Situation Report: Israel-Gaza tensions flare following uptick in terror and rocket attacks

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The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a series of airstrikes on April 21 in response to a wave of rocket fire from Gaza-based terrorists in the largest exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas since the 2021 11-day war. This new rocket fire from Gaza follows heightened tensions over Jerusalem holy sites and a surge of terror attacks that have killed 14 Israelis over the span of a few weeks.

On April 20th, a rocket launched from Gaza struck a neighborhood in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. A widely circulated video shows Israel’s Iron Dome missile and rocket defense system intercepting several attacks. Within hours, the IDF responded with airstrikes targeting a tunnel complex reportedly “containing raw chemicals used for the manufacturing of rocket engines, “ in central Gaza.

Following the tense exchange of fire, the Hamas terror group encouraged Palestinians to “mobilize” for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The hilltop shrine in the Old City, which saw a large number of visitors this month as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincided with Passover, remains a focus point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the Israeli police, dozens of masked rioters this week stormed the mosque, sealed off the doors and begun throwing rocks and fireworks at officers. The police responded with stun grenades to clear the site. Palestinians have accused the police of using excessive force, while the police insist rioters are desecrating their own shrine. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 158 people were injured in the clashes and police confirmed around 400 were arrested.

Hamas’ incitement following the exchange of rocket fire mirrored the rhetoric of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s leadership. In a speech to the Jordanian parliament, the country’s Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh praised “every Palestinian and Jordanian Islamic Wakf (religious trust) worker who stands tall like a turret and those who throw rocks at the pro-Zionists who are defiling al-Aksa Mosque while under the security of the Israeli occupation government.” Jordan’s King Abdullah blamed Israel’s “unilateral” actions “and provocative acts” against Muslim worshippers for undermining peace.

While it is typical for Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations to incite violence in Israel, Jordan’s perceived endorsement is alarming.

“In the last month, terrorist activity against Israel has been on the rise: 14 Israelis were murdered in terror attacks. Palestinians chose to violently riot at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Terrorists in Gaza launched multiple rockets into Israel—including last night,” the IDF tweeted on April 21.

In early April, a gunman opened fire into a packed bar at the start of the Israeli weekend in central Tel Aviv, killing 3 civilians. In March, a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire in a busy street, killing 5 people. A few days before that, a pair of gunmen murdered 2 police officers in the northern city of Hadera and a lone assailant murdered 4 people in a car ramming and stabbing attack in the south.

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