The Israel-Palestine conflict has flared up once again with clashes being reported on a daily basis in and around Jerusalem’s Old City, home to major religious sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims and the epicentre of the Middle East conflict.
The Israeli military says more than 1,600 rockets have been fired since Monday, with 400 falling short and landing inside Gaza. Israel's missile defences have intercepted 90 percent of the rockets.
Israeli airstrikes have struck around 600 targets inside Gaza, the military said as per an AP report.
Gaza militants also continued to bombard Israel with nonstop rocket fire.
In Gaza, 67 people have been killed so far -- including 17 children -- and nearly 400 wounded in days of near relentless Israeli airstrikes, while seven people have been killed, including one six-year-old, in southern Israel, as per an AFP report.As both sides prepare for more prolonged fighting, here are some of the factors that triggered the escalation:
Ramadan protests and threatened evictions
The recent nightly clashes began at the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April, when Israeli police placed barriers outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, a popular gathering place after the evening prayers during the holy month when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
Palestinians said the barriers are a restriction on their freedom to assemble. The barriers were later removed but then protests escalated over the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
The families have been embroiled in a long legal battle with ideological Jewish settlers who seek to acquire property in crowded Palestinian neighbourhoods just outside the Old City.
The recent clashes took place in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. The mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam and sits on a sprawling plateau that is also home to the iconic golden Dome of the Rock. Muslims refer to the compound as the Noble Sanctuary.
The walled plateau is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of biblical temples.
Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D., with only the Western Wall remaining. The mosques were built centuries later.
Neighboring Jordan serves as the custodian of the site, which is operated by an Islamic endowment known as the Waqf. The site is open to tourists during certain times but only Muslims are allowed to pray there. The Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray.
In recent years, groups of religious and nationalist Jews escorted by police have been visiting the compound in greater numbers and holding prayers in defiance of rules established after 1967 by Israel, Jordan and Muslim religious authorities.
The Palestinians view the frequent visits and attempted prayers by Jews as a provocation, and it often ignites scuffles or more serious violence.
Some Israelis say the site should be open to all worshippers. The Palestinians refuse, fearing that Israel will eventually take over the site or partition it. Israeli officials say they have no intention of changing the status quo.
Jerusalem at the core of the conflict
Jerusalem is at the centre of the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the heart of Jerusalem's Old City is the hill known to Jews across the world as Temple Mount - the holiest site in Judaism - and to Muslims internationally as The Noble Sanctuary.
It was home to the Jewish temples of antiquity. Two Muslim holy places now stand there, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Christians also revere the city as the place where they believe that Jesus preached, died and was resurrected.
Israel views Jerusalem as its “unified, eternal” capital. It had captured east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinians want those territories for their future state, with East Jerusalem serving as their eventual capital. But Israel annexed the eastern part of the city in a move not recognized internationally.
Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is unrecognised internationally.
Other discriminatory policies
Jews born in east Jerusalem are Israeli citizens, while Palestinians from east Jerusalem are granted a form of permanent residency that can be revoked if they live outside the city for an extended period.
They can apply for citizenship, but it’s a long and uncertain process and most choose not to because they don’t recognize Israeli control.
Israel has built Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem that are home to some 2,20,000 people. It has severely limited the growth of Palestinian neighbourhoods, leading to overcrowding and the unauthorized construction of thousands of homes that are at risk of demolition.
The Israeli rights group B’Tselem and the New York-based Human Rights Watch cited the discriminatory policies in east Jerusalem in recent reports arguing that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. Israel rejects those allegations, saying Jerusalem residents are treated equally.(With inputs from agencies)