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Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel said it would close its only crossing point from the Gaza Strip for workers on Sunday in response to overnight rocket fire, stopping before carrying out retaliatory strikes in an apparent attempt to ease tensions.
The rocket attacks on Friday night and Saturday morning followed days of clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and a month of deadly violence.
The unrest – which comes as the Jewish holiday of Passover coincides with the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan – has sparked international fears of conflict, a year after similar violence led to an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza-based activists.
“Following the firing of rockets into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip last night, it has been decided that crossings into Israel for merchants and workers from Gaza via the Erez crossing will not be permitted next Sunday. “, COGAT, a unit of the Israeli Ministry of Defense responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said in a statement on Saturday.
Two rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Friday evening, one hitting the Jewish state and the other falling next to a residential building in northern Gaza, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.
A third rocket was fired into Israel on Saturday morning, the military said, with no air raid sirens activated for any of the launches.
They followed rocket attacks on Wednesday and Thursday, and came as Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters at Al-Aqsa Mosque, leaving at least one man hospitalized in serious condition.
Israel had responded to these attacks with airstrikes, but in an apparent desire to prevent further violence, it shifted its response this time to the painful economic measure of closing Erez, implying that further rockets would prolong the sadness.
“The reopening of the crossing point will be decided in accordance with an assessment of the security situation,” COGAT added in its statement.
More than 200 people, mostly Palestinians, were injured in clashes in and around Al-Aqsa last week.
Palestinians were outraged by the massive deployment of Israeli police and repeated visits by Jews to the holy site.
Early Friday, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said 57 people were injured after police stormed the compound of the Old City of East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel, when Palestinians began throwing stones to the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.
And after the midday prayer, some Muslim worshipers chanted “incitement” and tried to damage a police station, police said, using a drone to spray tear gas from the air, reporters from the AFP.
Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism where it is known as the Temple Mount.
By long-standing convention, Jews are allowed to visit under certain conditions but are not allowed to pray there.
The escalating unrest has sparked concern from the United Nations, which on Thursday demanded an investigation into the actions of the Israeli police.
“The use of force by the Israeli police which has caused widespread injury to worshipers and staff in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound must be promptly, impartially, independently investigated. and transparent,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner. for human rights.
© 2022 AFP