The Israeli military has conducted air strikes on targets belonging to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The attacks were in response to a barrage of 34 rockets fired from Lebanon into northern Israel on Thursday, which the military blamed on Hamas. In response, militants in Gaza fired dozens more rockets after the strikes began.
The raids at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem earlier this week triggered violent confrontations with Palestinians inside the mosque, and caused anger across the region. Hamas did not claim responsibility for the rockets from Lebanon, which was the biggest such barrage in 17 years, but its leader Ismail Haniyeh said Palestinians would not “sit with their arms crossed” in the face of Israeli aggression.
Overnight, there were two or three explosions around the Rashidieh Palestinian refugee camp, 5km (3 miles) south of the Lebanese coastal city of Tyre. Lebanese media also reported strikes on the outskirts of the village of al-Qulaila, another 4km further south. Photographs appeared to show that a small bridge was destroyed. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted that its warplanes struck “terrorist infrastructures belonging to Hamas” in Lebanon and warned that they would not allow Hamas to operate from within Lebanon and held the state responsible for any directed fire emanating from its territory.
Hamas condemned “the blatant Zionist aggression against Lebanon in the vicinity of Tyre at dawn today [Friday]”. In Gaza, more than 10 Hamas targets were hit, including a shaft for an underground site to construct weapons, three other weapons workshops and an underground “terrorist tunnel”, according to the IDF. During the strikes, at least 44 rockets were fired from Gaza towards southern Israel, Israeli media reported. Most were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system or fell in open areas, but at least one house in the city of Sderot was hit.
The Israeli military said it believed Hamas was behind the attack and that it was possible Islamic Jihad was also involved. They assumed Hezbollah, which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006, knew about the attack, and suspected there was Iranian involvement as well. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that Israel’s response would “exact a significant price from our enemies”.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, condemned any military operations on its territory that “destabilise the situation”. The Lebanese Army said the rockets were launched near al-Qulaila, Maaliya and Zibqine, and posted photos of launchpads and a number of unlaunched rockets that troops had found in these areas and near Marjayoun. Hezbollah had previously said it would support “all measures” taken by Palestinians “to protect worshippers and the al-Aqsa mosque and to deter the enemy from continuing its attacks”.
Tensions remain high following the Israeli police raids at al-Aqsa mosque and subsequent air strikes on Hamas targets. The rocket fire from Lebanon was the biggest such barrage in 17 years and resulted in one injury from shrapnel in northern Israel. In response, Israeli warplanes struck “terrorist infrastructures belonging to Hamas” in Lebanon and more than 10 targets in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that Israel’s response would “exact a significant price from our enemies”. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned any military operations on its territory that “destabilise the situation”.