Gaza rocket fire intercepted as Israel continues Jerusalem attacks

Gaza rocket fire intercepted as Israel continues Jerusalem attacks
Fighters from the besieged Gaza strip fired a rocket into Israel on Monday, the first such incident in months, following attacks by Israel which injured hundreds of worshippers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque
3 min read
Israeli security forces have attacked Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque [Getty]

Palestinian fighters from Gaza fired a rocket into Israel on Monday, the Israeli army said, the first such incident in months and a sign that Israeli attacks on Palestinians around the Al-Aqsa Mosque could escalate further.

"Sirens sounded in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip," the Israeli army said.

"One rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome Air Defence System," the military added in a statement.

There were no immediate reports of casualties and no faction in the besieged Palestinian coastal enclave of 2.3 million inhabitants immediately claimed responsibility.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from Israel, and usually carries out air strikes in retaliation.

The incident, the first of its kind since January, comes after a weekend of Israeli attacks on worshippers in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound that wounded more than 170 people, mostly Palestinian worshippers.

Diplomatic sources said the United Nations Security Council was to hold a session on Tuesday to discuss the Israeli assaults.

Hamas responded with rocket fire to similar attacks in Jerusalem last year, leading to a deadly 11-day Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip which killed more than 250 Palestinians

'Illegitimate and provocative'

The increase in tensions with both the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish festival of Passover.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third-holiest site in Islam. Palestinians have been angered by repeated visits to the site by Israeli extremists, some of whom wish to demolish the mosque and build a Jewish temple in its place. They are permitted to enter but may not pray there.

The government of Naftali Bennett has repeatedly declared that Israeli security forces have a "free hand" to deal with Palestinians..

Hamas had warned on Sunday that "Al-Aqsa is ours and ours alone" and swore to defend Palestinians' right to pray there.

The rocket fire and Al-Aqsa clashes came after four deadly attacks inside Israel, some of which were carried out by Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, that claimed 14 lives.

A total of 23 Palestinians have meanwhile been killed in Israeli attacks since March 22, according to an AFP tally.

They include Hanan Khudur, an 18-year-old Palestinian woman who died on Monday after being shot by Israeli forces last week in the village of Faquaa, near the flashpoint city of Jenin.

Israel had poured additional forces into the occupied West Bank and has been reinforcing its barrier in the territory.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that the United States was "deeply concerned" about the tensions and that senior US officials had been in touch by telephone with their counterparts from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Arab nations. 

"We have urged all sides to preserve the historic status quo" at the Al-Aqsa compound and avoid "provocative" steps, he said.

Jordan on Monday summoned the Israeli charge d'affaires "to deliver a message of protest over illegitimate and provocative Israeli violations at the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque", its foreign ministry said in a statement.

Jordan serves as custodian of holy places in east Jerusalem, including the Old City, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed in a move not recognised by most of the international community.

Bennett on Monday denounced what he called a "Hamas-led incitement campaign" and said Israel was doing "everything" to ensure people of all faiths could safely worship in Jerusalem.

"We expect everyone not to join the lies and certainly not to encourage violence against Jews," he said, in an apparent reference to Jordan.

Bennett is also facing a political crisis at home after his ideologically disparate coalition lost its one-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel's parliament, just short of a year since he painstakingly cobbled a government together.

On Sunday, Raam, the first Palestinian party ever to be part of an Israeli government, said it was "suspending" its membership over the violence in Jerusalem.