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Israel and Hamas: What We Know About the Violence

Some people have been hurt or killed in a burst of unrest in mixed-population cities in Israel, including in Lod, where two people died. And in the occupied West Bank, at least 20 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces over the past week.

The conflict erupted a week ago, on May 10, when weeks of simmering tensions in Jerusalem among Palestinian protesters, the police and right-wing Israelis escalated, against the backdrop of a longstanding battle for control of a city sacred to Jews, Arabs and Christians.

The root of the latest violence is an intense dispute over East Jerusalem, which is predominantly Palestinian. Protests had gone on for days ahead of a Supreme Court ruling, originally expected on May 10 but then postponed, on the eviction of several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem. Israeli officials described it as a dispute over real estate. Many Arabs called it part of a wider Israeli campaign to force Palestinians out of the city, describing it as ethnic cleansing.

The protests sharply intensified after Israeli police prevented Palestinians from gathering near one of the Old City’s ancient gates, as they have customarily done during the holy month of Ramadan. The police responded on May 10 by raiding the Aqsa Mosque compound, one of Islam’s holiest sites, to keep Palestinian protesters from throwing stones, they said. Hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers were wounded in the skirmish.

Militants in Gaza then began firing rockets in Jerusalem’s direction, to which Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza. Barrages by both sides intensified through the week, as did casualties — though Gazans have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths.

Despite Israel’s surveillance capability and overwhelming military firepower next door, Palestinian militants in Gaza have managed to amass a large arsenal of rockets with enhanced range in the 16 years since Israel vacated the coastal enclave, which it had occupied after the 1967 war.

Hamas, with help from allies outside Gaza — including Iran, according to Israeli and Hamas officials — has parlayed that arsenal into an increasingly lethal threat. Since the conflict erupted last week, Hamas has launched more than 3,000 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns. The intensity of the barrages has put the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, among others, under greater threat than in previous conflicts.

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