Israel attacked Gaza and Lebanon before dawn on Friday, saying it was targeting Hamas targets, after dozens of rockets were fired at Israel the day before from these two territories.
Strikes were underway around 4:30 a.m. Israel time (1:30 a.m. GMT) in both southern Lebanon and Gaza, according to a military statement.
This is the latest episode in a sudden rise in tension in the Middle East since Wednesday, after a relative lull in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict observed since the start of Ramadan on March 23.
Loud explosions were heard in the Tire region of southern Lebanon. A resident of the Rachidiye Palestinian refugee camp, near Tyre, Abu Ahmad, told AFP that "at least two shells fell near the camp". An AFP correspondent in this region said that a shell had fallen on the roof of a house in a plantation near the camp, causing material damage.
In Gaza, the Israeli air raids had begun before midnight.
On Thursday, the day of Passover, around 30 rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel, injuring one person and causing material damage, in an escalation on the Israeli-Lebanese front unparalleled since 2006.
These shootings took place the day after the violent irruption of the Israeli police in the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, in order to dislodge Palestinians who had barricaded themselves there.
The Israeli army said it was certain that the unclaimed rocket attacks from Lebanon were "Palestinian" and probably the work of Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
"Our response [...] will make Israel's enemies pay a heavy price," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after a security cabinet meeting.
"Israeli defense is ready to face any threat, on any front," said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
In the Gaza Strip, the army carried out several air raids during the night, targeting tunnels, a heavy machine gun and weapons manufacturing workshops belonging to Hamas, an Islamist movement in power in this micro-territory since 2007, according to military press releases.
In response, several missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip, apparently intercepted by Israeli air defenses.
The Israeli army says it "will not allow the terrorist organization Hamas to operate from Lebanon and holds the Lebanese state responsible for any fire directed [at Israel] from its territory."
No casualties were immediately reported on either side following the night's clashes.
Hamas said it held Israel "responsible" for the escalation and called on "all Palestinian factions to unite to confront [it]".
"Every explosion will be met with an explosion [...] and any attack on Al-Aqsa or the [Muslim] worshipers will find a response," added Islamic Jihad.
The outbreak of violence on Israel's northern border has prompted condemnation and calls for restraint, such as the violence the day before in the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for "the greatest restraint". Paris condemned "indiscriminate" fire on Israel and called for "respect for the historic status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem", while Washington recognized "Israel's legitimate right to defend itself against any form of aggression".
Israel and Lebanon remain technically in a state of war after various conflicts, and the ceasefire line is monitored by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), deployed in southern Lebanon to ensure that peace is maintained. truce.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry assured that Lebanon wanted to preserve "calm and stability" in the South, calling on the international community to "put pressure on Israel to stop the escalation".
According to the Israeli army, "34 rockets were fired from Lebanese territory", of which five fell in Israel and 25 were intercepted by anti-aircraft defense.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said he refused "any escalation from his territory".
In Fassuta, in northern Israel, a car was damaged by a rocket.
About twenty kilometers to the west, in Shlomi, offices were riddled with impacts after the explosion of a rocket on the roadway. "It was terrifying" but "that's the reality in Israel," said Noy Atias, 21, saying he heard no less than five explosions.
Earlier Thursday, the Shiite Hezbollah, the de facto master of southern Lebanon, proclaimed its support for "all measures" that the Palestinian armed groups could take against Israel by denouncing "with force the assault of the Israeli occupation forces". against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Visiting Lebanon, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the Palestinians would "not stand idly by" in the face of Israel's "aggression" against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
"If the Zionists think that they can defile the Al-Aqsa mosque, they must understand (...) that this could set the whole region on fire", warned Hashem Safieddine, a leader of Hezbollah, quoted by the chain of the movement.
04/07/2023 04:10:08 - Jerusalem (AFP) - © 2023 AFP