Israeli security forces are on high alert during the holiday season amid an ongoing wave of Arab terror attacks.
By Erin Viner
Observance of the Passover festival is set to begin this evening at sundown.
The week-long Biblical festival commemorates God’s liberation of the Jewish People from slavery in ancient Egypt as depicted in the Book of Exodus. According to biblical scholars, the event occurred about 1,300 BC.
Pesach, as the spring holiday is called in Hebrew, is celebrated by at least one Seder that is typically led by a family patriarch or matriarch. Families and honored guests gather to recount the passage to freedom as written in books called the Haggadah, which closes with the prayer of marking the holiday “next year in Jerusalem” denoting the longing of the Jewish People for their homeland Israel.
Those gathered then participate in a feast featuring symbolic food. Offerings center around unleavened crackers known as matzah, since the Hebrews fled the land of Pharaoh before bread for the journey had time to rise. Other offerings include bitter herbs representing the hardship of the enslaved people dipped in salt water reflective of shed tears, and whole boiled eggs serving as reminders of the Hebrews’ unity.
As is traditional to protect the public during Jewish holidays, crossing points will be closed to Palestinians on the first and last days of the festival, although some passages will be reopened on Friday to permit Muslim worshipers from the West Bank to enter Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa for Ramadan.
Earlier today, a shooting attack was carried out toward a military post at Checkpoint 30. Hits were identified on the post. IDF soldiers who were at the scene responded with live fire, and following searches in the area, bullet casings were found.
No IDF injuries were reported, and forces continue searching the area for suspects.
Meanwhile, Islamists in the Gaza Strip fired 16 rockets at southern Israeli towns this morning. Eight were downed by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.
A 30-year-old man was lightly injured after falling while rushing to a bomb shelter, although there were no reported significant casualties. A factory in Sderot was damaged in the attack.
In retaliation, IDF fighter jets struck a military compound belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in northern Gaza Strip. The compound was used as a training facility for terrorist operatives. IDF tanks additionally struck Hamas military posts along the border of the Gaza Strip.
In Jerusalem, Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque before dawn. The action was ordered to evict dozens of masked Arabs who had barricaded themselves inside last night – in apparent preparation for a possible confrontation with Jewish worshippers on the eve of the Passover festival.
Those inside hurled rocks, shot fireworks and waved clubs at officers, who attempted to persuade them to leave in a peaceful manner. Riot police were ultimately deployed to remove the masked men.
Tensions are particularly on edge this year due to coinciding of the Jewish Passover and Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid fears that hostilities over escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence could be unleashed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. Tens of thousands of Muslims traditionally worship at the mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, throughout the month.
The Islamist Hamas terror organization in Gaza branded the police action an “unprecedented crime” and called on Palestinians in the West Bank “to go en masse to the Al-Aqsa mosque to defend it.” Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror boss Ziyad al-Nakhala also condemned the incident as a “serious threat” and called on Palestinians to prepare “for the inevitable confrontation in the coming days.”
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the Spokesman for Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, said the move “exceeds all red lines and will lead to a large explosion.”
Condemning the incident “in the strongest terms, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry warned Israel over “consequences of this dangerous escalation” and said Amman is holding Jerusalem “responsible for the safety of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The Foreign Ministries of Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia also denounced what the referred to as an Israeli intrusion into Al-Aqsa.