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Flames and smoke rise during Israeli air strikes amid a flare-up of Israel-Palestinian violence, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 19 2022. Picture: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS
Flames and smoke rise during Israeli air strikes amid a flare-up of Israel-Palestinian violence, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 19 2022. Picture: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

Israel shot down a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip and carried out an airstrike overnight in retaliation, raising the spectre of a wider confrontation with militants. 

The rocket fire followed clashes that erupted after Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem last week, saying they needed to quell riots as Palestinians gathered for Ramadan prayers. Similar events preceded Israel’s war with the Hamas group that runs Gaza less than a year ago. 

The army said late on Monday that the rocket was the first launched towards Israel from Gaza since September, and that the Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted it. Palestinian militant groups threatened further violence should Israel continue to take actions on Al-Aqsa, but no group took responsibility for the rocket firing.

Confrontations at Al-Aqsa, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al Sharif, often lead to wider conflict and hostility towards Israel. Last week’s clashes followed four attacks in Israeli cities since March that left 14 people dead.

The attacks coincided with an unprecedented summit with four Arab foreign ministers which Israel hosted late last month, serving as a jolting reminder that its 73-year-old conflict with the Palestinians remains unresolved.

Arab governments, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and others which recently improved ties with Israel, condemned the police actions at Al-Aqsa. 

Jordan summoned Israel’s deputy chief of mission in Amman, Israel’s foreign ministry said. 

The UAE on Tuesday summoned the Israeli ambassador in protest, condemning attacks on civilians and the use of force at holy sites, according to a statement from the Gulf nation’s foreign affairs ministry. 

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a televised statement that Israel was “doing everything so that all peoples, as always can celebrate the holidays safely — Jews, Muslims and Christians. We expect everyone not to join the lies and certainly not to encourage violence against Jews.”

The US continues “to call on all sides to exercise restraint, to avoid provocative actions and rhetoric and preserve the historic status quo on the Temple Mount”, state department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.

Since the beginning of the month, 16 Palestinians have died in clashes with Israeli forces or as they carried out — or attempted to carry out — attacks. Palestinian authorities have said some were innocent bystanders.  

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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