Israel-Gaza exchange rocket fire as Jerusalem clashes intensify

Israel carried out strikes targeting Hamas positions in the besieged Gaza Strip as evening clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians continued in Jerusalem.

Palestinian news agency Maan said Israeli army tanks near the fortified fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel launched attacks towards the enclave on Saturday. No injuries were reported.

The Israeli army said it hit underground infrastructure and rocket launchers in Gaza “in response to rockets fired at Israel throughout the night”.

It said some rockets exploded before reaching Israel and others were intercepted by its air defence system.

Hamas did not claim responsibility for the rocket attacks, but a small military formation affiliated with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said it fired some of the missiles.

The attacks come as tensions in occupied East Jerusalem soar. Armed Israeli police scuffled with Palestinians over a ban on gatherings and anger fuelled by videos of attacks.

On Thursday, police barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather in large numbers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, sparking confrontations outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City.

Tensions were also fuelled by the arrival of far-right Israeli Jewish groups at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs”.

Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, condemned the “police and settlers’ attack on Palestinians in Jerusalem” in his sermon and called for worshippers to remain calm and not to give the other side an excuse to storm the compound.

The sprawling hilltop compound has seen clashes on a number of occasions over the years and was the epicentre of the 2000 Palestinian uprising.

The impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007, after Hamas took over the coastal enclave.

Hamas and Israel reached an agreement at the end of September last year to cease hostilities, although attacks have continued.

Hamas has accused Israel of not fully complying with the deal. Israel, which deems Hamas a “terrorist” organisation, shuns direct negotiations and has never publicly acknowledged the truce.

Israel has launched three offensives against the Gaza Strip since 2008, and there have been numerous flare-ups.