Israeli Defense Forces launch West Bank raid targeting Palestinian militants

Israeli fighter jets strike Hamas weapons facility after violence, 350 arrested at Jerusalem holy site

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The Israeli Defense Forces launched an airstrike on a Hamas weapons facility on Wednesday, following a series of back-and-forth agitations between Israeli officials and Palestinians earlier in the day, officials said.

“Fighter jets recently attacked a site for the production of weapons and another site for the production and storage of weapons used by the terrorist organization Hamas in the center of the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement.

According to the Israeli military, the attack was in retaliation for a volley of rockets being fired at them from the Gaza Strip.

“This attack constitutes an injury to the ability of the terrorist organization Hamas to strengthen and arm itself,” the IDF statement added.

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A Palestinian worshipper sweeps debris after a raid by Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 5, 2023.  (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Earlier Wednesday, as worshipers gathered in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli police stormed into the Al-Aqsa Mosque to arrest alleged Palestinian agitators. Israeli police said they moved in after “several law-breaking youths and masked agitators” barricaded themselves into the mosque and began chanting violent slogans.

The suspects also brought fireworks, sticks and stones, which were later used on the Israeli police, officials said.

The police ended the disruption at the Jerusalem holy site — an area where religious practices are observed by Palestinians and Israeli people — by using rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the youthful crowds.

“After many and prolonged attempts to get them out by talking to no avail, police forces were forced to enter the compound in order to get them out,” police said.

Palestinian worshippers pray during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following a raid by Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 5, 2023. 

Palestinian worshippers pray during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following a raid by Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 5, 2023.  (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Police said some 350 people were arrested. One officer was injured in the leg, they said.

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In response, Palestinian militants launched a barrage of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, setting off-air raid sirens in the region. The rockets subsequently prompted the Israeli airstrikes.

The Israeli military said five rockets were fired, all of which were intercepted.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both Palestinian militant groups, called for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel to protest around the Al-Aqsa Mosque and confront Israeli forces.

Hamas also called for protesters to head for the Gaza-Israel border for additional violent demonstrations.

A Palestinian worshipper is led away by Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following a raid in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Wednesday, April 5, 2023. 

A Palestinian worshipper is led away by Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following a raid in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Wednesday, April 5, 2023.  (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The fighting comes as Muslims mark the holiday month of Ramadan and Jewish people prepare to begin the weeklong Passover holiday at sundown on Wednesday.

The dispute is reminiscent of similar clashes two years ago, which escalated into an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas terrorist group in Gaza.

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A separate incident in the occupied West Bank left one soldier shot, the Israeli military said.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque sits on a hilltop considered a holy site for Jewish people and Muslims.

Israeli Border Police are deployed near the Lions' Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem during a raid by police of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Wednesday, April 5, 2023. 

Israeli Border Police are deployed near the Lions’ Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem during a raid by police of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Wednesday, April 5, 2023.  (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

It is the third-holiest site in Islam and is regularly packed with worshipers during Ramadan.

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Jewish and Christian people refer to the location as the Temple Mount, also the holiest site in Judaism. The conflicting claim over the site fuel constant tensions that often erupt into violence.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said dozens of worshippers were injured in the police raid.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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