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Israel strikes Lebanon, Gaza after rocket salvo from Lebanese soil

#Israel #strikes #Lebanon #Gaza #rocket #salvo #Lebanese #soil

Israel launched air strikes before dawn on Friday in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, saying it was targeting Hamas in retaliation for several dozen rockets fired at Israel from both territories. 

The strikes were launched around 4:30 am Israeli time (0130 GMT), hitting both the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon, according to an Israeli army statement. 

Explosions were heard by AFP in Lebanon’s Tyre region as well as the Gaza Strip, where Israeli air raids had begun before midnight. 

Tensions have soared between Israel and Palestinians during what is both the Jewish Passover and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, prompting condemnations and calls for restraint from abroad.

The latest flare-up of violence comes after Israeli police clashed Wednesday with Palestinians inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque — Islam’s third-holiest site.

On Thursday, Israel’s army said 34 rockets had been fired from Lebanese territory into Israel in the largest escalation along the frontier since Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006.

Army spokesman Lt. Colonel Richard Hecht blamed Palestinian groups for the attack.

“We know for sure it’s Palestinian fire,” he told reporters. “It could be Hamas, it could be Islamic Jihad, we are still trying to finalise, but it wasn’t Hezbollah.

“Israel’s response, tonight and in the future, will exact a heavy price,” Netanyahu said Friday just before the army announced the strikes in Lebanon.

He was speaking after a meeting with his security cabinet, which the presidential office said had “made a series of decisions, all of which were based on the recommendations of the (Israel Defence Forces)… in response to the firing at the citizens of Israel in both the north and the south”.

“Israel’s defence establishment is prepared to face any threat, on any front,” Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said.  

AFP journalists in Lebanon’s Tyre region said they heard at least three explosions shortly after the Israeli army announced the Friday strikes, and a resident of a Palestinian camp near there said he “heard explosions”.

“At least two shells fell near the camp”, Abu Ahmad told AFP. 

– ‘A response’ to Hamas –

After the rockets from Lebanon on Thursday, AFP journalists heard explosions ringing out in the Gaza Strip. 

The Israeli army said in a statement it had hit two tunnels and “two weapon manufacturing sites” belonging to Hamas “as a response to the security violations of Hamas during the last few days.”

The raid was followed by several missiles fired from Gaza towards Israel — which the Israeli army said its air defence systems intercepted 25 of the rockets fired, while five landed in Israeli territory.

The Israeli army said its air defence systems intercepted 25 of the rockets fired and five landed in Israeli territory.

In a statement, Hamas said Israel was “responsible for this aggression and its consequences” and called for all Palestinian groups to unite against “the occupation”.

– Lebanon rejects ‘escalation’-

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said he rejected any “escalation” from his country after the rocket attack.

Israeli emergency services reported one man lightly wounded by shrapnel and a woman injured while running to a shelter during the attack.

Inspecting his damaged office in the town of Shlomi, 46-year-old Shlomi Naaman told AFP: “I heard the siren, I heard the boom, I was in my home, it was very, very scary.”

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which patrols the border area between the two countries that are technically still at war, urged restraint.

“Given the volatile and dangerous situation, per standard protocol, civilian and military staff were ordered to seek shelter in bunkers on their bases,” the UN force added.

The Israeli army earlier denied reports from Lebanon’s National News Agency that it had struck targets in southern Lebanon.

According to the Lebanon report, Israeli artillery fired “several shells from its positions on the border” towards the outskirts of two villages after the launch of “several Katyusha type rockets” at Israel.

– Al-Aqsa clashes –

Israeli riot police had on Wednesday stormed the prayer hall of Al-Aqsa mosque in a pre-dawn raid aiming to dislodge “law-breaking youths and masked agitators” they said had barricaded themselves inside.

The violence, during both the Jewish Passover and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, sparked an exchange of rockets and air strikes with militants in the Gaza Strip.

The US said it recognised “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against all forms of aggression”, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

UN chief Antonio Guterres condemned the rocket fire from Lebanon, calling on “all actors to exercise maximum restraint”.

France condemned what it called “indiscriminate rocket fire targeting Israeli territory from Gaza and southern Lebanon”.

Lebanon’s Iran-backed armed movement Hezbollah had warned earlier Thursday it would support “all measures” that Palestinian groups may take against Israel after the clashes. 

The Lebanese group has close ties with the Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, and with the Islamic Jihad militant group, which is also based in the coastal enclave. 

The rockets came a day after Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Lebanon for a visit.

Haniyeh late Thursday said the Palestinians would not “sit with their arms crossed” in the face of Israeli “aggression” against Al-Aqsa.

He called in a statement on “all Palestinian organisations to unify their ranks and intensify their resistance against the Zionist occupation (Israel)”.

The last rocket fired from Lebanon into Israel was in April 2022. 


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