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Israel Retaliates After Rockets Fired From Syria, Tensions Remain High Amid Protests And Festivals

Six rockets were fired in two batches from Syria into Israel. Earlier, dozens of rockets were fired into Israel from Lebanon and Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

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Representative photo of an airstrike
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After rockets were fired into Israel from Syria, Israel on Sunday retaliated with its strikes. 

Earlier, a total of six rockets were fired into Israel from Syria in a rare attack. The attack is the latest in the multi-front assault on Israel. Earlier this week, Israel faced dozens of rockets in a barrage from Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and Palestinian elements in Lebonan. Israel responded in both the cases with airstrikes. 

The rocket attacks also come when Israel is reeling with a string of attacks and unrest at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, where Israeli security personnel and Palestinians clashed earlier this month. Israel also continues to have widespread protests against the unpopular judicial reforms proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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While a large number of these rockets fired from Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria were intercepted by Israeli air defence, some landed in Israeli territory.

What we know of Syrian rocket attacks?

The Israeli military said its forces attacked targets in Syria early Sunday after six rockets were launched from Syrian territory in two batches toward Israel in a rare attack from Israel's northeastern neighbor.

After the second barrage of three rockets, Israel initially said it responded with artillery fire into the area in Syria from where the rockets were fired. Later, the military said Israeli fighter jets attacked Syrian army sites, including a compound of Syria's 4th Division and radar and artillery posts.

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In the second barrage, which was launched early Sunday, two of the rockets crossed the border into Israel, with one being intercepted and the second landing in an open area, the Israeli military said.

In the first attack, on Saturday, one rocket landed in a field in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Fragments of another destroyed missile fell into Jordanian territory near the Syrian border, Jordan's military reported.

There were no reports of casualties.

A Damascus-based Palestinian group loyal to the Syrian regime claimed responsibility for launching the three missiles Saturday, reported Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV. The report quoted Al-Quds Brigade, a militia different than the larger Palestinian Islamic Jihad's armed wing with a similar name, as saying it fired the rockets to retaliate for the police raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In Syria, an adviser to President Bashar Assad described the rocket strikes as "part of the previous, present and continuing response to the brutal enemy".

Tensions inside Israel

Tensions are also high inside Israel as the country has suffered a string of lately. 

Earlier this week, three were killed within a span of 24 hours. A tourist was killed in Israel's Tel Aviv on Friday evening and five others were injured. Separately on the same, two Israeli women were killed in a shooting attack in West Bank and a third was injured.

Tensions have also been high over Israeli-Palestinian clashes, particularly at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. 

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In West Bank, a Palestinian man was killed in Israeli fire. Israeli security forces fatally shot a 20-year-old Palestinian in the town of Azzun, Palestinian health officials said, stirring protests in the area. The Israeli military said troops fired at Palestinians hurling stones and explosive devices. 

The past one year has already been the deadliest in Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades. Dozens of Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks inside Israel and over 90 Palestinians have died so far this year alone, including at least 45 terrorists or militants, according to an AP tally. Over the past year, Israeal has carried out frequent and near-daily raids in West Bank with the objective of clamping down on terrorist and militant presence there.

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Palestinian closure extended 

The latest escalations prompted Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant to extend a closure barring entrance to Israel for Palestinians from West Bank and Gaza for the duration of the Jewish holiday of Passover, while police beefed up forces in Jerusalem on the eve of sensitive religious celebrations.

In a separate incident in the northern West Bank city of Nablus late Saturday, a leader of the terrorist group Lion's Den claimed the group executed an alleged Israeli collaborator who had tipped off the Israeli military to the locations and movements of the group's members. Israeli security forces have targeted and killed several of the group's key members in recent months.

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The accused man's killing could not be immediately confirmed, but videos in Palestinian media showed medics and residents gathered around his bloodied body in the Old City, where the Lion's Den holds sway.

“Traitors have neither a country nor a people,” Lion's Den commander Oday Azizi said in a statement.

The moves come at a time of heightened religious fervor – with Ramadan coinciding with Passover and Easter celebrations. Jerusalem's Old City, home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, has been teeming with visitors and religious pilgrims from around the world.

Gallant said that a closure imposed last Wednesday, on the eve of Passover, would remain in effect until the holiday ends on Wednesday night.

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The order prevents Palestinians from entering Israel for work or to pray in Jerusalem this week, though mass prayers were permitted at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday.

Gallant also ordered the Israeli military to be prepared to assist Israeli police. The army later announced that it was deploying additional troops around Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

Over 2,000 police were expected to be deployed in Jerusalem on Sunday – when tens of thousands of Jews are expected to gather at the Western Wall for the special Passover priestly blessing. The Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray and sits next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where large crowds gather each day for prayers during Ramadan.

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Jerusalem police chief Doron Turgeman met with his commanders on Saturday for a security assessment. He accused the Hamas militant group, which rules the Gaza Strip, of trying to incite violence ahead of Sunday's priestly blessing with false claims that Jews planned to storm the mosque.

“We will allow the freedom of worship and we will allow the arrival of Muslims to pray,” he said, adding that police “will act with determination and sensitivity” to ensure that all faiths can celebrate safely.

(With AP inputs)

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