The Latest: Norwegian group urges calm in Jerusalem, Gaza


A Palestinian searches for survivors under the rubble of a destroyed rooftop of a residential building which was hit by Israeli missile strikes, at the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, early Tuesday, May. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians, sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem and as Israel has signaled it’s widening its military campaign:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council has urged both Israel and the Palestinians “to avoid further escalation and prevent loss of life,” saying that civilians, and specifically children, pay “the heaviest price” after Israel unleashed new deadly airstrikes on Gaza.

The organization’s chief, Jan Egeland, said on Tuesday that civilians “once again” were “bearing the brunt of a dramatic escalation in hostilities.” He added that children, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, are left with “not only physically scarred but also emotionally damaged.”

The Oslo-based group called on “all parties to the conflict to stop the provocations and to ensure that civilians are protected.” Egeland said in a statement that the latest events “also shows that the prolonged conflict and occupation are unsustainable.”

Since sundown Monday, 26 Palestinians — including nine children and a woman— were killed in Gaza, most by airstrikes, Gaza health officials said. During the same period, Gaza militants fired hundreds of rockets toward Israel, killing two Israeli civilians and wounding 10 others.


KARACHI, Pakistan — Dozens of Pakistanis have rallied in the southern port city of Karachi to condemn Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan.

The demonstrators, who mostly included members of the civil society, chanted against Israel to express solidarity with the Palestinians. They also burned an Israeli and an American flag to express their anger against the use of force against Palestinian worshippers.

The demonstrators were holding a banner that read as: “Israel is an illegitimate state”.

The rally on Tuesday came hours after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in a televised comment denounced Israel’s use of force against Palestinians. Pakistan is one of the few countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.


TEHRAN, Iran — The foreign minister of Iran has denounced what he calls the aggression of Israeli security forces in the holy city of Jerusalem and expressed Iran’s solidarity with the Palestinians amid escalating violence.

Mohammad Javad Zarif says in a video message released on Tuesday in Arabic that the “attacks” on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, one of the holiest sites in Islam, are “the greatest evidence there is of the discriminatory and criminal nature” of Israel.

Zarif blamed Israel for fueling “insecurity and instability in the region” and also proposed a “popular referendum” in the Palestinian territories as “the only just solution to the Palestinian issue” so that Palestinians may decide “their own fate.”

Zarif affirmed that Iran “is always on the side of the Palestinians and supportive of their cause” and called the Palestinian conflict “the pivotal issue of the Islamic world and people.”

Iran is considered Israel’s archenemy and backs anti-Israel militant groups across the region, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.


MADRID — A few dozen people have gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in the Spanish capital to protest Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians.

Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags. They shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people” and “it’s Palestine, not Israel” in Spanish.

Some held up photos of Palestinians being arrested by Israeli forces. All wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight the coronavirus pandemic.


CAIRO — The head of the Arab League has blamed Israel for the escalation of violence in the Palestinian territories, warning that Israeli policies would blow up the situation in Jerusalem.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the 22-member organization, spoke on Tuesday as Arab foreign ministers were meeting to discuss the latest bout of violence between the Palestinians and Israelis.

He decried what he called Israel’s provocative practices in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the planned eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

“What we have witnessed is, clearly and frankly, a provocation by the Israeli occupation, that targeted the holiest Islamic sanctities, at at the most sacred time,” he said, referring to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

He urged the U.N. Security Council to take action.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A gathering of representatives of Muslim nations has condemned Israel for the outbreak of violence in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The emergency meeting of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation was held on Tuesday in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, to present a unified response from the Muslim world to the soaring tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and the latest violent confrontations in Jerusalem.

In a communiqué, the meeting denounced Israel’s “continuous violations” of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, “barbaric attacks” against worshippers and movement restrictions on Palestinians at the compound. It said that it considered the Israeli actions a “provocation of the feelings of Muslims around the world and serious violation of international law.”

It called on the international community to hold Israel liable for the escalation and to press it to halt attacks that threaten “the security and stability of the region.” It also reaffirmed the long-standing Arab stance of support for an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.


ANKARA, Turkey — The office of Turkey’s president says he is engaged in intense telephone diplomacy in a bid to end Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians.

Since late Monday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken to Malaysia’s king and the leaders of Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan, as he seeks a strong stance by Muslim nations against Israel, according to Erdogan’s office.

The Turkish president, who has has strongly denounced Israel’s actions against Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the fasting month of Ramadan, has also spoken to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief, Ismail Haniyeh.

The latest round of fighting comes as Turkey has reportedly been seeking to restore ties with Israel. The two countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2018, after the United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking mass protests by Palestinians.

Late on Monday, thousands of protesters marched to Israel’s embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul to protest Israel, ignoring Turkey’s COVID-19 restrictions.


JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says it has assassinated a senior commander of the Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza on Tuesday,

It said the militant was the head of the Islamic Jihad’s rocket unit and identified him as Samih al-Mamluk. The military said other senior militants in the organization were also killed in the same strike.

Islamic Jihad confirmed the three killed in an airstrike in an apartment in Gaza City were senior members of its armed wing. The militant group vowed retaliation.


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s prime minister has denounced Israel’s use of force against Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the fasting month of Ramadan.

Imran Khan said Tuesday that he had asked his foreign minister to contact his Turkish and Saudi counterparts to discuss how to collectively respond.

Earlier, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at a news conference urged the world community to take notice of Israel’s use of force against innocent Palestinians worshippers.

Under discussion is whether Pakistan, Saudi and Turkish officials should convene the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group of Islamic countries.

Pakistan is one of the few countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.


JERUSALEM — Israeli media reports that a rocket has struck an empty school in the coastal city of Ashkelon, not far from the Gaza Strip.

Television footage showed thick smoke rising from cars that had caught on fire.

Israel’s Home Front Command had ordered the closure of schools on Monday in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip, including Ashkelon. The move came during the escalation of tension that’s built for weeks over contested Jerusalem..

Since Monday, Gaza militants have fired hundreds of rockets toward Israel.

Israel has fired back. An airstrike has hit a high-rise building in the middle of Gaza City. Local media reported that Tuesday’s airstrike killed an unknown number of militants inside.

The strike in the middle class Rimal neighborhood sent terrified residents of the building into the streets. They included screaming women and children, some of whom were barefoot.

Earlier Tuesday, Israel hit a high-rise where it said a Hamas commander was hiding.


CAIRO — An Egyptian intelligence official says Egypt is engaged in “intensive” talks with Israel and Gaza militants on reaching a cease-fire to end the latest round of fighting.

The official said the efforts began in late April as the situation in Jerusalem worsened. He said Israeli actions, including the recent storming of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the planed evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in an east Jerusalem neighborhood, have frustrated the mediators.

The official says “the situation is changing rapidly,” but officials nonetheless hope to reach a truce before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr later this week. Egypt frequently mediates between Israel and Hamas.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing ongoing diplomatic efforts.

—Samy Magdy in Cairo


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — An Israeli airstrike has hit another high-rise building in the middle of Gaza City. Local media reported that Tuesday’s airstrike killed an unknown number of militants inside.

But the airstrike in the middle-class Rimal neighborhood in Gaza sent terrified residents of the building into the streets. They included screaming women and children, some of whom were barefoot.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel hit a high-rise where it said a Hamas commander was hiding. Palestinian health officials said a woman and her 19-year-old disabled son were killed. The fate of the Hamas commander was not immediately known.

Since Monday, Gaza militants have also fired hundreds of rockets toward Israel.

The escalation in the conflict was sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.

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