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State Department spokesperson Ned Price held a news briefing on Monday as tensions soar in Israel.
Watch Price’s remarks in the player above.
Palestinian militants fired a rocket into southern Israel for the first time in months on Monday, in another escalation after clashes at a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, a series of deadly attacks inside Israel and military raids across the occupied West Bank.
Israel said it intercepted the rocket, and there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. Israel holds Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers responsible for all such projectiles and usually launches airstrikes in their wake. It was the first such rocket fire since New Year’s Eve.
Hours earlier, the leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, which boasts an arsenal of rockets, had issued a brief, cryptic warning, condemning Israeli “violations” in Jerusalem.
Ziad al-Nakhala, who is based outside the Palestinian territories, said threats to tighten an Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza imposed after Hamas seized power 15 years ago “can’t silence us from what’s happening in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.”
Palestinians and Israeli police clashed over the weekend in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, which has long been an epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian violence. It is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because the mosque stands on a hilltop where the Jewish temples were located in antiquity.
Protests and clashes there this time last year helped trigger an 11-day Gaza war.
Police said they were responding to Palestinian stone-throwing and that they were committed to ensuring that Jews, Christians and Muslims — whose major holidays are converging this year — could celebrate them safely in the Holy Land. Palestinians view the presence of Israeli police at the site as a provocation and said they used excessive force.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday, ahead of the rocket fire, that Israel has been the target of a “Hamas-led incitement campaign.”
The latest tensions come during the rare confluence of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover. Christians are also celebrating their holy week leading up to Easter. Tens of thousands of visitors have flocked to Jerusalem’s Old City — home to major holy sites for all three faiths — for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
READ MORE: Israeli troops raid West Bank, leave 2 Palestinians wounded
Jordan and Egypt, which made peace with Israel decades ago and coordinate with it on security matters, have condemned its actions at the mosque. Jordan — which serves as custodian of the site — summoned Israel’s charge d’affaires on Monday in protest.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II discussed the violence with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, agreeing on “the need to stop all illegal and provocative Israeli measures” there, according to a statement. Jordan planned to convene a meeting of other Arab states on the issue.
Israel has been working to improve relations with Jordan over the past year and has recently normalized relations with other Arab states. But the latest tensions have brought renewed attention to the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians, which Israel has sought to sideline in recent years.
The U.S. State Department urged all sides to “exercise restraint, to avoid provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo” at the holy site. Spokesman Ned Price said U.S. officials were in touch with counterparts across the region to try and calm tensions.
U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed-door meeting on the tensions for Tuesday.
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