A rocket was fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Sunday, as Palestinians clashed with Israeli police in Jerusalem and rioted along the Gaza border with Israel amid a serious flare-up of violence over tensions surrounding the Temple Mount that saw some 90 Palestinians hurt in riots on Saturday evening.
The uptick of violence in the south and the capital came after Jerusalem on Friday night saw some of the city’s worst violence in years, with 200 Palestinians and 17 Israeli police officers wounded as hundreds rioted in the Temple Mount and cops broke into the compound to quell the unrest.
There was further rioting on Saturday evening in Jerusalem and Gaza, which was apparently contained in the early hours of Sunday morning by Israeli security forces, with the violence subsiding around 2 a.m.
Around 1:30 a.m., a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces said. Rocket alert sirens were only triggered in an open field, where the projectile apparently landed. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
The army later said it carried out a reprisal strike on a Hamas military post in southern Gaza.
“Terror has consequences,” the IDF tweeted.
Earlier Saturday night, 90 Palestinians were hurt in riots at Damascus Gate outside Jerusalem’s Old City and 16 were hospitalized, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, after protesters hurled bottles and rocks at Israeli security forces and the police responded with stun grenades and water cannons. There were no reports of Israeli injuries.
Some 90,000 Palestinians attended Laylat al-Qadr prayers at the Temple Mount, marking the Ramadan holiday’s holiest night. Worshipers at the compound chanted in support of the Hamas terror group’s military wing, which reiterated its threat to attack Israel over recent tensions in Jerusalem.
“Strike Tel Aviv,” the Palestinian protesters chanted. “In spirit and in blood, we will redeem al-Aqsa.” Similar calls were heard at the Damascus Gate.
Palestinian demonstrators also set fire to a police barricade near Damascus Gate during the ensuing riot, which involved hundreds.
Not far from the Old City, renewed clashes broke out in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the site of tensions over the pending eviction of several Palestinian families from homes claimed by nationalist Jews.
Police said a small protest there turned into rioting that included “waving Palestinian flags and throwing rocks toward the forces.” The officers responded with riot dispersal means.
Two Palestinian suspects were arrested after pepper-spraying Israeli officers, police said. The suspects were found to be carrying “means of attack,” it added, without specifying.
Meanwhile, on the Gaza border, some 450 Palestinians at four locations along the fence separating the Strip from Israel set fire to tires and hurled improvised explosive devices at Israeli soldiers. The military launched flares over the area, as well as responding with tear gas and rubber-tipped bullets, Palestinian media reports said.
The explosions from the IEDs could be heard in nearby Israeli towns along the Gaza border. “There is no danger and there is no change in the guidelines,” a spokesperson for the Sdot Negev Regional Council told residents.
Officials said three incendiary balloons were launched into Israel, causing fires but no injuries.
Saturday also saw at least 10 fires in southern Israel caused by balloons from Gaza carrying incendiary devices. There were no reports of any injuries or danger to nearby towns.
Israel has boosted its security presence in all potential arenas of conflict, and is also deploying Iron Dome batteries near potential targets of Gaza rockets, while also making efforts behind the scenes to calm the situation.
The international community, including Israel’s Arab allies, condemned the Jewish state Saturday for security forces “storming” of Al-Aqsa during the clashes.
The Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem has long been one of the main flashpoints of Israeli-Palestinian friction. The holiest place in Judaism — as the site of the two biblical temples — is also home to the Muslim holy sites of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.
Israel fears the potential for a major escalation of the conflict in the coming days with Sunday-Monday seeing Jewish celebrations of Jerusalem Day, and was braced for more violence in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
On Saturday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top security officials to assess the situation. “We are acting responsibly to ensure law and order in Jerusalem while maintaining freedom of worship at the holy sites,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai announced on Saturday that troop levels would be bolstered in the West Bank and in Jerusalem respectively.
Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh said Friday that Israel would “pay a price” for the clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Islamic Jihad, a terror group that often fires rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory, also threatened Israel over the Al-Aqsa clashes.
The central committee of Fatah, the movement led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, warned Saturday night that “the continuation of the settler attacks on the holy places and the homes of Palestinian residents, their expulsion and expansion of settlements — will lead to an all-out conflict in all the Palestinian territories.”
Tensions have been rising across Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza for the past several weeks.
On Friday, three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Border Police troops in the northern West Bank. Two of them were killed in the firefight and a third was critically injured. Israeli military officials said the three were en route to carry out a “major” terrorist attack on civilians inside Israel, with reports saying they were heading for Jerusalem.
Israeli yeshiva student Yehuda Guetta was shot in a Palestinian terror attack in the West Bank on Sunday before he died of his wounds on Wednesday night. Israeli security forces arrested a suspect in his killing.
On Wednesday, Palestinian health officials said 16-year-old Palestinian teenager Said Odeh was shot and killed by Israeli forces who said he was throwing Molotov cocktails at troops.
In recent days, Palestinians have held demonstrations in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Over 70 Palestinian residents are threatened with eviction and could be replaced by right-wing Jewish nationalists, in a legal battle being waged in the courts.
An Israeli court has ordered the families to leave, as the property was owned by a Jewish religious association before 1948. A 1970 Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim property in East Jerusalem from before it fell into Jordanian hands; no similar law exists for Palestinians.
Aaron Boxerman and Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.