On Tuesday and Wednesday night, Palestinian militant factions fired rockets at the city of Sderot and its environs in southern Israel.
The IDF published statements saying the Iron Dome aerial defense system successfully intercepted the rockets fired on both nights, although rocket shrapnel caused minor damage to a home in Sderot during Wednesday night’s attack.
Adding to the interceptions, the IDF said it responded to the rocket launches by attacking several Hamas facilities including manufacturing sites for rocket engines.
In a rare statement, Hamas said it fired an anti-aircraft missile while IDF warplanes were attacking the Gaza Strip Tuesday morning, according to a publication by the group.
The attacks from Gaza-based militant groups comes amid a wave of terrorism and clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque that has created a diplomatic dilemma between Israel and some of its allies.
In recent weeks, Israeli security forces have launched a counter-terrorism campaign mostly targeting the West Bank after four high-profile terrorist attacks inside the green line. The campaign targeted suspects involved in the attacks, including those actively planning more. Though Israeli forces have seemingly been successful in curbing further high-profile attacks, it has not gone without complications as militants have clashed heavily with Israeli forces operating in the camps.
The clashes have resulted in the deaths of several militants which prompted a warning by Palestinian Islamic Jihad that the “resistance” was “on the verge of a battle” with Israel during the month of Ramadan.
Compounding the tensions was an incitement campaign launched by Hamas-led Palestinian militant groups. [See FDD’s Long War Journal: Analysis: Hamas-Led Militant Groups Create Strife at Al-Aqsa Mosque.]
During the days leading up to Ramadan, Gaza-based militant groups warned that Israel was planning to undermine the status quo by allowing Jewish activists to perform a prohibited ritual sacrifice on the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque for Passover.
Though ritual sacrifices did not take place on the grounds of the mosque, Palestinian militant groups further provoked rioting by calling on Palestinians to mobilize and “defend” the mosque from what they perceived as hostile acts by the presence of Jewish groups visiting the site.
The combination of these events was the catalyst for the rocket fire on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Beginning Friday, entry to the grounds of the mosque will be closed to Jewish visitors for the remaining days of Ramadan.
This step will likely yield a positive result as the Israeli government tries to navigate between curbing the current wave of terrorism inside its borders and diffusing the crisis created by the clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Though the likelihood of rocket fire remains possible for a third night after renewed clashes at the mosque Thursday morning.