Israel will respond 'with massive force'
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, at dusk Monday, May 10, 2021. (Photo: AP / Khalil Hamra)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has summoned his senior ministers for a meeting of the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet in the wake of the ongoing escalation in Jerusalem and the Gaza area, while Hamas issued an ultimatum to Israel to stop its efforts to quell the violence.

Israeli authorities vowed a major response in the immediate aftermath of the launches, with Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman vowing to exact a "heavy price" from the Gaza rulers, adding that "this is a major incident and we will not let it slide."

He added: "If Hamas has yet to understand, they will now, once we act in the Gaza Strip. The message is clear and a large-scale offensive is on the table, as well as any other activity directed against Hamas. We have well-defined contingency plans...this is an unacceptable infringement of Israeli sovereignty and if the rocket fire continues after our response, we will strike again."

Rockets fired from Gaza last hit the Jerusalem area during a 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian terrorists in the territory.

"The terrorist organizations crossed a red line on Jerusalem Day and attacked us, on the outskirts of Jerusalem," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech later in the evening.

"Israel will respond very forcefully. We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, our capital, our citizens and our soldiers. Whoever strikes us will pay a heavy price," he said, adding that "Israel will respond with massive force."

International efforts to stem the violence appeared to have already begun. A Palestinian official told Reuters that Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, which have mediated truces between Israel and Hamas in the past, were in contact with the group's leader Ismail Haniyeh.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that rocket attacks by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip into Israel were an "unacceptable escalation."

Price made the comment at a regular news briefing, adding that the United States was "fully engaged" to promote calm in Jerusalem.

IDF Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said that on Monday, at least six of the 45 rockets fired from Gaza were launched towards Jerusalem's outskirts, where a house was hit. No casualties were reported.

"We have started to attack Hamas military targets," Conricus said in a briefing to foreign reporters, putting no timeframe on any Israeli offensive. "Hamas will pay a heavy price."

Shortly after the Hamas ultimatum expired at 6 p.m. Red Alert sirens were heard in multiple areas in Israel, indicating a likely rocket being fired toward population centers in the vicinity, including in Jerusalem. Israeli media reported multiple explosions in the capital shortly after those sirens were heard, although it is unclear if these were the actual rockets or their interception by the Iron Dome.

The IDF tweeted that seven launches were detected from the Gaza Strip in the initial volley toward the Jerusalem area, one was intercepted by air defense forces.

Israel will respond 'with massive force'
The remains of a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip in the outskirts of Jerusalem May 10, 2021. (Reuters / Ammar Awad)

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying, "We fired missiles on our enemy in occupied Jerusalem in response to the crimes and aggression against the holy city and the harassment in Sheikh Jarrah and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is a message that the enemy must hear loud and clear."

Rocket fire on south continued after initial barrage on Jerusalem area; Knesset plenum meetings were suspended. All through the evening, repeated rocket attacks were reported in southern Israel, as well as continued clashes with Israeli forces in Jerusalem. At one point fire erupted in the Al-Aqsa MOsque compound, although it was apparently caused by Palestinians who had mishandled fireworks.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another smaller terrorist group alongside Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said it fired 30 rockets toward Sderot and other towns in the Gaza Strip area. Israeli authorities also confirmed that a antitank missile was fired toward a civilian vehicle in one of the communities in the area. This was also claimed by the PIJ.

Earlier, in its ultimatum, Hamas had stated that Israel has to release rioters arrested and to withdraw police officers from the Al-Aqsa MOsque on the Temple Mount, where most of the disturbances have taken place in recent days, as Israel celebrates Jerusalem Day and Muslim's mark the peak of the holy month of Ramadan. The ultimatum was to expire at 6 p.m. Israel time. The recent tensions were also a result of ongoing disputes between Jewish and Arab residents of Sheikh Jarrah, over contested homes and ownership rights. The Hamas ultimatum said Israel must withdraw forces from that neighborhood as well.

Just before the ultimatum was issued, Netanyahu held a special meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and the head of the Shin Bet security agency Nadav Argaman, as well as other high-ranking security officials to discuss the situation.

Meanwhile, the IDF announced that it was bracing for additional confrontations amid renewed riots in Jerusalem on Monday and the latest rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. On top of sending several battalions to Judea and Samaria, more troops were to be deployed to the Gaza area, including at least two companies, and certain roads were closed off to the public. Officials also instructed the Israel Railways to cease operating the line between Beersheba and Ashkelon and to shut down various stations near the Gaza border.

The terrorists from the Gaza Strip also renewed their arson attacks on various fields in the area using incendiary balloons. The IDF also said that the largest drill it was to hold this week, "Chariots of Fire," was to be postponed. The drill was originally expected to span an entire month, but it will now be rescheduled.

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