Israel conducted an air raid in the central Gaza Strip for the second time this week, with its fighter jets attacking an underground complex allegedly used to assemble rocket engines.
The raids began before dawn on Thursday. There were no reports of casualties at the time.
According to eyewitnesses, the attacks damaged numerous homes in the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
Earlier in the night, a rocket fired from Gaza struck southern Israel, causing slight damage to a house but no injuries, Israeli police said. Four more rockets were also fired from Gaza, the Israeli military said, following its raids on the besieged coastal enclave, but were intercepted by air defence systems.
No Palestinian faction claimed responsibility for the rocket launches.
In a statement, Hamas, the group that administers Gaza, said Israel’s bombing will only encourage Palestinians to “resist the occupation and step up their support for Jerusalem and its people”.
The exchanges come after nearly a month of deadly violence in Israel and the Palestine, focused on Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Israeli forces raided the compound at dawn on Thursday, and targeted worshipers with tear gas and rubber bullets, as Palestinian youth responded with petrol bombs, according to Palestinian media.
Israeli police said that dozens of rioters had thrown stones and petrol bombs from the mosque, alleging that “a violent splinter group is stopping Muslim worshipers from entering the mosque and causing damage to the site.”
Seven Palestinians, all residents of occupied east Jerusalem, had been arrested on suspicion of taking part in “violent incidents” on Wednesday, it added.
Hours earlier, Israeli police had blocked crowds of Jewish ultra-nationalist protesters from approaching the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
A surge of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory has raised fears of a slide back to a wider conflict, after last year’s 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza, in which more than 250 Palestinians in Gaza and 13 people in Israel were killed.
Early Wednesday evening, more than 1,000 ultra-nationalist demonstrators waving Israeli flags had gathered, some shouting “death to the Arabs”, but police blocked them from reaching Damascus Gate and the Old City’s Muslim quarter.
Far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, a controversial opposition politician, led the protest after being barred from the Damascus Gate area earlier in the day by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“I’ll say it clearly, I’m not going to blink, not going to fold,” Ben Gvir told AFP, as his supporters chanted “Bennett go home!”
“I’m not allowed to enter Damascus Gate,” the former lawyer said. “Based on what law?”
Bennett said earlier that he had blocked the rally for security reasons. – AFP/Independent Press.