By JOSEPH KRAUSS Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian militants fired a rocket into southern Israel for the first time in months Monday, in another escalation after clashes at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site, a series of deadly attacks inside Israel and military raids in occupied West Bank. .
Israel said it intercepted the rocket and there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. Israel holds Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers responsible for all those projectiles and often launches airstrikes in their wake. It was the first such rocket launch since New Year’s Eve.
Hours earlier, the leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, which has an arsenal of rockets, had issued a brief and cryptic warning condemning Israeli “violations” in Jerusalem.
Ziad al-Nakhala, who is based outside the Palestinian territories, said threats to tighten the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza imposed after Hamas seized power 15 years ago “cannot silence us from what is happening in Jerusalem.” and the occupied West Bank.
Political cartoons about world leaders
Palestinians and Israeli police clashed over the weekend in and around the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, which has long been an epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian violence. It is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest to Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because the mosque sits on top of a hill where Jewish temples were located in ancient times.
Protests and clashes there around this time last year ultimately led to an 11-day war in Gaza.
Police said they were responding to Palestinian stone-throwing and were committed to ensuring Jews, Christians and Muslims, whose main holidays converge this year, could celebrate them safely in the Holy Land. The Palestinians see the presence of the Israeli police at the site as a provocation and said they used excessive force.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday, before the rocket fire, that Israel has been the target of a “Hamas-led campaign of incitement.”
The latest tensions come at the confluence of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover. Christians are also celebrating their holy week leading up to Easter, and tens of thousands of visitors have flocked to Jerusalem’s Old City, home to the main holy sites for all three religions, for the first time since the start of the pandemic. of coronavirus.
Jordan and Egypt, which made peace with Israel decades ago and coordinate with it on security matters, have condemned his actions at the mosque. Jordan, who serves as the site’s custodian, summoned Israel’s charge d’affaires on Monday in protest.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II discussed the violence with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, agreeing on “the need to stop all illegal and provocative Israeli measures,” according to a statement. Jordan planned to convene a meeting of other Arab states on the issue.
Israel has been working to improve relations with Jordan for the past year and has recently normalized relations with other Arab states over their shared concerns about Iran. But the latest tensions have again drawn attention to the conflict with the Palestinians, which Israel has tried to sideline in recent years.
An Arab party that made history last year by joining Israel’s ruling coalition suspended its participation on Sunday, a largely symbolic act that nonetheless reflected the sensitivity of the holy site, which is at the emotional center of the conflict. centenary.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and is building and expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which it considers the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people.
The last serious and substantive peace talks failed more than a decade ago. Bennett opposes Palestinian statehood, although his government has taken steps in recent months to improve economic conditions for Palestinians.
Palestinians have long feared that Israel plans to seize or partition the mosque compound, and in recent weeks calls by Jewish extremists to slaughter animals there have been widely circulated among Palestinians on social media, prompting calls to defend the mosque.
Israeli authorities say they have no intention of changing the status quo, and police are enforcing a ban on animal sacrifices. Israel says its security forces were forced into the compound early Friday after Palestinians piled up stones and other objects and hurled stones in the direction of an adjacent Jewish holy site.
The last few weeks have seen a series of Palestinian attacks inside Israel that have killed 14 people. Israel has launched almost daily arrest raids and other military operations in the occupied West Bank that it says are aimed at preventing more.
The army said on Monday it had arrested 11 Palestinians in operations in the occupied West Bank overnight. In a raid on the town of Yamun, near the city of Jenin, the army said dozens of Palestinians threw stones and explosives at troops.
Soldiers “responded with live ammunition against suspects who threw explosive devices,” the army said. The Palestinian Health Ministry said two men were hospitalized after being seriously injured.
Two of the recent attackers hailed from and around Jenin, which has long been a bastion of the armed struggle against the Israeli government.
At least 25 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in recent weeks, according to an Associated Press count. Many had carried out attacks or were involved in clashes, but an unarmed woman and a lawyer who appears to have been a bystander were also among those killed.
Associated Press writers Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem, Omar Akour in Jordan, and Fares Akram in Hamilton, Canada contributed to this report.
Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.