Rocket barrage from Lebanon into northern Israel
Tensions escalate after Temple Mount clash
(JTA) — Dozens of rockets fired from Lebanon hit Israel’s north in a significant escalation of tensions that followed clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshipers at a Jerusalem holy site.
Israel’s government-run Kan broadcaster said at least 34 rockets had crossed into Israel on Thursday, the first full day of the Passover holiday. All but six were taken out by Israel’s antimissile Iron Dome system. Three people were lightly injured, Kan reported.
Violence on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount days earlier had already led to clashes between police and Israeli Arabs, and to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to convene his security cabinet to consider the escalation.
No group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, the worst since a war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group that calls for violence against Israel and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
Hezbollah said earlier it stood in solidarity with Palestinians after clashes Tuesday night on the Temple Mount, the Jerusalem site that is the holiest in Judaism and which houses a mosque complex that is the third holiest in Islam.
But Kan quoted Lebanese media as saying that Palestinian groups in southern Lebanon, and not Hezbollah, were responsible for the rocket fire.
Israel later said Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group based in the Gaza Strip, was responsible and that it would retaliate. Hamas denied responsibility.
Police entered al-Aqsa mosque on Tuesday night to remove Ramadan worshipers who sought to occupy the mosque overnight because of reports that Jewish extremists hoped to sacrifice an animal on the Temple Mount to mark Passover. Under an arrangement in place since shortly after Israel captured the Temple Mount in the 1967 Six-Day War, Jewish worship on the site is limited to silent prayer.
Some of the Muslim worshipers set off fireworks, and phone cameras caught police beating the protesters in images that were widely shared on social media. The Temple Mount confrontation led to rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and to clashes between police and residents of Israeli Arab towns. No major injuries were reported.
The coinciding of Ramadan and Passover has in the past led to clashes.
The new government led by Netanyahu is the most right-wing in Israel’s history and includes ministers who have said they want to facilitate more visible Jewish worship on the Temple Mount.