Palestinian fighters fired a barrage of rockets early Thursday, setting off air raid sirens in southern Israel, as violence erupted for the second day in a row during a sensitive period of overlapping holidays.
The barrage came after another tense night at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Israeli police clashed with Muslim worshippers attempting to stay overnight, in defiance of long-standing compromises about management of the compound. The Israeli military said seven rockets launched from the Gaza Strip all exploded in midair. No group claimed responsibility for the barrage, The Associated Press said.
Unrest in the region was less intense than the previous days, but the rocket fire raised fears of a wider conflagration as Jews began the week-long Passover holiday, hundreds of Christians in the Old City gathered for Holy Thursday at the Holy Sepulcher to mark the Last Supper, and Muslims marked the Ramadan holy month.
Al-Aqsa is the third-holiest site in Islam and stands on a hilltop known to Jews as the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism. Conflicting claims over it have spilled into violence before, including a bloody 11-day war two years ago between Israel and the Hamas group.
Since Ramadan began March 22, scores of Muslim worshippers have repeatedly tried to stay overnight in the mosque, a practice that is typically permitted only during the last 10 days of the monthlong holiday. Israeli police have entered nightly to evict the worshippers.