Israel launches air raids on Gaza, Lebanon

Israeli army says it’s ‘striking in Lebanon’ following air attacks on Gaza amid rising tension in wake of Al-Aqsa raids.

An explosion on a dark evening horizon
Flames can be seen during Israeli air attacks in Gaza on April 6, 2023 [Bashar Talib/Reuters]

Israel’s military has said it carried out air raids in Lebanon, on what it called Hamas targets, hours after it launched air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip.

The bombardment in the early hours of Friday followed a spate of rocket launches from southern Lebanon as tensions soared after Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem twice this week.

Israel’s army announced in a short statement at 4:07am (01:07 GMT) on Friday that it “is currently striking in Lebanon”. A Lebanese TV station reported explosions near a refugee camp in the southern port city of Tyre.

Hours earlier, there were explosions in Gaza after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised in a video statement that his country’s enemies would “pay a price for any aggression”.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Lebanon or Gaza.

The latest raids come amid rising 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, as well the Christian festival of Easter.

The attacks on Gaza and Lebanon came after the Israeli military said 34 rockets had been fired from Lebanon on Thursday, with 25 intercepted and at least four landing inside the country. They were the first rockets fired from Lebanon towards Israel in a year and the biggest launch since Israel and Lebanon’s powerful Shia movement Hezbollah fought a war in 2006.

No organisation has yet claimed responsibility.

The Israeli military said its attack was focused on Hamas, the Palestinian movement running the Gaza Strip and a Hezbollah ally.

“The [Israeli military] will not allow the Hamas terrorist organisation to operate from within Lebanon and holds the state of Lebanon responsible for every directed fire emanating from its territory,” it said in a statement.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Tyre on Friday morning, said “security sources say that they believe Palestinian groups were responsible”.

“But many people here will say they could not have done with this without the support and the backing of Hezbollah which holds sway in this region,” she added, warning that the escalation threatened “a conflict that could spiral out of control”.

‘Flagrant aggression’

In Gaza, Al Jazeera’s Youmna ElSayed said the Israeli air raids targeted the whole of the Strip but focused on “military camps and training camps belonging to Hamas”, as well as agricultural lands.

She added, however, that buildings including a hospital in a residential neighbourhood were damaged by the attacks.

“Homes of people [in Tuffah] have been partially or severely destroyed. Also nearby, the children’s hospital Adura was also partially damaged from the strikes,” she added.

In a statement, Hamas said: “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.”

The Israeli military said it had targeted Hamas, striking two tunnels and two alleged weapons facilities.

Netanyahu was reportedly in a security cabinet meeting as the Gaza attack unfolded. Among the topics under discussion was the recent rocket fire.

Following the meeting, Netanyahu issued a brief statement. “Israel’s response, tonight and beyond, will extract a heavy price from our enemies,” it read.

Caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Thursday condemned the rocket fire from Lebanon into northern Israel. “Lebanon absolutely rejects any military escalation emanating from its land, and the use of Lebanese territory to carry out operations that may destabilise the existing stability,” he said.

The United States, meanwhile, urged “restraint” amid the tensions, with State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel saying: “Any unilateral action that jeopardises the status quo to us is unacceptable.”

A city skyline with explosions seen lighting up the night sky.
Smoke rising behind buildings in Gaza on April 6 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies