Israel has conducted its first airstrike on the Gaza Strip in months early on Tuesday, retaliating to a rocket that was allegedly fired from the Palestinian enclave following a weekend of violence around a Jerusalem holy site.
According to foreign media reports, the Israeli Army said that its special forces had made five arrests overnight in the occupied West Bank. The area has seen a string of deadly Israeli raids since a rise in attacks and protests four weeks ago.
Tensions have converged on the highly contested Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Israeli-annexed Old City. Palestinian worshippers, who have been gathering for Ramazan prayers have expressed outraged at visits by religious Jews under heavy Israeli police protection – along with curbs on their own access.
The violence has stoked fears of a repeat of the past year’s events, when similar conditions initiated an 11-day war that razed parts of Gaza.
On Monday, warning sirens went off after a rocket was allegedly fired into southern Israel from the blockaded enclave. The Israeli military reported that the rocket was intercepted by its Iron Dome air defense system. Mere hours later, the Israeli air force said it had struck a Hamas weapons factory in response.
However, Hamas claimed to have employed its “anti-aircraft defenses” to counter the raid, which caused no casualties, according to witnesses and security sources in Gaza.
No faction had immediately claimed responsibility for firing the rocket.