Rocket fired into Israel as tensions soar

Palestinian militants have fired a rocket into southern Israel for the first time in months, in a potentially major escalation after clashes at a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem and a wave of attacks and military raids elsewhere.

Israel said it intercepted the rocket, fired on Monday, and there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

Israel holds Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers responsible for all such projectiles and usually launches air strikes in their wake. It was the first such rocket fire since New Year’s Eve.

Hours earlier, the leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, which boasts an arsenal of rockets, had issued a brief, cryptic warning, condemning Israeli “violations” in Jerusalem.

Ziad al-Nakhala, who is based outside the Palestinian territories, said threats to tighten an Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza imposed after Hamas took power in 2007 “can’t silence us from what’s happening in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.”

Palestinians and Israeli police clashed over the weekend in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, which has long been an epicentre of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

It is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because the mosque stands on a hilltop where the Jewish temples were located in antiquity.

Read the article by Joseph Krauss in The Canberra Times and Brisbane Times.