JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Hamas militant group of crossing a “red line” with its rocket attack on Jerusalem and promised a tough response.
He said Monday that Israel would not “tolerate an attack on our territory, in our capital, on our citizens and soldiers.” He further warned that “whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price.”
With Israel carrying out airstrikes in Gaza and militants bombarding southern Israel with rocket fire throughout the evening, Netanyahu warned that the fighting could “continue for a while.”
Air raid sirens sounded Monday, shortly after the Hamas militant group in Gaza had set a deadline for Israel to remove its security forces from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
A spokesman for Hamas’ military wing said the rocket attack was a response to what he called Israeli “crimes and aggression” in Jerusalem.
The sounds of outgoing rocket fire were heard in Gaza shortly before the sirens went off. Later, a new barrage of rockets was heard.
Also on Monday, Israeli police firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets clashed with stone-throwing Palestinians at the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.
More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, as police and protesters faced off inside the walled compound that surrounds it.
The confrontations were the latest in a series that has threatened to push the contested city toward wider conflict.
In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by ultranationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.
But tensions remained high after Monday morning’s violence.
What’s behind the clashes in Jerusalem?
Palestinian protesters and Israeli police have clashed on a daily basis for weeks in and around Jerusalem’s Old City, and the emotional epicenter of the Middle East conflict.
Jerusalem has been the scene of violent confrontations between Jews and Arabs for 100 years and remains one of the most bitterly contested cities on earth.
The latest clashes began a month ago with an Israeli move to block some Palestinian gatherings at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
After those restrictions eased, tensions over a plan to evict dozens of Palestinians from an east Jerusalem neighborhood continued to fuel confrontations.
On Monday, stun grenades echoed across a holy hilltop compound.