Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The competing claims to the site have repeatedly spilled over into violence over the years.
No faction in Lebanon claimed responsibility for the salvo of rockets. A Lebanese security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, said the country’s security forces believed the rockets were launched by a Lebanon-based Palestinian militant group, not by Hezbollah……CONTINUE READING
Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, condemned the firing of rockets from Lebanon, adding that Lebanese troops and U.N. peacekeepers were investigating and trying to find the perpetrators. Mikati said his government “categorically rejects any military escalation” and the use of Lebanese territories to stage acts that threaten stability.
Hezbollah has condemned the Israeli police raids in Jerusalem. Both Israel and Hezbollah have avoided an all-out conflict since a 34-day war in 2006 ended in a draw.
The current escalation comes against the backdrop of Netanyahu’s domestic problems. For the past three months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been demonstrating against his plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system, claiming it will lead the country toward authoritarianism.
Key military units, including fighter pilots, have threatened to stop reporting for duty if the overhaul is passed, drawing a warning from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant that Israel’s national security could be harmed by the divisive plan. Netanyahu said he was firing Gallant, but then backtracked as he put the overhaul on hold for several weeks. Critics could also accuse him of trying to use the crisis to divert attention from his domestic woes.
Netanyahu said that the domestic divisions had no impact on national security and that the country would remain united in the face of external threats.
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Tensions have simmered along the Lebanese border as Israel appears to have ratcheted up its shadow war against Iranian-linked targets in Syria, another close ally of Iran, Israel’s archenemy in the region.
Suspected Israeli airstrikes in Syria in recent weeks have killed two Iranian military advisers and temporarily put the country’s two largest airports out of service. Hecht, the military spokesman, said Thursday’s rocket fire was not believed to be connected to events in Syria.
In Washington, the principal deputy State Department spokesman, Vedant Patel, said, “Israel has legitimate security concerns and has every right to defend themselves.”
But he also urged calm in Jerusalem, saying that “any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo to us is unacceptable,” he said.
In Jerusalem, the situation remained tense at Al-Aqsa. For the previous two nights, Palestinians barricaded themselves in the mosque with stones and firecrackers.
Worshippers have been demanding the right to pray overnight inside the mosque — which authorities typically only permit during the last 10 days of the monthlong Ramadan holiday. They also have stayed in the mosque in protest over threats by religious Jews to carry out a ritual animal slaughter at the sacred site for Passover.
Israel did not try to prevent people from spending the night in the mosque early Friday — apparently because it was the weekend, when Jews do not visit the compound. But tensions could re-ignite Sunday when Jewish visits resume.
Israel bars ritual slaughter on the site, but calls by Jewish extremists to revive the practice, including offers of cash rewards to anyone who even attempts to bring an animal into the compound, have amplified fears among Muslims that Israel is plotting to take over the site
In this week’s violence, Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to evict worshippers who had locked the doors of the building. Palestinians hurled stones and fireworks at officers. After a few hours of scuffles that left a trail of damage, police managed to drag everyone out of the compound.
Police fiercely beat Palestinians and arrested over 400 people. Israeli authorities control access to the area but the compound is administered by Islamic and Jordanian officials.
The violence at the site has resonated across the region, with condemnations pouring in from Muslim leaders……CONTINUE READING