Gaza terrorists fire salvo of anti-aircraft missiles, triggering sirens in Israel

Military says 7 projectiles, 2 of which were shot toward the sea, exploded in the air; launches follow rocket attacks the previous night and clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Illustrative: Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, November 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Illustrative: Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, November 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a number of rockets early Thursday morning, setting off rocket warning sirens in Israeli communities near the border, the military said.

The salvo came after projectiles were launched from the coastal enclave the previous evening and Palestinians clashed with police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The Israel Defense Forces said seven surface-to-air rockets were launched, with all of them exploding in the sky. It added that two of the rockets were fired in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea and the rest toward Israel.

The missiles were likely targeting Israeli Air Force craft in the area.

The launches set off alert systems in the communities of Ranen, Patish, Dorot and Havat Shikmim, with residents instructed to take cover in bomb shelters.

The army said it did not fire interceptor missiles at the incoming rockets. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

On Wednesday night, two rockets were fired from Gaza, one of which failed to clear the border while the other landed in an open area.

Shortly after, renewed fighting erupted at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and riots broke out along the Gaza border and several Arab Israeli communities.

Border Police stand guard outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City during clashes with Palestinians, on April 5, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The violence followed skirmishes Tuesday between police and worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, subsequent rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli counterstrikes in the Strip on Wednesday morning.

The IDF has yet to respond to the projectiles launched Wednesday night.

The unrest came amid concerns of a potential escalation during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which frequently sees a spike in Israeli-Palestinian tensions, and coincides this year with Passover and Easter. Passover began on Wednesday evening. The first two weeks of Ramadan had passed by relatively smoothly.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is revered as the location of both ancient Jewish temples. The compound is Islam’s third holiest site and is managed by Jordan, as part of a delicate arrangement with Israel.

Tens of thousands of worshipers visit Al-Aqsa throughout the Ramadan month, regularly leading to a spike in tensions with Israel and violence.

The Gaza-ruling Hamas terrorist group denounced the Tuesday raid on the mosque as an “unprecedented crime” and called on Palestinians in the West Bank “to go en masse to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to defend it.”

The clashes led to some 16 rockets being fired at Israel from Gaza early Wednesday. The Sderot Municipality said one of the rockets struck a factory in the industrial area, causing damage. No one was hurt.

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

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

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

Smoke rises above buildings in Gaza City after the IDF struck the Palestinian enclave following rocket fire towards Israeli towns, April 5, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

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

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government was committed to “maintaining the status quo and calming 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.

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