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Jerusalem crisis: Hamas fires rockets, Israel begins military campaign

Days of tensions in Jerusalem escalated into an exchange of fire on Monday, as Hamas fired dozens of rockets toward Israel and the Israeli military responded with strikes of its own and said it was preparing for a military operation that could last several days.

Why it matters: This is the first time Hamas has fired rockets at Jerusalem since 2014, and the most serious escalation between the Israelis and Palestinians in many months. It comes during the most sensitive days on the calendar — the last days of Ramadan and the Jerusalem Day commemoration on Monday — and amid political crises in both countries.

"All the ministers and security officials in the meeting agreed we can't keep quiet after missiles were filed on Jerusalem."
A minister from Israel's security cabinet to Axios following Monday's meeting. The minister said Israel's response would be wide-ranging and substantial.

Driving the news: Starting early Monday morning, Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, or Temple Mount, one of the holiest sites for both Muslims and Jews. Around 300 Palestinians were wounded, with ten in critical condition.

  • Those clashes followed days of protests over the planned evictions of six Palestinian families from a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers. Israel's supreme court delayed its decision on the evictions on Sunday.
  • After a tense phone call Sunday evening between U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben Shabbat, Israel started taking steps to de-escalate the situation.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the closure of the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors and later ordered the re-routing of an annual nationalist parade so that it would not pass through the Muslim Quarter and the Damascus Gate, two potential flashpoints in the old City of Jerusalem.

But the militant group Hamas gave Israel an ultimatum on Monday afternoon, threatening military action if all Israeli police didn't leave the al-Aqsa Mosque compound by 11am ET.

  • Minutes after the deadline expired, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza towards Jerusalem — around 50 miles away. Hamas then fired another 40 rockets toward Israeli towns close to Gaza.
  • The Israeli air force retaliated with strikes in Gaza and said it had killed three Hamas operatives. Gaza health officials said nine Palestinians were killed, including three children.
  • What to watch: The Israeli security cabinet convened for an emergency meeting and decided on a wider response, which Israeli military officials said would be wide-ranging and could last several days.

The big picture: The current escalation comes amid deep political crises on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

It complicates the efforts of Netanyahu rivals Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett to form an alternative government as soon as this week to oust the prime minister, who was unable to form a government of his own after elections in March.

  • Monday's violence led Mansour Abbas, leader of the Ra'am Islamist party — an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and sister movement of Hamas — to suspend coalition talks.
  • Lapid and Bennett have been trying to convince Ra'am to support their alternative government, while Netanyahu also met Abbas on Sunday in an attempt to convince him not to join the alternative government.

Meanwhile Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas postponed long-awaited parliamentary elections that had been scheduled for May 22.

  • Between the lines: Abbas blamed alleged Israeli obstruction in canceling the vote, which he was in danger of losing, and later backed the Palestinians who were confronting Israeli police in Jerusalem.
  • Hamas, meanwhile, is trying to win popular support in Jerusalem and the West Bank by backing the protests in Jerusalem and firing rockets from Gaza.

Vaccine mandates are suddenly much more popular

State governments, private businesses and even part of the federal government are suddenly embracing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for their employees.

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Team USA's Carissa Moore won gold in the first-ever Olympic women's surfing final, at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday.

The big picture: Brazil's Italo Ferreira won the gold medal in the inaugural men's Olympic surfing contest. The finals were brought forward a day due to the threat of Tropical Storm Nepartak.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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Tong Ying-kit, the first person to be charged and tried under Hong Kong's national security law was found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession by three judges Tuesday, per Bloomberg.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Naomi Osaka eliminated from Olympic tennis tournament in Tokyo

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka was eliminated from the Olympics after losing her Tokyo tennis tournament match 6-1, 6-4 in the third round to Czech Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Extreme drought pushes 2 major U.S. lakes to historic lows

Two significant U.S. lakes, one of which is a major reservoir, are experiencing historic lows amid a drought that scientists have linked to climate change.

What's happening: Lake Powell, the second largest reservoir in the U.S., has fallen 3,554 feet in elevation, leaving the crucial reservoir on the Colorado River, at 33% capacity — the lowest since it was filled over half a century ago, new U.S. Bureau of Reclamation data shows.

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North and South Korea restart hotline and pledge to improve ties

North and South Korea's leaders have pledged to improve relations and resumed previously suspended communication channels between the two countries, per Reuters.

Details: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to "restore mutual confidence and develop their relationships again as soon as possible," South Korea's Blue House spokesperson Park Soo Hyun said in a televised briefing, AP notes.

  • This followed an exchange of letters between the two leaders since April.

Go deeper: Kim Jong Un says prepare for "dialogue and confrontation" with U.S.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

U.S. teen Lydia Jacoby wins Olympic gold medal in 100m breaststroke at Tokyo Games

Team USA's 17-year-old swimmer Lydia Jacoby has won the Olympic gold medal in the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Games.

Of note: The Alaskan is the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, and she beat Lilly King into second place.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Pelosi expected to extend proxy voting as Delta variant surges

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to extend proxy voting through the fall — and potentially until the end of the year — Democratic lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has alarmed both members and staffers anxious about interacting with the unvaccinated. Pelosi’s anticipated move — continuing an emergency COVID-19 measure enacted last year so lawmakers could vote remotely — is aimed at allaying those concerns.

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