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Israel strikes Gaza and Lebanon after rocket fire
Israel launches air strikes on the central part of the Gaza Strip. Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The Israeli military attacked Gaza and launched rare strikes against Lebanon overnight in response to a barrage of rockets fired from Lebanon toward northern Israel earlier Thursday. Dozens of rockets were also fired from Gaza overnight.
The big picture: It's the most serious escalation between Lebanon and Israel since the 2006 war. Israel blames Hamas militants in Lebanon and says the Lebanese government is responsible for any attacks coming from its territory.
- Hamas said in a statement that it holds Israel "fully responsible for the grave escalation and the flagrant aggression against the Gaza Strip and for the consequences that will bring onto the region.”
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after an Israeli security cabinet meeting late Thursday that the "Israeli response, tonight and later on, will extract a high cost from our enemies."
Catch up quick: The escalation began a day after a violent confrontation between the Israeli police and Palestinian worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during a police raid at the compound. That violence came despite efforts to de-escalate tensions during Ramadan. The Israeli police raid prompted immediate condemnation by several Arab countries and Palestinian groups.
- At least 34 rockets were fired from Lebanon Thursday afternoon, according to the IDF. Twenty-five were intercepted, four fell inside Lebanon and five fell into Israeli territory, including the northern town of Shlomi. The attack came as Jewish Israelis celebrated Passover.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack from Lebanon.
- IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari claimed in a briefing with reporters that Hamas was behind the attack. Hagari added Israel will not allow Hamas to operate from Lebanon and that the Lebanese government "is responsible for any attack from its territory."
- The military wing of Hezbollah on Thursday morning issued a statement expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people and "the resistance factions" and stressed it backs any step they will take in order to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
State of play: Cross-border fighting continued overnight Thursday into Friday, with the IDF saying it had attacked 10 Hamas targets in Gaza, including tunnels and weapons manufacturing sites.
- The Israeli military said 44 rockets were launched from Gaza toward Israel.
- The IDF also said it also targeted three Hamas targets in southern Lebanon.
What they're saying: Netanyahu stressed at the beginning of Thursday night's security cabinet meeting that the domestic disputes around the government’s judicial overhaul won’t prevent Israel from operating against its enemies.
- “Israel is maintaining the status quo at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem …we will act against anybody who uses violence at the Temple Mount," he said.
- Two Israeli officials told Axios that Israel wants to avoid an all-out war.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Thursday in a meeting with the Italian defense minister, who is visiting Beirut, that Lebanon condemns the rockets fired toward Israel from its territory and stressed the Lebanese army and UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) are intensifying their investigation regarding the incident in order to arrest the perpetrators, according to the Lebanese official news agency.
- "Lebanon opposes any military escalation from its territory and opposes the use of its territory for acts that destabilize the region," Mikati said.
UNIFIL said in a statement overnight that both Israel and Lebanon have said they do not want a war. "The actions over the past day are dangerous and risk a serious escalation. We urge all parties to cease all actions across the border," the statement added.
- Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in a tweet called on the international community to issue a "clear statement against those responsible for the attacks on Israel."
- "First day of Passover. As we sit at the holiday table, family and friends, Israel is facing rockets from south and north," he added. "No one should test us, we will take all necessary measures to defend our country and people."
A White House National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement that the Biden administration remains "extremely concerned by the continuing violence [in the region] and we urge all sides to avoid further escalation."
- The Biden administration stands "firmly for the preservation of the historic status quo at holy sites in Jerusalem" and condemns "the launch of rockets at Israel," the spokesperson said, adding that President Biden has been briefed on the recent developments.
- "Our commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad. We recognize Israel’s legitimate right to defend its people and territory against all forms of aggression," the spokesperson said.
Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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