Middle East conflict: After shelling: Israel attacks targets in Gaza and Lebanon

Middle East Conflict
After shelling: Israel attacks targets in Gaza and Lebanon

Smoke and fire rise after an explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City.  photo

Smoke and fire rise after an explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City. photo

© Adel Hana/AP

For the first time in years, Israel has come under heavy rocket fire from Lebanon. The army responded with counterattacks on their neighbors during the night and early morning.

In response to the previous day’s heavy rocket fire, Israel attacked targets in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip overnight. In the early hours of the morning, the Israeli military reported that the army had targeted Hamas’ “terrorist infrastructure” in the neighboring country. The army will not “allow the terrorist organization Hamas to operate from Lebanon.” The Lebanese state is also responsible for any shelling that emanates from its territory.

Lebanon’s Acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned rocket fire from Lebanon towards Israel. “Lebanon vehemently opposes any military escalation emanating from its country, as well as the use of Lebanese territory to conduct operations that may threaten existing stability,” Mikati said in Beirut. The military assumes that Hamas, which is in power there, or the militant Palestinian organization Islamic Jihad, which is also active there, are responsible for the rocket attacks from the neighboring country.

Netanyahu: “We will meet our enemies”

According to military information from Lebanon, at least 36 rockets were fired into Israeli territory yesterday – the most since 2006. Two people in northern Israel were slightly injured. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, Israel blamed militant Palestinians and announced consistent action. “We will meet our enemies and they will pay the price for any aggression,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Jerusalem last night.

According to the army, Israeli fighter jets bombed weapons factories belonging to the Islamist Hamas during the night. It was initially unclear whether there were injuries or even deaths. According to Palestinian media and eyewitnesses, explosions could be heard and smoke seen over the coastal enclave. Defense Minister Joav Galant had previously instructed the military to prepare for “all possible responses to recent events.”

Netanyahu said the internal debate in Israel will not stop the country from taking action against the country’s enemies “anywhere, anytime.” The prime minister was referring to a judicial reform pushed by the right-wing religious government that has been dividing Israeli society for weeks. The security cabinet met in Jerusalem in the evening. Israeli President Izchak Herzog said: “The State of Israel will act at all levels to ensure its security.” At the same time, he called on the international community to strongly condemn the attacks.

Tensions keep flaring up on the border with Lebanon. The two neighboring countries are officially at war.

Tensions in Jerusalem

Meanwhile, the Israeli police in Jerusalem were preparing for the third Friday of the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan. Around 2,300 emergency services are deployed, a spokeswoman said in the evening. Accordingly, thousands of Muslims are again expected for Friday prayers on the Temple Mount. “We will continue to take action against anyone who disturbs public order,” the police said.

In the previous nights there had been violent clashes between the police and Palestinians on the Temple Mount. Videos posted on social media showed forces using batons and rubber bullets to remove Palestinians from Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to the police, the groups tried to barricade themselves in the mosque. Firecrackers and stones were also thrown at police officers. Several Arab countries condemned the action.

Ramadan, Passover and Easter

The Temple Mount is under Muslim administration while Israel is responsible for security. According to the Israeli police, it is generally forbidden to stay there at night. Many Palestinian believers see their right to practice their religion restricted. The Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. However, it is also sacred to Jews because two Jewish temples used to stand there.

Violent confrontations are frequent in the area around the mosque. Around two years ago, the situation escalated into an eleven-day conflict between Israel and Hamas. In the coming days, Ramadan, the Jewish Passover festival and Easter will coincide. Significantly more believers than usual are expected in the Old City of Jerusalem.


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