Israel dispatches tanks to Gaza border as tensions rise

By Mustafa Deveci

JERUSALEM (AA) – The Israeli army on Monday evening dispatched tanks to the Gaza Strip amid mounting tensions in the region.

According to Anadolu Agency correspondents in the area, the tanks were sent from various parts of Israel to Israeli troops located along the Gaza border.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said it had targeted more than 70 positions inside Gaza affiliated with resistance movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad in response to the launching of scores of rockets from Gaza.

Additionally the Israeli military announced that it would send two more Iron Dome air defense systems to the region.

Israeli fighter jets on Monday evening struck positions across the blockaded Gaza Strip in response to rocket launches from Gaza into southern Israel.

Three Palestinians were martyred in the Israeli attacks, while nine were wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.

Artillery units near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone have reportedly targeted concentrations of Palestinian activists in central Gaza, along with resistance positions in the town of Jabalia and the city of Deir al-Balah.

Israeli helicopter gunships, meanwhile, also reportedly targeted several positions in southern Gaza.

In a joint statement, Palestinian resistance factions announced that they had begun firing rockets into southern Israel in response to an Israeli military incursion into the southern Gaza Strip late last night.

On Monday evening, the army said it had recorded the launch of at least 200 rockets from Gaza, including 60 it claimed were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system while the others fell onto empty land.

At least 19 Israelis were wounded, with one — reportedly a soldier — in serious condition.

Late Sunday night, seven Palestinians were killed — including a senior Hamas commander — when an Israeli military force staged a ground incursion into the southern Gaza Strip.

One Israeli soldier was killed in the raid and another injured, according to the Israeli army.

UPDATE – Palestinian martyred, 14 injured in Israeli attacks

UPDATES WITH DETAILS

By Moustafa Haboosh, Afra Aksoy and Hacer Başer

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – A peaceful Palestinian demonstrator was martyred and 14 others were injured by Israeli soldiers, the Palestinian Health Ministry said on Sunday.

In a statement, the ministry said that Davud Ishteyvi, 21, had been martyred by Israeli fire in the eastern Gaza Strip.

One of the injured was in critical condition, the statement added.

Since the latest round of Palestinian rallies began in late March, scores of Palestinians have been martyred — and thousands injured — by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the buffer zone.

Protesters are demanding the “right of return” to their homes and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

They also demand an end to Israel’s 11-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its more than 2 million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

Separately, Israeli jets hit peaceful Palestinian demonstrators along the Gaza border.

No statement was made indicating if there were any casualties from the airstrikes.

About the attack, the Israeli army claimed in a statement: “For months, Gazans have been launching arson balloons at Israel.”

In recent weeks, Palestinian activists have been flying burning kites and balloons over Israeli territory as part of ongoing anti-occupation protests along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.

Palestinian martyred in strike by Israeli warplanes

By Moustafa Maged Haboosh and Ali Semerci

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – A peaceful Palestinian demonstrator was martyred when Israeli warplanes strike along the Gaza border, the Palestinian Health Ministry said on Sunday.

Since the latest round of Palestinian rallies began in late March, scores of Palestinians have been martyred — and thousands injured — by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the buffer zone.

Protesters are demanding the “right of return” to their homes and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

They also demand an end to Israel’s 11-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its more than 2 million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

Israel frees Gaza boat passengers protesting blockade

By Afra Aksoy

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – Israeli naval forces have freed most of the passengers of a boat they intercepted after it set out from the Port of Gaza Tuesday aiming to break Israel’s decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip.

In a statement, Adham Abu Silmiyya, a spokesman for Gaza’s National Committee for Breaking the Siege, confirmed that all passengers on the boat except the captain were freed.

The passengers returned to Gaza through Israel’s Erez border crossing between the blockaded Gaza Strip — which has been governed by Hamas since 2007 — and Israel.

Abu Silmiyya told Anadolu Agency earlier that four Israeli naval vessels had surrounded the boat roughly eight nautical miles off Gaza’s coast.

He held Israel “fully responsible” for the safety of everyone aboard the boat, going on to urge the international community to extend protection to the beleaguered Palestinian people.

The Israeli military has since confirmed that it intercepted the vessel, which is now reportedly being towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

No injuries were reported during the boat’s interception, the army said in a statement.

The boat set out from Gaza on Tuesday carrying 20 Palestinian passengers including university graduates, medical patients seeking treatment abroad and Palestinians injured by recent Israeli violence near the Gaza-Israel security fence.

The main boat was accompanied by dozens of smaller vessels in a show of defiance against Israel’s crippling blockade, which has remained in effect since 2007 and which has brought Gaza to the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.

According to organizers, Tuesday's bid to break the blockade roughly coincides with the eighth anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident on May 31, 2010 in which nine Turkish activists were killed by Israeli forces in international waters, with a tenth activist later succumbing to injuries.

UPDATE 2 – Erdogan slams world for 'failure' in Jerusalem test

CHANGES HEADLINE, SPOT, LEDE; ADDS QUOTES BY ERDOGAN

By Halil Demir and Sefa Mutlu

ISTANBUL (AA) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday slammed the whole world for failing to stand up to Israeli violence against unarmed Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Speaking at a mass rally in Istanbul's Yenikapi fairgrounds that was held to show support for Palestinians, Erdogan said: "The Islamic world failed in the Jerusalem test. Not only the Islamic world but the entire world failed in the Jerusalem test."

The rally was launched under the theme "Condemning Oppression, Supporting al-Quds [Jerusalem]".

A number of huge screen televisions were set up for the crowd to watch the platform from where Erdogan spoke.

Aside from Erdogan, Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahceli, Grand Unity Party (BBP) Mustafa Destici, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and Jordanian King Abdullah II were also present at the rally.

Some 20,100 police officers were deployed on the ground, 5,200 of whom were positioned in hotels and on roadways while another 14,900 are on duty at the Yenikapi fairgrounds.

Also, four police helicopters, four boats and 160 armed vehicles were deployed.

Separately, Turkey and Palestine flags were distributed among the crowd.

On Monday, at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred and hundreds more injured by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the Gaza-Israel fence.

Monday’s demonstration had coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary — an event Palestinians refer to as “the Catastrophe” — and the relocation of Washington’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem.

Since the Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire.

Last week, the Israeli government claimed the ongoing protests constituted a “state of war” in which international humanitarian law does not apply.