Fresh clashes break out at Al-Aqsa, 2 rockets fired from Gaza as tensions soar

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New clashes broke out at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired two projectiles at Israel, and riots broke out in Gaza and Arab communities in Israel on Wednesday as tensions rose at the start of the Passover holiday.

The fighting followed clashes the previous night between police and worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, subsequent rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli countermeasures in the Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces said one of the launches on Wednesday failed to clear the border and landed inside Gaza, while the second hit an open area near the border fence.

A warning siren sounded in an open area as a result of the launches, the IDF said.

Shortly after, fighting broke out at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The footage showed police in riot gear trying to force their way into the site with those inside throwing things at them from inside.

“Dozens of young people who were breaking the law, some of the people who were masked, brought fireworks and stones into the mosque with the aim of disrupting public order in the area, and they were destroying the mosque,” a the police said in a statement.

Police said the Palestinians closed the doors to the mosque and prevented worshipers from leaving, barricading themselves inside.

“Police forces prevented the lawbreakers from closing the doors and barricading themselves inside, and helped the worshipers to leave the mosque,” the police said. “The rioters yelled provocations, set off fireworks, and threw objects at officers.”

Around the same time, there were reports of riots near the Gaza border fence, with Palestinians burning tires and throwing improvised explosive devices towards the border.

IDF troops were working to disperse the riots at the border, Army Radio reported.

Also, clashes broke out in the predominantly Arab city of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel during a march in support of Al-Aqsa on Wednesday night.

Police said they moved to break up the event after rioters threw stones at Highway 65.

A unit of detectives was attacked at the scene, and one of the officers fired his weapon in the air to help them escape, police said.

Footage from the scene showed rioters burning tires on the streets of the city.

Police later said five minors were arrested on suspicion of throwing rocks at officers.

Other disturbances were reported in the Israeli Arab communities of Baqa al-Gharbiya, Arraba, Reineh, Kafr Kanna and Kafr Manda, and in several cities in the West Bank.

Security officials feared an escalation due to the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which often sees a spike in Israeli-Palestinian tensions, and this year coincides with Passover and Easter. Easter began on Wednesday evening. The first two weeks of Ramadan passed relatively smoothly.

On Tuesday, police said they entered Al-Aqsa after masked youths barricaded themselves inside the mosque atop the Temple Mount with fireworks, clubs and rocks and refused to come out. peaceful. Officials apparently believed the group intended to attack Jews visiting the mountain on Passover Eve.

Police said they tried to persuade rioters inside the mosque to leave, but the group failed to comply, leaving security forces with no choice but to enter, where they were attacked with rocks and fireworks.

Police also said 350 suspects were detained and “the rioters damaged and abandoned the mosque.”

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is famous for being the site of the two ancient Jewish temples. The compound is Islam’s third holiest site and is managed by Jordan, as part of a sensitive arrangement with Israel.

Thousands of worshipers visit Al-Aqsa during the month of Ramadan, leading to tensions with Israel and regular violence.

Israeli security forces remove Palestinian Muslim worshipers sitting on the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, early April 5, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, condemned Tuesday’s raid on the mosque as an “unprecedented crime” and called on Palestinians in the West Bank to “go to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to protect it.”

As a result of the clashes, Israel fired 16 rockets from Gaza early on Wednesday. Sderot Municipality said one of the rockets hit a factory in the industrial area, causing damage. No one was injured.

In response Israel carried out airstrikes in the Strip, hitting several Hamas facilities.

An Israeli soldier was also wounded in suspected shooting near the West Bank city of Hebron

The fighting raised fears of a wider conflagration. Similar clashes two years ago led to a bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

The police action prompted criticism from countries including Jordan and Turkey and statements of concern from the US and the UN.

The Arab League was set to meet for an emergency session on Wednesday and the UN Security Council called for an emergency meeting on Thursday.

Police walk inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, early on April 5, 2023 following clashes during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. (Ahmed Gharabli/AFP)

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government was determined to “maintain the status quo and ease tensions” on the Temple Mount.

“Israel is committed to preserving freedom of worship, free access for all religions, and the status quo on the Temple Mount, and will not allow violent extremists to change this,” Netanyahu wrote.

The Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir said on Wednesday morning that he wanted the security cabinet to be convened.

Last week, the IDF announced that it would impose a closure on the West Bank, which will take effect at 5 pm on Wednesday, with crossing points closed to Palestinians on the first and last day of the Passover holiday. of the Jews. Gaza border crossings will also be closed.

Such closures are common practice during festivals and holidays. The military says they are a preventive measure against attacks in periods of heightened tension.

The spiraling violence comes as the Israeli government grapples with a massive protest movement fueled by coalition plans to severely weaken the judiciary. Opponents say the legislation will fundamentally change Israel’s status as a democracy and that individual rights are at risk.

The protests have spread into the military, with some high-level reservists, including air force pilots, saying they will stop their service if the legislation passes.

Netanyahu said he decided to fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant last week, after Gallant warned about the security implications of judicial reform and called for a halt to the legislative push. Netanyahu said he had decided to delay the legislation to make room for compromise talks the next day after coming under immense pressure. Gallant was not formally fired and remains in his job.

Tensions are also rising on the northern border amid a series of airstrikes in Syria blamed on Israel, and threats between Israeli officials and Iran, which operates in Syria in support of its government and supports the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

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