Rockets target Jerusalem, Israel ‘ready’ to attack

International

JODI RUDOREN, ISABEL KERSHNER & ALAN COWELL

Palestinian militants fired rockets for the first time at Jerusalem on Friday in a daring new escalation of hostilities with Israel on the third day of their latest lethal conflict over Gaza, triggering air raid sirens and panicking residents who had thought themselves secure from such attacks because of the holy city's multireligious heritage and large Palestinian population.

The Israeli authorities did not immediately confirm the origin of the rocket fire, but it was assumed that the source was Gaza, where Palestinian militant group Hamas and its radical affiliates have amassed arsenals of smuggled rockets with increased ranges and more accurate trajectories in recent years. On Thursday, they launched at least two at Tel Aviv, Israel's biggest city, for the first time, and on Friday launched more as part of a response to a large-scale aerial assault by the Israelis on targets in Gaza and indications that Israel was close to launching its first ground invasion there in four years.

Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, had been previously thought off-limits to rocket attacks by militant Palestinians and others who reject Israel's claim to the city as its capital. Even Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, had avoided targeting the city when he aimed Scud missiles at Israel during the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. The city is about 48 miles from the Gaza border.

The police in Jerusalem said no rockets fell within city limits, but one crashed harmlessly near a Jewish West Bank settlement just south of Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem rocket attack came hours after scores of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, striking major cities of the south, causing widespread panic and damage and shattering plans for a temporary cease-fire during a remarkable visit to Gaza by the Egyptian prime minister that showed the shifting dynamics of Middle East politics since the turmoil of the Arab Spring uprisings.

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