The rocket attacks came after an 18-hour delay Hamas had given Israel to withdraw its forces from the mosque compound, a holy place for Muslims and Jews. Television footage showed smoke rising from the hills near Jerusalem, further into Israel than any rockets fired in recent years.
The IDF responded with airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, including one that appeared to target a senior Hamas military commander. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Jonathan Conricus said the military had the “green light” to strike military targets until Hamas “got the message and learned its lesson.”
Health officials in Gaza said nine people were killed, including three children, in the airstrikes. Further airstrikes are expected.
One of Hamas’s rockets hit an Israeli house on the outskirts of Jerusalem, unharmed, and an Israeli civilian was slightly injured after his car was hit by an anti-tank missile near the border with the Gaza Strip .
Hamas had crossed a “red line” with its last volley, now close to 50 rockets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, warning that this fight could “continue for some time.”
“We will not tolerate an attack on our territory, in our capital, against our citizens and our soldiers. Whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price, ”Netanyahu said Monday evening.
The IDF has called for public gatherings and schools to be limited to central Israel as they prepare to receive more rockets from Hamas.
In the past three days, violence has escalated in East Jerusalem with hundreds of Palestinians injured after Israeli riot police used stun grenades and mounted officers to halt protests against evictions of homes planned and restrictions at the mosque. The protests coincided with the Ramadan celebrations.
The growing tension has become a diplomatic issue for Israel, which has been condemned by Arab and Gulf countries for police actions at the mosque and prompted statements of deep concern from allies, including states. -United and the EU, on its plans to expel dozens of neighboring Palestinians to make way for Jewish settlers.
Israel has sought to temper growing tensions by changing the route of an annual parade of right-wing settlers through East Jerusalem and delaying planned expulsions of Palestinians in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. During the annual Jerusalem Day celebrations, flag-waving Israelis typically march through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to commemorate the Jewish state’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1967.
Hamas fired nearly a dozen rockets targeting Israeli civilians over the past week, as images of police violence at the mosque spread across the Arab world. Hamas issued a warning on Monday that Israel should withdraw its forces from the mosque compound and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Just after 6 p.m., as the deadline expired, air raid sirens sounded over Jerusalem and the nearby town of Beit Shemesh. Israel’s Channel 13 showed smoke rising from the hills surrounding Jerusalem. At least seven rockets were fired, and one intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, the military said.
The area where the mosque is located, called the Temple Mount by the Jews, is the holiest site in Judaism and is home to the second temple destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Many Jews worship at the Western Wall, the surviving part of the temple, and face its leadership during prayers.
On Monday morning, Israeli riot police again rushed into the mosque compound to disperse thousands of worshipers who had spent the night inside. More than 300 Palestinians have been injured and around 20 policemen need medical attention, Palestinian and Israeli doctors said. Seven Israeli civilians were also injured.
The government intervened on Sunday in an eviction case it had previously dismissed as a private property dispute, with the attorney general asking for a postponement of the High Court verdict due on Monday.
But tensions remained high – the IDF canceled war matches scheduled for the month in order to focus on the possibility of an escalation by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.