Late on Thursday night, Israel’s army announced an attack on Gaza, shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a video statement promising that his country’s enemies would “pay a price for any aggression”. The military attack was followed by reports of warplanes and explosions across the Gaza Strip. No casualties or injuries have been reported so far, but multiple sites were targeted in the missile strike, according to initial media reports. Rockets from Gaza were fired in response. The attack on Gaza comes after the Israeli military said rockets were fired from the strip into southern Israel for a second straight day. The rocket fire comes amid ongoing tensions over the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by Israeli troops, who fired stun grenades, attacked Palestinian worshippers and expelled them from the holy site as they gathered for Ramadan prayers. The Muslim holy month this year coincides with Passover, a key holiday in the Jewish calendar.
The Israeli military has said it struck two tunnels and two weapons facilities in Gaza. The news source AFP said a Palestinian security source indicated that Hamas training sites were hit in the attack. They include agricultural land in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, two sites south of Gaza City, farmland east of the Al-Zaitoun neighbourhood near Gaza City and a site east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu was reportedly in a Security Cabinet meeting as the air attack unfolded. Among the topics under discussion were reports of the rocket fire Israel had recently received. Following the meeting, Netanyahu issued a brief statement. “Israel’s response, tonight and beyond, will extract a heavy price from our enemies,” it read. Israel has blamed the Palestinian group Hamas for the rocket fire.
Hamas, meanwhile, responded to the air attacks with a statement: “We hold the Zionist occupation fully responsible for the grave escalation and the flagrant aggression against the Gaza Strip and for the consequences that will bring onto the region.”
Also on Thursday, Israel claimed it had received rocket fire from Lebanon for the first time since last April. The 34 reported rockets mark the biggest launch since Israel’s 34-day war with Hezbollah forces in 2006. Five landed in Israeli territory, according to a tweet from the Israeli army, while 25 others were intercepted. Four additional launches, it added, were “under review”. Lebanon’s National News Agency said Israel responded by firing a burst of artillery back across the border. No deaths were reported there either, though Israel’s emergency services claimed one man was hit with shrapnel and a woman was injured while seeking shelter.
The United States has urged “restraint” amid the tensions on Thursday, with State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel saying: “Any unilateral action that jeopardises the status quo to us is unacceptable.”