Israel struck Hamas targets in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip following the most sustained barrage of rockets since a 2006 war.
Israel Defense Forces “attacked infrastructure targets and targets of the terrorist organization Hamas in southern Lebanon,” it said on Twitter on Friday, saying it holds the government in Beirut responsible for any fire from its territory. Israel’s military later said it was also attacking the Gaza Strip.
The military action came after at least 34 rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon, of which 25 were successfully intercepted, according to the Israeli army. Six rockets fell in Israeli territory and two caused damage.
Two people in the Galilee region were injured, including a man hit by shrapnel and a woman as she ran to a shelter, according to the Israeli medical aid society Magen David Adom.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the rocket attacks launched from the southern part of the country, state-run National News Agency reported. He said the army was investigating the incident, and stressed the need to avoid any escalation that could destabilize the situation.
The fresh confrontation coincides with an escalation in Israel’s shadow war with its main regional enemy Iran, which supports militant groups committed to Israel’s destruction such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories.
President Joe Biden has been briefed and U.S. officials continue their dialogue with their Israeli counterparts on this and other issues, according to the National Security Council. “We’re very concerned about the violence there,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the council, told reporters. “We call on all sides to de-escalate.”
Hezbollah, as well as Palestinian groups, has been behind past rocket attacks from Lebanon.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are believed to be responsible this time, with Hezbollah assumed to have known about the attacks, said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman.
Tensions have been building with the weeklong Jewish Passover holiday overlapping with the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Late Wednesday, renewed clashes broke out between Israeli police and Palestinians inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a flashpoint.
The state-run Lebanese news agency said Israel struck back with artillery fire, which the Israeli army denied. Sirens sounded in the towns of Shlomi and Moshav Betzet and in the Galilee region.
Earlier, seven surface-to-air rockets exploded in midair without being intercepted after being launched from Gaza toward southern Israel and the Gaza Strip Sea, the Israeli military said.
Israeli police used force to remove people at Al-Aqsa, which lies in a hillside spot sacred for both Muslims and Jews and has sparked conflict in the past, for the second time Wednesday. They said they intervened in the compound after mostly masked men tried to barricade themselves inside, throwing stones and fireworks.
Hamas denounced the Israeli police action at Al-Aqsa, having earlier urged Palestinians to go to the holy site and barricade themselves in to prevent Jews who might seek to enter as part of Passover observance.
The last conflict with Hamas was 11-day fighting that took place in May 2021.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.