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Israel tensions rise

Israel downs Gaza rocket, admonishes Jordan as Jerusalem tensions simmer

epa09891919 Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters protest following clashes at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound between Israeli police and Palestinians, east of Gaza City, 15 April 2022. According to Palestinian medical sources, at least 150 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes. According to Israeli police, forces entered the compound to remove stones and prevent violence. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER

JERUSALEM, April 18 (Reuters) - Israel shot down a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip on Monday, the Israeli military said, the first such attack in months as tensions over a flashpoint Jerusalem shrine drew angry pro-Palestinian rhetoric from Jordan and U.S. mediation efforts.

By Dan Williams

No Gaza faction claimed responsibility for the rocket, which Israel said its Iron Dome interceptor shot down. Gaza’s dominant Palestinian Islamic faction Hamas had warned of reprisals for Israeli conduct around Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque compound.

Since Friday, the site – also revered by Jews as vestige of two ancient temples – has seen confrontations between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli riot police recalling violence that helped fan a Gaza war one year ago. Read full story

Palestinians accuse Israel of encroaching at Al Aqsa during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israel says Palestinian protesters seek to disrupt Muslim prayer for political ends and to prevent visits by Jews, who are now celebrating Passover.

The tensions complicate Israel’s security ties with Jordan, which is custodian of Al Aqsa and has a Palestinian majority.

Jordan’s King Abdullah told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Israel’s Al Aqsa policy “seriously undermines” chances of it making peace with the Palestinians, Amman said. Jordan also summoned Israel’s acting ambassador for a reprimand.

Escalating the rhetoric, Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh told parliament: “I must laud … those throwing their stones at all of those Zionists who desecrate Al Aqsa mosque with the protection of the Israeli occupation government.”

Several passengers were injured when Israeli buses they were traveling on to Jerusalem’s Old City were stoned by Palestinians on Sunday, police said, adding that Al Aqsa protesters have been stockpiling rocks for attacks on Jewish visitors and police.

At least 152 Palestinians and eight police were injured around Al Aqsa during Friday’s confrontations, medics said.

“I view with gravity the statements blaming Israel for the violence that we are being subjected to. Some are encouraging stone-throwing,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in video statement issued after al-Khasawneh televised remarks.

“This serves as a prize for the inciters, chiefmost Hamas, who are trying to ignite violence here in Jerusalem,” he said.

In Washington, the State Department said U.S. officials

engaged in phone calls with Israelis, Palestinians and Arab

representatives over the weekend in an effort to prevent an escalation of the Jerusalem tensions. Read full story

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