A Syrian surface-to-air missile exploded in southern Israel on Thursday (22 April), the Israeli military said, in an incident that triggered warning sirens in an area near the secretive Dimona nuclear reactor.
There were no immediate reports of any injuries or damage in Israel.
The military said that in response to the launch, it attacked several missile batteries in Syria, including the one that fired the projectile that struck its territory.
Syria's state news agency said Syrian air defences intercepted the Israeli attack that targeted areas in the Damascus suburbs.
"Air defences intercepted the rockets and downed most of them," the agency said.
However, four soldiers were injured in the attack and some material damage took place, it said.
A Syrian military defector said the Israeli strikes targeted locations near the town of Dumair, some 40 km northeast of Damascus, where Iranian-backed militias have a presence. It is an area that Israel has hit repeatedly in past attacks
An Israeli military spokesman said the Syrian missile had been fired at Israeli aircraft during an earlier strike and had overflown its target and reached the Dimona area.
The errant Syrian missile was an SA-5, one of several fired at Israeli air force planes, according to the spokesman. It did not hit the reactor, landing some 30km (19 miles) away, he added.
A Reuters reporter about 90 km (56 miles) north of Dimona heard the sound of an explosion minutes before the military tweeted that sirens had gone off in the region.
Israeli media have said for weeks that air defences around the Dimona reactor and the Red Sea port Eilat were being beefed up in anticipation of a possible long-range missile or drone attack by Iranian-backed forces - perhaps from as far away as Yemen.
Tensions are high between Israel and Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme and a recent surge in sabotage attacks, some of which the arch-foes have blamed on each other.
Early on Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Houthis intercepted a drone attack by the Iran-aligned movement on the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, state media reported.
EU, US and Quartet express concern over the rise in tensions and violence in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza border
Arab rioters clashed with Israeli police on Saturday outside Jerusalem’s Old City in violence that threatened to deepen the holy city’s worst religious unrest in several years. Riots also erupted in Hebron and along the Gaza security fence, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.
Early Sunday, the Israeli army said Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at the country’s south that fell in an open area. In response, aircraft struck a Hamas military post. There were no reports of casualties in either attack.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and opposes Israel’s existence, has called for a new intifada, or uprising.
Late Saturday, several dozen protesters gathered along Gaza’s volatile frontier with Israel, burning tires and throwing small explosives at israeli soldiers. Israeli forces fired tear gas at the crowd.
According to the Palestine Red Crescent, more than 60 people were wounded in the clashes in Jerusalem on Saturday.
Israel Police chief Koby Shabtai said he had deployed more police in Jerusalem following Friday night’s clashes, which left 18 police officers wounded. After weeks of nightly violence, Israelis and east Jerusalem Arabs were bracing for more conflict in the coming days.
“The right to demonstrate will be respected but public disturbances will be met with force and zero tolerance. I call on everyone to act responsibly and with restraint,” Shabtai said.
A large crowd of protesters chanted “God is great” outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, and some pelted police with rocks and water bottles. Police patrols fired stun grenades as they moved through the area, and a police truck periodically fired a water cannon.
In a statement, the European Union called on authorities ‘’to act urgently to de-escalate the current tensions in Jerusalem. Acts of incitement around the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif must be avoided and the status quo has to be respected.’’
‘’Political, religious and community leaders on all sides should show restraint and responsibility and make every effort to calm down this volatile situation,’’ the statement added.
‘’The situation with regard to the evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas of East Jerusalem is also of serious concern. Such actions are illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground,’’ the EU said. .
The United States also said it is ‘’extremely concerned’’ about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah.
State Departement spokesperson Ned Price issued a statement saying: ‘’There is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan. This includes Friday’s attack on Israeli soldiers and reciprocal ‘price tag’ attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, which we condemn in no uncertain terms.’’
He added, ‘’we call on Israeli and Palestinian officials to act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence. It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount – in word and in practice. Leaders across the spectrum must denounce all violent acts. Security services must ensure the safety of all of Jerusalem’s residents and hold all perpetrators to account.’’
‘’We are also deeply concerned about the potential eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem, many of whom have lived in their homes for generations. As we have consistently said, it is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace. This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism,’’ he added.
The spokesperson said the State Department was in touch with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders to work to deescalate the situation. ‘’We also urge the authorities to approach the residents of Sheikh Jarrah with compassion and respect, and consider the totality of these complex historical cases and how they impact real lives today.’’
In a joint press statement, the Middle East Quartet envoys from the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations, said they are ‘’closely monitoring the situation in East Jerusalem, including in the Old City and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.’’
‘’The envoys express deep concern over the daily clashes and violence in East Jerusalem, in particular last night’s confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount. We are alarmed by the provocative statements made by some political groups, as well as the launching of rockets and the resumption of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel, and attacks on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank.’’
The statement added, ‘’The envoys noted with serious concern possible evictions of Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for generations in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and voice opposition to unilateral actions, which will only escalate the already tense environment.’’
The envoys called upon the Israeli authorities ‘’to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation during this period of Muslim Holy Days.’’
‘’We call on all sides to uphold and respect the status quo at the holy sites. All leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement. In this context, the Quartet Envoys reiterated their commitment to a negotiated two state solution,’’ the statement concluded.
The current wave of protests broke out at the beginning of Ramadan three weeks ago when Israel restricted gatherings at a popular meeting spot outside Jerusalem’s Old City. Israel removed the restrictions, briefly calming the situation, but protests have reignited in recent days over threatened evictions in east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The Israeli foreign ministry has accused the Palestinians of seizing on the threatened evictions, which it described as a “real-estate dispute between private parties,” in order to incite violence.
Other recent developments also contributed to the tense atmosphere, including the postponement of Palestinian elections, deadly violence in which yeshiva student Yehuda Guetta, 19, was murdered in a shooting attack at Tapuah junction last week, and three armed terrorists opened fire at a Border Police base in northern Samaria.
Fearing the situation could escalate further, the Israeli army’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi ordered a comprehensive reinforcement of the units already operating in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
Speaking on the riots and clashes in his city, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon insisted that “there is no connection between Sheikh Jarrah and the Temple Mount, in Sheikh Jarrah this is a property dispute. This is an unprecedented incitement by the Palestinian Authority that is trying to lead to violence and unnecessary acts.”
“The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are trying to ignite Jerusalem, this is the problem and it needs to be addressed. It happens every year. There is no doubt that we all need to act to calm down and have zero violence, and we have zero tolerance for violence. The ministers are doing everything to calm the situation down.”
Israeli diplomats have contacted officials in Jordan and Egypt in an effort to get them to pressure the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas to cease inciting violence.
In a call to Palestine TV on Friday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas praised the “courageous stand” of the protesters and said Israel bore full responsibility for the violence. Abbas last week postponed planned parliamentary elections, citing Israeli restrictions in east Jerusalem as an excuse for the delay.
At a special cabinet meeting on Sunday, at Jerusalem City Hall to mark Jerusalem Day, the reunification of the city since 54 years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin addressed the ‘’violent disturbances in Jerusalem under the influence of agitators.’’
‘’We will not allow any extremist element to undermine the quiet in Jerusalem. We will uphold law and order – vigorously and responsibly. We will continue to guard freedom of worship for all faiths but we will not allow violent disturbances,’’ he said.
‘’Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years. Our roots in Jerusalem go back to Biblical times. Our continuous link with Jerusalem has been maintained in all generations.’’
‘’When one looks back over thousands of years of Jewish rule and the foreign rule, and today again under the state of the Jews, only under the sovereignty of Israel has full and consistent freedom of worship been ensured for all faiths, and thus we will continue,’’ Netanyahu said.
‘’We emphatically reject the pressures not to build in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, these pressures have been increasing of late. I say to our best friends as well: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Just as every people builds its capital and in its capital, so too do we reserve the right to build Jerusalem and in Jerusalem.’’
Borrell condemns violence in Sheikh Jarrah, says Israel’s actions are illegal under international humanitarian law
Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels today (10 April) discussed the situation in Jerusalem and the postponement of Palestinian elections. EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that ministers were deeply concerned over the recent clashes and violence in and around the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah in East Jersusalem where Israeli forces are forcing Palestinian residents from their homes.
Borrell called for the full respect of the status quo of the holy sites. Ministers also said: "Political, religious and community leaders on all sides should show restraint and responsibility and make every effort to calm down this volatile situation."
In response to attacks from Gaza this afternoon, German foreign minister Heiko Maas tweeted: "All sides have a duty to prevent further civilian casualties."
On Sheikh Jarrah, Borrell reminded Israel that its actions are illegal under international humanitarian law and fuel tensions on the ground. He described the decision to stop Jewish worshippers from accessing the esplanade as a positive one that could calm the situation.
Borrell said that the EU had been pushing the Palestinian Authorities to hold elections but that Israel not allowing the holding of the elections in East Jerusalem has led them to opt for a further delay.
South African political parties and civil society plan mass Palestine protest march
South African political parties and civil society will be uniting in a Palestine protest march to take place this week in Cape Town. The Palestine protest march is being organized by, among others, the Muslim Judicial Council, Al Quds Foundation, National Coalition 4 Palestine (NC4P), the ANC, GoodParty, Economic Freedom Fighters, SACP, ANC Youth League, NFP, Al Jamaah, Kairos Southern Africa, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and #Africa4Palestine. To this end a protest notification submission has been made to the City of Cape Town and we are awaiting the outcome of the application. The organizers are committed to adhering to all COVID-19 protocols. Organizations that would like to endorse and form part of the mass Palestine protest can contact the MJC, Al Quds Foundation or #Africa4Palestine. Final details, upon approval from the City of Cape Town, of the Mass Palestine Protest March will be made public tomorrow (Tuesday 11 May).
On Friday and Saturday nights (7-8 May), Israeli forces stormed the AlAqsa mosque attacking worshippers who were praying. Hundreds of Palesintinian civilians were left injured, with several losing their eyes . Israeli forces have recently resorted to shooting directly in the face. One Palestinian youth had to have both his eyes removed (see image above). One Palestinian has also been killed. The weekend violence by Israeli forces against Palestinians comes on the back of the forced removals currently underway in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah where Israeli extremists are forcibly removing Palestinian families from their homes. So far several families have already lost their homes to Israeli vigilantes who have, in the dark of night, illegally entered the homes of Palestinian families and unlawfully evicted them. The crime of the Palestinian - they are the wrong ethnicity.
Click here for a short 25 minute video explaning what is happening in the area.
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