airstrike on Tuesday, including two young brothers.

Israel claims that their airstrikes were in response to rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, and that they targeted Hamas command posts. They said the sites they struck encompassed rocket launch sites, high-rise buildings, homes and offices – all used by Hamas. Hamas, on the other hand, claim that Israel targeted residential towers, and their rocket barrage on Israel is in response to this attack on civilians.

Reports from inside Israel state that a citizen was killed when an anti-tank missile struck a jeep on the border, injuring an additional three people. Also, a father and his 16-year-old daughter died in the city of Lod near Tel Aviv when a rocket hit their car. In addition, an Israeli civilian was killed and two others injured by an anti-tank missile on the Gazan border in south Israel.

On Wednesday, Israel continued to strike Gaza, killing several Hamas commanders in the process. Gaza responded with a new barrage of rockets aimed across southern Israel.

The rise in tensions between Palestinians and Israelis surfaced from ongoing violent confrontations between Palestinian protesters, right-wing Israelis and police in Jerusalem, which began at the start of Ramadan in mid-April.

One of the of first major barrages of rockets fired by Hamas was reported to have been the alternative of an ultimatum presented by Hamas for Israel to withdraw its troops from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem’s east, and a compound housing Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli troops were stationed in these locations following Arab Israeli protests in Sheikh Jarrah, which turned violent, and a raid by the Israeli police on the Aqsa Mosque, which left over 300 Palestinian protesters and Israeli police wounded.

As the casualties continue to build in the chain of reactionary attacks, both sides are witnessing the highest rate of violence from the use of explosive weapons since the ceasefire breakdown in 2014, when – according to data from AOAV’s explosive violence monitor – at least 4,215 people were killed or injured, primarily by air strikes and rocket fire.

Even if the violence was to cease today, Israel and Gaza will see the human and societal damage from this burst of violence for years to come due to the reverberating effects of using explosive weapons in populated areas. See AOAV’s report on the reverberating effects of explosive violence here.