JERUSALEM – Palestinian militants launched a barrage of rockets early Thursday, triggering air raid sirens in southern Israel, as violence flared up for the second day in a row during a tense season of overlapping holidays.

According to the Israeli military, seven missiles launched from Gaza all burst in midair. The barrage was not claimed by any party.

The barrage came on the heels of another stressful night at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Israeli police battled with Muslim pilgrims attempting to spend the night.

Since Ramadan began on March 22, hundreds of Muslims have attempted to spend the night at the mosque, a practice that is generally authorized only during the last ten days of the month-long holiday. Israeli police have been entering at night to evict the worshippers, but the scene escalated in bloodshed on Tuesday.

Worshippers flung stones and firecrackers at police, who retaliated with savage beatings and the detention of hundreds.

According to a spokeswoman, Israeli police made no arrests on Wednesday but did hold and question some Palestinians.
Although the Palestinian Red Crescent was not permitted into the area on Wednesday, scores of people were injured by beatings, rubber bullets, and stun grenades, including an ambulance driver.

Protests drew hundreds in villages across Israel’s north on Wednesday night, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which is home to many of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who account for one-fifth of the country’s 9.6 million people. Five protestors were detained by police in the big town of Um Al-Fahm, according to police.

Fears of a larger conflagration grew as Jews began the week-long Passover festival, hundreds of Christians congregated in the Old City for Holy Thursday at the Holy Sepulcher to commemorate the Last Supper, and Muslims observed the holy month of Ramadan.

Al-Aqsa is the third holiest location in Islam and is located on the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism. Conflicting allegations have previously erupted into violence, including a devastating 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group that administers Gaza, two years ago.

Muslim leaders from around the Middle East have condemned Israel’s activities in Al-Aqsa.



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