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Israel says rockets fired from Lebanon and Gaza after second night of clashes at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque

Tension escalates in Israel amid holidays
Israel and Hamas exchange strikes following clash at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque 03:44

Israeli officials said a barrage of rockets was fired at the country from inside Lebanon on Thursday, fueling fear of a possible escalation in violence in the heart of the Middle East. The attack comes during a sensitive holiday period as Muslims mark the holy month of Ramadan, Jews celebrate the Passover holiday and Christians begin the Easter weekend.

Israel's military said 34 rockets were fired across the border from Lebanon, of which 25 were shot down by the country's Iron Dome defense system. Five rockets fell inside Israeli territory, the military said, and another five were being investigated.

The U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, said there had been "multiple rocket launches from southern Lebanon toward Israel" on Thursday. No faction in Lebanon immediately claimed responsibility.

"The current situation is extremely serious," the head of UNIFIL said. "UNIFIL urges restraint and to avoid further escalation." 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "receiving continuous updates about the security situation and will conduct an assessment with the heads of the security establishment," his office said Thursday.

The Israeli army said its response would come after a Security Cabinet meeting later in the day, and "a situational assessment."

Israel's emergency medical service said that one person had been injured by shrapnel and another person was wounded while running for a safe room.

Seven rockets were also fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip overnight, Israel's military said, as violence erupted in the country for the second night in a row. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest rocket fire, and both Palestinian factions and the military wing of the Hezbollah group operate in Lebanon.

Israel's state media said Thursday the military had conducted strikes on targets in southern Lebanon in response to the rockets. Israel said it had struck targets of the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip after rockets were fired on Wednesday.  

Palestinians Israel
Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes on a Hamas military camp in Gaza City, April 5, 2023. Adel Hana/AP

Israeli police clashed with Muslim worshippers trying to barricade themselves inside Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque overnight Wednesday to Thursday. The clashes were less violent than the previous night. The Palestinian Red Crescent said six people were injured.

Since the beginning of Ramadan on March 22, worshippers have been trying to stay overnight at Al-Aqsa mosque, which is normally only permitted during the final ten days of the Muslim holiday, and Israeli police have been evicting them every night.

Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa overnight Tuesday, where worshippers had barricaded themselves inside, injuring dozens of Palestinians and arresting hundreds in a raid widely condemned by Muslim-majority nations. 

Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, is located on the same Jerusalem hilltop as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The site is open to Muslim worshippers but not Jews or Christians under the terms of a longstanding agreement. 

Under that "status quo" arrangement, the sensitive site is managed by an Islamic endowment called the Waqf, which called Tuesday's raid a "flagrant violation of the identity and function of the mosque as a place of worship for Muslims."

Tensions have soared in the region since Israel's new far-right, ultra-nationalist government coalition took power under Netanyahu late last year. Israel's police are now overseen by one of the most radical members of Netanyahu's cabinet, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was previously convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization.

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