(CNSNews.com) – Israel’s embattled prime minister pledged on Monday evening to restore security after a turbulent few days saw violent clashes on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, deadly acts of terrorism, and cross-border rocket fire including the biggest barrage from Lebanon since the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.
In a televised press conference, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also announced the reversal of his earlier decision to fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over differences about the government’s contentious plan – currently suspended – to overhaul the judiciary.
Netanyahu said he had decided to set aside the differences between the two. “Gallant remains in his post, and we will continue to work together for the safety of the citizens of Israel.”
The prime minister, whose opinion poll numbers have dropped sharply amid mass public protests against the proposed judicial changes, vowed the government would re-establish security “on all fronts.”
Following last week’s skirmishes at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, militants fired rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, from southern Lebanon, and from Syria.
Hezbollah has typically been responsible for rocket attacks into Israel from southern Lebanon – an area largely under the control of the Iran-backed Shi’ite terrorist group – but Israel blamed Hamas for the attack from its northern neighbor’s territory.
More than 30 rockets were aimed at towns and villages in northern Israel. Although air defenses intercepted most of them, at least five landed inside Israel, causing minor injuries.
Israel retaliated with air strikes against terror targets in Lebanon and Gaza, and drone and artillery strikes inside Syria.
A day after the rocket fire from Lebanon, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah met in Beirut with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to discuss further cooperation among the components of the Iran-led “axis of resistance” against Israel.
Photos of the meeting posted by Hezbollah media showed them seated in front of portraits of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, underlining the fact the Iranian regime is the guide and benefactor of both terrorist groups, one Shi’ite, the other Sunni.
Netanyahu said at the press conference that Israel will not allow Hamas “to establish itself in Lebanon.”
Responding to Netanyahu’s remarks, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said on Monday that his “threats against our Palestinian people, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran prove that the occupying regime is a menace to the entire region and its interests.“
He said the comments “cannot frighten our Palestinian people,” who would “continue the battle to defend the identity of al-Aqsa mosque in the face of the religious war waged by the enemy.”
The Islamic fasting month of Ramadan this year overlapped both Passover, the week-long Jewish festival that ends at sunset on Thursday, and Easter.
Despite Qassem’s “religious war” claims, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have visited and prayed at the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest, since Ramadan began on March 22, largely without incident.
Last Tuesday, however, Israeli police clashed with that they described as “law-breaking and masked juveniles” who had barricaded themselves inside a prayer hall at the flashpoint site.
After the clashes Hamas and another Iran-backed terrorist organization, Islamic Jihad, called on Palestinians to gather and confront the Israelis.
In addition to the rocket attacks, Palestinian gunmen shot and killed two British-Israeli sisters aged 16 and 20 and seriously injured their mother as they drove in the Jordan Valley on Friday. After causing the car to crash, the attackers went up to the vehicle and opened fire at close range, according to investigators cited by Israeli media. The girls’ mother died in a Jerusalem hospital on Monday.
Also on Friday, an Italian tourist was killed and seven people were injured in a car-ramming attack near a beachside boardwalk in Tel Aviv.
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs scholars Jonathan Ruhe and Ari Cicurel said the rocket attacks from Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria “reflected unprecedented coordination among Iran-backed terrorist groups that surround Israel, led by Hamas with Hezbollah’s assent, as well as these groups’ growing abilities to launch rapid and large multi-front projectile barrages.”
“This assault seeks to gauge Israel’s readiness to respond – and more generally to erode Israeli deterrence – amid Israel’s perceived weakness and distractions from internal tensions, Tehran’s emergence from its regional isolation, and uncertainties about America’s commitments to Israel and Middle East security,” they wrote.
The Iranian regime has stepped up its anti-Israel rhetoric in recent days, with the defense ministry on Monday predicted the coming “collapse of the flimsy power of this shaky regime.”
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called on Muslim nations to strengthen cooperation and form a united front against Israel, in support of the Palestinians. Raisi also spoke by phone to Tehran’s close ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad and, according to Iranian state media, said that support for the “axis of resistance” was growing.
Last week, Khamenei noted with satisfaction concerns raised by senior Israeli officials about the impact internal divisions were having on Israel’s cohesion and security.
In his press conference remarks, Netanyahu criticized his political opponents for their warnings about Israel facing potential collapse.
“When you declare that Israel is collapsing, how do you think our enemies interpret this? They hear this and see this,” he said. “They believe they can take us on, with combined terror from Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza.”
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