Palestinian terrorists fired at least 36 rockets from Gaza into Israeli communities overnight Friday, in one of the worst rounds of cross-border violence in months, setting off sirens across the south and sending residents scrambling for bomb shelters.
The rocket sirens blared throughout the night in the Eshkol, Sha'ar HaNegev, Sdot Negev and Hof Ashkelon regional councils and on Saturday morning they sounded in the city of Ashkelon as well.
The IDF said its aircraft and tanks retaliated by striking multiple targets belonging to Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, including rocket launchers, unspecified underground infrastructure and a military base.
On Saturday morning, the IDF lifted security restrictions and said that residents of the south could return to their normal routine.
Hamas said the rockets were fired in response to the recent clashes between Arabs and Jews in East Jerusalem.
The Hamas military wing warned Israel "not to test" its patience shortly before the rocket fire began.
"The new Zionist aggression on the Gaza Strip is a desperate attempt to break the willpower of our people and its continued resilience," Hamas stated following the IDF strikes in Gaza.
"Our people and its resistance are united with our people in Jerusalem in their campaign against the Zionist occupation and in their defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque."
The terrorist group did not claim responsibility for any of the rocket fire, a small paramilitary group affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said it fired some of the projectiles.
Throughout Friday night, thousands marched across the Gaza Strip to call on the militant groups in the Strip to continue firing the rockets.
In response to the rocket fire, Shaar HaNegev Regional Council leader Ofir Libstein said: "The rocket fire during the night reminds us that the peace is temporary and fragile. This morning we located a strike within the grounds of [a] kibbutz and miraculously there were no casualties."
Gadi Yarkoni, head of Eshkol Regional Council, added that, "as far as we know, the attacks took place in response to the events in Jerusalem. The unbearable ease with which the Gaza organizations permit themselves to fire at adjacent Israeli localities to try to harm civilians is outrageous."
In Jerusalem, tensions have been higher than usual during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Protests turned violent on Thursday with scores of arrests and injuries.
The unrest resumed on Friday night, when Arab youths gathered outside the walled Old City and scuffled with hundreds of Israeli police in riot gear.
The protesters pelted stones at police firing water cannons while others hurled rocks at an Israeli court building and smashed security cameras.
The Palestine Red Crescent said eight Palestinians were injured. Israeli police said the unrest later extended to a nearby Palestinian neighborhood with Palestinians hurling fire-bombs at officers and throwing stones at Israeli vehicles and homes.
Three Palestinians were arrested and four officers were injured.
In the West Bank, Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops around military checkpoints near West Bank cities. The Border Police said it dispersed hundreds hurling stones and fire-bombs.
First published: 09:56, 04.24.21