Terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of rockets at several towns in southern Israel early Wednesday morning, prompting Israel’s Air Force to strike at Hamas targets within the enclave throughout the morning.
A weapons storage facility and a weapons factory belonging to the terror group were targeted in the strikes, according to a statement from the IDF.
After the IAF struck the targets, another torrent of rockets was launched at Israeli border towns shortly before 7am, triggering alert sirens across the south of the country. Approximately 16 rockets were fired from the strip, eight of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system.
One rocket struck a factory in an industrial area, causing damage, and one man, 30, was lightly wounded after he fell while running to a bomb shelter, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
Although initial media reports allege that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group are responsible for the morning’s attacks, the IDF hold Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory it controls.
The outbreak comes amid a spike in violence at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, ahead of the arrival of both Passover and Ramadan. As of Wednesday morning, authorities say 350 people have been detained in the unrest.
Jerusalem Police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount on Tuesday night to dislodge “agitators” after dozens of masked Arab youths carrying fireworks and clubs barricaded themselves inside.
The youths reportedly locked themselves inside the Mosque after Jewish fringe groups are allegedly planning to revive an ancient Passover ritual by sacrificing an animal at the holy site on Passover Eve on Wednesday night. The practice is forbidden by Israeli authorities under the status quo agreement maintained there.
According to a statement from the Jerusalem police, security officials attempted to convince the youths of leaving the mosque but were ultimately forced to enter after being unsuccessful, whereupon they were assaulted with rocks and fireworks.
Hamas denounced the raid on the mosque as an “unprecedented crime” and called on Palestinians in the West Bank to defend Al-Aqsa mosque “en masse”.
The leader of Islamic Jihad, Ziyad al-Nakhala, said Palestinians must prepare for the “inevitable confrontation in the coming days.”
Israel’s controversial Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir on Wednesday morning called for the security cabinet to convene, and in a statement on Twitter said: “Hamas rockets require a response beyond bombing dunes and uninhabited places.
“It’s time for heads to roll in Gaza.”
ביקשתי הבוקר לכנס את הקבינט הביטחוני בעקבות האירועים הלילה. הממשלה שאני חבר בה צריכה להגיב בעוצמה לירי הרקטות מעזה, רקטות של חמאס מחייבות תגובה מעבר להפצצת דיונות ומקומות לא מאוישים. הגיע הזמן להוריד ראשים בעזה. אסור לחרוג ממשוואה שמחייבת תגובה רצינית על כל רקטה ורקטה.— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) April 5, 2023
The Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque – the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest site in Islam – has once again become the centre point of heightened tensions in recent months after Jewish ultranationalists such as Ben-Gvir has, in defiance of warnings, made brazen visits to the site.
As is standard practice during festivals and holidays, the IDF announced last week it would impose a closure on the West Bank, set to take effect at 5pm on Wednesday. Gaza border crossings will also close in a preventative measure against attacks. The closure will last until Saturday, April 8, and again from April 11 to April 12.
On Friday April 7, some border crossing will reopen to allow for Palestinian worshippers from the West Bank to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for Ramadan.
Similar clashes around the holy days two years ago triggered a bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.