Israel, Palestinians trade fire as Mideast tensions mount - GulfToday

Israel, Palestinians trade fire as Mideast tensions mount


Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets early on Thursday. Reuters

Palestinians fired several rockets into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip early on Thursday and Israeli aircraft hit militant targets in Gaza, part of an escalation that was eerily similar to the run-up to last year's Israel-Gaza war.

The cross-border strikes came against the backdrop of Israeli-Palestinian tensions that have been boiling in Jerusalem.


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On Wednesday, hundreds of flag-waving Israeli ultra-nationalists marched toward predominantly Palestinian areas around Jerusalem’s Old City, a demonstrative display of Israeli control over the disputed city seen as a provocation by Palestinians.

Police closed the main road leading to the Damascus Gate of the Old City, the epicenter of last year’s unrest preceding an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas. After some pushing and shoving with police, the marchers rallied near the barricades, waving flags, singing and chanting.

A missile from Israel's Iron Dome air defence system lights the sky in the central Gaza Strip early on Thursday. AFP

A hilltop shrine in the Old City is the emotional ground zero of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a flashpoint for previous rounds of violence. Known to Muslims as the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, it is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest site in Judaism, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, the site of their biblical temples.

For Palestinians, the mosque compound, administered by Muslim clerics, is also a rare place in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem where they have a measure of control. Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as a future capital.

Palestinian militant groups in Gaza have positioned themselves as defenders of the Jerusalem holy site. On Wednesday, Hamas said Israel would bear "full responsibility for the repercussions” if it allowed the marchers "to approach our holy sites."

Several rockets were fired from Gaza overnight. Four rockets fired early on Thursday were intercepted by Israel, the military said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, and no one claimed the rocket strikes. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire.

Associated Press


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