Israeli army intercepts rocket from Gaza amid Jerusalem tensions

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The Israeli army reportedly intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza on Monday, the first potential escalation in months as tensions regarding Israeli police actions at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem continue.

“Sirens sounded in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli army said, referring to a Palestinian enclave controlled by the resistance group Hamas.

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

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

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from Israel, and usually carries out airstrikes in response to such fire.

The incident, the first of its kind since January, comes after a weekend of violence in and around Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound that wounded over 170 people, mostly Palestinian demonstrators.

Similar violence in Jerusalem around the same time last year triggered repeated Hamas rocket fire into Israel which preceded an 11-day war.

‘Illegitimate and provocative’

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

The government of Naftali Bennett has repeatedly declared that the security forces have a “free hand” to deal with demonstrators.

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 a spike in violence including four deadly attacks since late March in the Jewish state by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs that claimed 14 lives, mostly civilians.

A total of 22 Palestinians have meanwhile been killed in the latest wave of violence since March 22, including assailants who targeted Israelis, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) tally.

Israel has poured additional forces into the West Bank and is reinforcing its wall and fence barrier with the occupied territory.

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 recognized 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 Arab-Israeli party ever to be part of an Israeli government, said it was “suspending” its membership over the violence in Jerusalem.

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