Just hours after a flag parade in Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday, June 15, saw clashes between Jews and Arabs, marked by both injuries and arrests by police, the Israel Defense Forces said it had struck terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday, June 16.
The airstrikes were said to be in response to a flurry of rockets launched by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad into southern Israel, causing a number of arson fires.
“A short while ago, warplanes raided military compounds belonging to Hamas, which were used as camps and meeting sites for terrorist operatives in Khan Yunis and Gaza districts,” the IDF posted on Twitter. “Terrorist activities have taken place inside the compounds.”
“The IDF is prepared for all scenarios, including renewed fighting, in the face of the continuation of terrorist acts emanating” from Gaza, the Israeli military said in a tweet.
It was the first resumption of attacks since a ceasefire was put into place on May 21 between Israel and Hamas after 11 previous days of fighting.
The strikes also came as a new government was sworn in on Sunday, June 13, replacing longtime Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the Yamina Party.
The airstrikes followed a day of celebration, as some 5,000 Israelis took part in a flag march in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening after it was postponed on May 10, Jerusalem Day, due to a security escalation that ultimately resulted in the 11 days of fighting.
The marchers walked down a new route agreed upon with police, beginning with the Street of the Prophets, passing through Sultan Suleiman Street and Damascus Gate, where the flag dance was held, and continuing on to Jaffa Gate and the Western Wall, according to Kan news. At Jaffa Gate the marchers split into small groups of 50 and were placed under heavy security to avoid clashes with Arab residents, reported Ynet.
Police announced the arrest of 17 Arabs in eastern Jerusalem for throwing rocks and assaulting police. Two officers sustained injuries and had to be evacuated for medical treatment. The Red Crescent said 33 Arab protesters were injured in clashes with police in eastern Jerusalem, none seriously.
Calls for “Death to the Arabs” were heard by some in the Jewish crowd.
The march was held against the backdrop of threats by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. embassy in Jerusalem had sounded an alert on Monday evening, prohibiting its employees and their family members from joining the planned march in the Old City.
Meanwhile, Israel sent messages to Egypt stating that the march had changed its route so as not to provoke Muslim sentiments, according to Ynet. The diplomatic messaging said Israel expected Egypt to rein in Hamas to avoid a security deterioration. Israel Police also sent messages of calm to local Israeli Arab leaders.