Israel It said it had struck targets at the Palestinian militant group Hamas in southern Lebanon and Gaza early Friday, amid rising tensions days after Israeli police raids. al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
The launch came hours after dozens of rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory, striking the Israeli military against Palestinian militants.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) international spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said the Israeli strikes on Friday in southern Lebanon were mainly on Palestinian targets located in the area from which they believe the rockets were launched into Israel.
The Al-Manar news outlet, supported by the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, reported that three Israelis were hit in an open area in the Tire region. The Lebanese National News Agency (NNA) said the area was mostly agricultural, and reported damage to houses and cars, livestock pens and other infrastructure.
“The IDF will not allow the Hamas terrorist organization to operate from within Lebanon and will hold the Lebanese state accountable for any direct fire coming from its territory,” the IDF statement said.
Lebanon said it would submit an official protest to the Security Council, calling Israel a “criminal violation of the Lebanese government.”
Hamas also condemned the strikes in a statement Friday and expressed “solidarity with the Lebanese people.” In a separate statement, he condemned the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Earlier, a CNN journalist in Gaza City heard the sounds of plans and explosions, minutes after the IDF announced it was attacking Gaza. The Israelis hit many areas, and several rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel in response.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said a children’s hospital in Gaza City had been damaged by Israeli strikes, leaving young patients inside. “This is not the first time that health facilities have been targeted and inappropriate,” the ministry added in a statement.
Hecht said Israel hit 10 targets in Gaza, including production sites and research and development sites as well as tunnel infrastructure. In previous statements, the IDF said that several Hamas weapons centers were building, underground weapons complexes, and “terror” tunnels in Beit Hanoun and Khan Yunis. An IDF drone also hit a heavy machine gun in northern Gaza, which was used for shelling around the IDF and Israeli territory, one statement said.
“Nobody wants the spread right now,” Hecht told reporters Friday. “Everybody talks to everybody. There’s a lot of news going around in political circles to try to destroy it.”
Pictures from Gaza show badly damaged cars half-buried in the ground, and dirt and debris covering the pink blankets of the children’s beds.
Hours before the IDF strikes in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israel “we will hit our enemies and they will pay the price for every act of aggression.”
The exchange of fire comes as anger boils over the country Israel police disembarkation at the al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, in Jerusalem on Wednesday, which drew widespread condemnation from the Arab and Muslim world and sparked retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.
Then on Thursday, the IDF said some 34 rockets had been launched into Israel from Lebanon in the largest such attack since the 2006 war between the two countries, which left around 1,300 Lebanese and 165 Israelis dead.
Videos posted on social media showed rockets from Lebanon streaking through the skies over northern Israel and the sounds of explosions in the distance. Israel closed its northern airspace in case of a strike. An Israeli military spokesman said he believed Hamas or the Islamic Jihad group was behind the attack, not Hezbollah.
The Lebanese army confirmed that several rockets had been launched from the southern region, but did not say who fired them. He said on Twitter that the unit had found “missile launchers and several launchers intended for launch” in the neighboring Lebanese towns of Zibqin and Qlaileh, and that “we are currently working to take them down.” On Friday, the Lebanese military said they had also found armored rockets and unused missiles in the southern Marjayoun area.
Hezbollah, which militarily and politically dominates the southern border region of Lebanon, has neither denied nor claimed responsibility for the rocket fire into Israel. But a powerful Iran-backed armed group appeared to hint at that in a statement on Thursday, warning that “hundreds of millions of Muslims” are ready to “blood” for al-Aqsa. Recently, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that violations of mosque compounds in the old city of Jerusalem “will break out all hell in the country.”
Footage from inside the mosque showed Israeli officers beating people with batons and guns, then arresting hundreds of Palestinians. Israeli officials said they entered the mosque after “hundreds of seniors” tried to barricade themselves inside.
Hecht, the IDF’s international spokesman, linked the rocket fire to two Israeli attacks on the al-Aqsa mosque, saying they “created very negative energies.”
“The context of the story begins two days ago on the Temple Mount with these very stark images of people going out at night for prayer,” Hecht said, using the Jewish name for the holy site in Jerusalem, known to Muslims as the Haram. al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary.
Jordan’s foreign minister, the custodian of the al-Aqsa mosque and other holy sites for Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem, said “we are in great danger.”
“The development we are seeing on the Lebanese border is a clear consequence, a reaction to what we saw happening in al-Aqsa. [mosque]Ayman Safadi told CNN on Thursday.
Lebanon and Israel are considered enemy states, but truces have been held between them since the 2006 war. On Friday, the head of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the head of the army spoke with authorities from both sides, and both Israel and Lebanon said they “do not want war”.
There have been several small-scale rocket attacks on Lebanon in recent years that have prompted retaliatory strikes from Israel. Few cases have been reported in these incidents, with the highest death toll in a firefight in 2015 that left two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish peacekeeper dead. Palestinian factions in Lebanon were believed to be behind those rocket attacks.
The Israeli military pinned the blame on the rockets from Lebanon or Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, while Hecht assumed the IDF said that “Hezbollah knew, and Lebanon also has responsibility.”
But he repeatedly emphasized that the IDF viewed the attack as coming from a Palestinian source, and that it did not represent a prolongation of the conflict with actors outside the direct Israeli-Palestinian conflict, raising hopes that tensions could be contained behind them. declare
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said it was also ready to cooperate with the United Nations and work for “calm and stability” in the South, while calling on the “international community to stop the pressure on Israel to stop the escalation” of the occupied state, the National News Agency reported.
The IDF has been concerned for some time about the proliferation on the Lebanese border, and in the spring of 2022 it held a high-level seminar to brief journalists and policy makers about it.
UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, said Thursday that the escalation of violence between Lebanon and Israel is “very serious.”
UNIFIL also said it directed its personnel stationed at the border of the two countries to air shelters for “common use.”
The White House said it is “extremely concerned by the continued violence and urges all parties to avoid further escalation.”