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Israel strikes Lebanon, Gaza after rocket salvo from Lebanon

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

According to an Israeli army statement, the strikes began around 4:30 a.m. Israeli time (0130 GMT) and targeted both the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon.

AFP reported hearing explosions in Lebanon’s Tyre region as well as the Gaza Strip, where Israeli air raids began before midnight.

Tensions between Israel and Palestinians have risen during the Jewish Passover and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, prompting condemnations and calls for restraint from around the world.

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

The Israeli army said on Thursday that more than 30 rockets were fired from Lebanese territory into Israel, the largest escalation along the border since Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006.

Lt. Colonel Richard Hecht, an Army spokesman, blamed Palestinian groups for the attack, saying they knew “for sure it’s Palestinian fire.”

“Israel’s response, tonight and in the future, will exact a heavy price,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said just before the army announced the strikes in Lebanon on Friday.
He was speaking after a meeting with his security cabinet, which, according to the presidential office, “made a series of decisions, all of which were based on the recommendations of the (Israel Defense Forces) in response to the firing at Israeli citizens in both the north and the south.”

“Israel’s defense establishment is ready to face any threat on any front,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.

AFP journalists in Lebanon’s Tyre region reported hearing at least three explosions shortly after the strikes on Friday, and a resident of a Palestinian refugee camp nearby reported hearing “explosions.”

According to Abu Ahmad, “At least two shells fell near the camp.”

‘A Reaction’ to Hamas

Following the launch of rockets from Lebanon into Israeli territory on Thursday, AFP journalists heard explosions in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said in a statement that it had struck two tunnels and “two weapon manufacturing sites” belonging to Hamas “as a response to Hamas’s security violations in recent days.”

Several missiles were then launched from Gaza at Israel. According to the Israeli army, 25 of the rockets fired were intercepted, with five landing on Israeli territory.

According to Hamas, Israel is “responsible for this aggression and its consequences,” and all Palestinian groups must unite against “the occupation.”

The Israeli army stated that it “will not allow the Hamas terrorist organization to operate from within Lebanon and holds the state of Lebanon accountable for all directed fire emanating from its territory.”

After Israel’s recent strike on Lebanon’s Tyre, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which patrols the border between the two technically still-at-war countries, urged restraint.

“Both sides (Lebanon and Israel) have stated that they do not want a war,” UNIFIL said in a statement, adding that force commander Major General Aroldo Lazaro was in contact with officials on both sides of the border.

“The actions of the past day are dangerous and risk escalation,” UNIFIL said.

During the attack, one man was slightly injured by shrapnel and a woman was injured while running to a shelter, according to Israeli emergency services.

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.”

Raid on the mosque

Israeli riot police stormed the prayer hall of Al-Aqsa Mosque early Wednesday, hoping to dislodge “law-breaking youths and masked agitators” who had barricaded themselves inside.

During both the Jewish Passover and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, rockets and air strikes were exchanged with militants in the Gaza Strip.
According to State Department spokesman Vedant Patel, the US recognizes “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against all forms of aggression.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the rocket attack from Lebanon, urging “all actors to exercise maximum restraint.”

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

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

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

The rockets were launched just one day after Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Lebanon for a visit.

Late Thursday, Haniyeh declared that the Palestinians would not “sit with their arms crossed” in the face of Israeli “aggression” against Al-Aqsa.

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

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