OAN Roy Francis
UPDATED 8:42 AM – Thursday, April 6, 2023
Militants in Gaza and southern Lebanon fired rockets into Israel following tense protests that have taken place at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem over the past few days.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the holiest sites in the religion of Islam, where Muslims usually gather throughout the month of Ramadan. The Mosque also sits on the foundations of the Jewish Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism, where Jews gather as they celebrate Passover.
As the two religious holidays overlapped, tense protests broke out at the site.
Israeli authorities typically allow free access to the Mosque, however, Since Ramadan began, a number of Muslims have repeatedly attempted to stay at the site overnight, a practice that is usually only allowed during the last 10 days of the holiday.
Israeli police have evicted worshippers from the mosque every night, while Muslims responded by protesting and throwing rocks and fireworks at them. Israeli authorities said that they had entered the mosque after “several law-breaking youths and masked agitators” would not depart and barricaded themselves inside, while chanting violent slogans.
“Following many continuous attempts to remove the individuals from the mosque using dialogue failed, police were forced to enter the compound in order to remove the individuals,” the police said. “Throughout the presence of police forces in the compound, stones were thrown and multiple firecrackers were set off inside the mosque by many law-breaking individuals and rioters.”
Around 350 people who had barricaded inside the mosque were arrested on Tuesday night after the violent confrontation, with two police officers being injured.
The Jordanian-appointed Islamic organization, the Waqf, which is allowed by Israel to manage to the religious complex described the actions of the police as a “flagrant assault on the identity and the function of the mosque as a place of worship for Muslims alone.”
Gaza militants fired at least nine rockets into Israel overnight and on Wednesday, after the confrontation at the mosque, this was followed by another barrage of 34 rockets fired from southern Lebanon into Israel on Thursday.
Hamas did not claim the rocket attacks which were launched from Gaza, however they said that the attack was in response to the Israeli “raid” on the mosque.
Similarly, sources close to Hezbollah said they denied being responsible for the attack, blaming Palestinian groups in the area. However they have also denounced the Israeli police activities calling it “a flagrant violation of believers in Jerusalem” and that they have violated religious, moral and human values.
According to initial assessments, at least five of the 34 rockets had landed in Israeli territory while 25 were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system and four still being “under review.”
The Galilee Medical Center in Nahayira said that it is treating two individuals, a 26-year-old man from Yanuh Jat, and a 19-year-old man from Fassuta. Both men were injured by shrapnel during the rocket attacks from Lebanon, but are reportedly in stable conditions.
The attack comes a day after Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon for a “private visit” which reportedly was with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Israel’s state media said that the military had conducted strikes against the Hamas militant group in the Gaza strip on Wednesday, which was followed by additional strikes in southern Lebanon in response to the rocket attacks from the area.
Following the major escalation in the area, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has “given initial directives” to Herzi Halevi, who serves as military chief as they prepare for the possibility of further escalations and retaliation.
“Gallant has been briefed on the details of the recent security events on Israel’s northern border, and has given initial directives to the IDF Chief of the General Staff and the wider defense establishment,” the office of Gallant said. “The minister will soon conduct a situation assessment with senior officials in the defense establishment.”
The Office of Benjamin Netanyahu also said that the Prime Minister is preparing to meet with defense officials in regards to the rocket attacks from Lebanon, which will be followed by a high-level security cabinet meeting.
“Netanyahu is being regularly updated on the security incidents and will conduct a situation assessment with the heads of the security establishment,” the office of the Prime Minister said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen condemned the attacks that were conducted during a holiday that Israelis were celebrating with their families. He said the attacks were “not a coincidence” and called on the world to condemn the rocket attacks that were conducted against Israel, and to issue a clear statement against the hostilities.
He went on to say that “no one should test us” because they will “take all necessary measures to defend our country and people.”
The 34 rockets launched into Israel were the biggest attack against the country since the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel, in which thousands of rockets were launched into Israel.
The war had resulted in around 1,200 Lebanese people and 165 Israelis dead.
This is a developing story, with more to come.
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