GAZA CITY — Two Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Saturday after rocket fire from the enclave hit an Israeli town, as the death toll in violence linked to President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital rose to four.
The Israeli military said it had responded to rocket fire by striking four facilities belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip: two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound. It called the rockets fired at Israel — one of them hitting the town of Sderot, with no casualties reported — a “severe act of aggression.”
Violent confrontations were reported elsewhere Saturday but were less widespread than a day earlier. Riots had broken out in about 20 locations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the army said. About 450 protesters burned tires and threw rocks along the Gaza border fence, while 600 took part in unrest in the West Bank, it said.
The diplomatic fallout also continued, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas canceling a planned meeting with Vice President Pence when he visits later this month, according to an aide cited by Israeli media.
Egypt’s Coptic Church said on Saturday that its pope had also canceled his meeting with Pence when he travels on to Cairo. It said the U.S. decision did not take into account the “feelings of millions of Arab people.”
The White House announcement Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital triggered widespread protests, with tens of thousands gathering across the region to show their anger. In the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military has used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to break up demonstrations. However, the sharpest escalation has been in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, has called for a third intifada, or uprising, against Israel in wake of Trump’s decision.
Hamas confirmed two of its members were killed in one of the early-morning airstrikes in Gaza. In a strike Saturday night that hit a military facility in a developed area, 15 people were injured, including a child, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
A day earlier, two protesters were shot dead near Gaza’s border fence with Israel during a “day of rage” against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy to the city. The Israeli military said it had shot toward dozens of “instigators” of riots, in which participants had rolled burning tires and thrown stones.
Hazim Qasem, a spokesman for Hamas, said Israel will suffer the consequences of the escalation, saying the death of the demonstrators and airstrikes come in the context of “ongoing crimes” against the people of Gaza. He accused the United States of giving Israel “cover for these crimes.”
The “uprising” of Palestinians shows that “Palestinian people are ready to redeem Jerusalem with their blood, and their families will not surrender in their confrontation with the occupation,” Qasem said.
Israel, citing security concerns, has imposed severe restrictions on the freedom of movement and import of goods into Gaza since Hamas took control of the enclave in 2007. Egypt has also rarely opened its border crossing with Gaza in recent years.
In East Jerusalem, clashes broke out after Israeli police attempted to break up a gathering of a few dozen chanting demonstrators on one of the main shopping streets, appearing provoked by the presence of Palestinian flags. Police used sound bombs and other crowd-control methods against Palestinian stone-throwers as the demonstration turned violent.
Four police officers were lightly injured, a police spokesman said. A Palestinian medic on the scene said eight people had been hurt, with two sent to hospital for treatment.
Protests were also reported in Arab communities inside Israel.
International criticism of Trump’s decision has mounted, with the U.N. Security Council holding an emergency meeting Friday to discuss the issue at the request of eight of its 15 members. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley struck a defiant tone in the tense meeting, saying Trump’s decision was taken to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinians and governments in the Middle East and Europe have said it does the opposite. Abbas said the United States can no longer be a broker of peace efforts, as the decision shows the White House’s bias toward Israel. Israel sees the whole of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians, however, envisage the eastern part of the city, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and annexed in a move seen as illegal by the United Nations, as the capital of their future state.
Morris reported from Jerusalem.