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More than 300 injured in clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians amid Hamas rocket strikes

Air raid sirens blared out across Jerusalem last night as the Islamist group Hamas fired a barrage of rockets towards the holy city, in what it said was retaliation for violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police earlier that day at the ancient al-Aqsa mosque. 

The chaos began early in the morning as Palestinian worshippers at the mosque in East Jerusalem hurled rocks at police, who in turn used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber-tipped bullets to clear crowds. 

Video footage showed police hurling stun grenades inside al-Aqsa mosque itself as worshippers ran in terror. Outside, some Palestinians had planned in advance for violence by gathering stockpiles of rocks to throw at police.

Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza strip, responded by firing a series of rockets towards Jerusalem on Monday evening in retaliation for the mosque clashes, which triggered sirens in both Jerusalem and nearby Beit Shemesh. 

The rockets were said to have landed in open fields and on the outskirts of the Jerusalem hills. There were no immediate reports of any injuries or casualties.

The Israeli military also said that an anti-tank missile had been fired from the Gaza strip into Israel.

The Gaza Health Ministry said nine were killed in retaliatory strikes Israel launched shortly after the rocket fire. 

It was the third day of severe violence in the holy city, following similar clashes at the mosque and at Damascus Gate over the weekend which also saw several hundred Palestinians wounded.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that on Monday alone some 300 Palestinians had been injured in the clashes, seven of them seriously. Israel said 21 police officers were also injured.

"We are here to represent Jerusalem and the Jewish people in our capital and to show everyone that this is where we belong and this is where we are going to stay," said Manya Friedler Landau, 32, who was on the march with her flag-waving husband and four-year-old twin boys.

On Monday evening, the atmosphere in the Old City was tense, with hundreds of armed police officers deployed both outside and inside its walls.

The Telegraph spoke to shopkeepers in the area who said they had been ordered by police to close up their stalls. "The police came and said we must close them," said Sami Azed, the owner of Abu Azid bakery.

"What happened at al-Aqsa, I think that is affecting things [throughout the Old City]."

"I'm scared," admitted a sweet shop owner, 52-year-old Yunis, though he added that he planned to keep his stalls open as he said police simply warned him to "take care."

It is hardly rare for clashes to break out in Jerusalem during Ramadan, but the scenes of violence which have unfolded in the past few days are the worst since the 2017, which at the time fuelled speculation that a third intifada could be on the way.

Another significant factor is an Israeli plan to evict around a dozen Palestinian families from their neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, so that they can be replaced with settlers.

Palestinians claim the eviction process, which is based on a ruling that the homes were owned by Jewish associations before the foundation of Israel, is an attempt to expand Israel’s presence in East Jerusalem.

But the Israeli foreign ministry insists the row is merely a “real estate dispute” that it says is being exploited by Palestinian militant groups to encourage violence. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, defended the actions of police and warned that “a struggle is now being waged in the heart of Jerusalem.”

“It is not a new struggle. It is the struggle between intolerance and tolerance, between law-breaking violence and law and order,” he said.

A court hearing on whether to proceed with evictions was due to take place on Monday but was postponed by the supreme court, with a new date to be set within 30 days.

It is possible that the move, along with the decision to cancel a formal nationalist march through the Old City, may help to ease some tensions in the coming days.  Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, accused "Israeli occupation forces" of conducting a "brutal raid" at al-Aqsa.

On Monday evening, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Hamas and Palestinian officials. 

Mr Erdogan vowed that "he will do everything in his power to mobilise the world, starting with the Islamic world, to stop Israel’s terror and occupation."

Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern part that it annexed in a move that has not won international recognition. But the Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they seek in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

As the thunderous crack of stun grenades rang out around al-Aqsa, Islam's third holiest site, Israeli Jews were ordered not to gather at the Temple Mount plaza, which is part of the same complex and revered by the Jewish faith.

Monday is Jerusalem Day in Israel, a national holiday that celebrates the takeover over East Jerusalem in 1967.

There were plans for thousands of Israeli nationalists to march through the Old City, per annual tradition, but the event was diverted away from Damascus Gate, a hotspot for tensions, at the last minute. 

Despite this, some Israelis march through the Old City streets anyway, raising fears that they could clash with Palestinians in the area. However, as of Monday evening, there were no immediate reports of violence linked to the marches. 

Music played over loudspeakers in the area of central Jerusalem around Jaffa Gate, as marchers, singing and clapping walked in groups through streets sealed off by police.

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