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Israel launches rare attacks in Lebanon and also assaults Gaza.

On Thursday, militants from Lebanon fired nearly three dozen missiles at Israel, prompting the assaults in southern Lebanon.

JERUSALEM — Israel attacked targets in southern Lebanon early on Friday morning and resumed airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli military, signifying a further escalation in the region following violence at Jerusalem’s holiest site this week.

In southern Lebanon, the military reportedly targeted Hamas installations. Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese television network, reported explosions in the southern coastal city of Tyre.

On Thursday, militants from Lebanon fired nearly three dozen missiles at Israel, prompting the assaults in southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, militants in Gaza resumed firing rockets into southern Israel early on Friday morning, following Israeli attacks there.

The fighting occurs at a delicate time, when Jews are commemorating Passover and Muslims are observing the sacred month of Ramadan. In 2021, similar tensions erupted into an 11-day war between Israel and the Hamas authorities of Gaza.

Wednesday’s outbreak of violence was precipitated by two Israeli police raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. This resulted in rocket fire from Gaza and an unprecedented barrage of nearly thirty missiles from Lebanon into northern Israel on Thursday.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his Security Cabinet for a three-hour meeting on Thursday evening, his office released a brief statement announcing that a number of decisions had been made.

Netanyahu said in the statement, “Israel’s reprisal tonight and beyond will exact a heavy price from our adversaries.” It did not expand.

Palestinian militants in Gaza began firing missiles into southern Israel almost immediately, setting off air raid sirens throughout the region. In Gaza, Israeli airstrikes resulted in audible explosions, and missiles fired in the direction of Israel could be seen whizzing through the sky.

The airstrikes occurred after militants in Lebanon fired approximately 34 missiles into Israel, compelling Israelis across the northern border to seek refuge in bomb shelters and injuring at least two.

The Israeli military attributed the rocket fire on its northern and southern fronts to Palestinian militants in retaliation for this week’s violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Israeli police stormed the building with tear gas and stun grenades to confront Palestinians barricaded inside for two consecutive days. The mosque’s tumultuous incidents escalated tensions throughout the region.

According to the military, approximately 25 missiles were intercepted. However, two individuals were injured and property was damaged in several northern Israeli communities.

The uncommon attack from Lebanon sparked concerns of a wider conflict, as Israel’s sworn enemy, the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah, controls the majority of southern Lebanon.

During a briefing with reporters, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, stated that the army established a direct link between the Lebanese rocket fire and the recent disturbance in Jerusalem.

“It’s a Palestinian-focused affair,” he said, adding that the militant organisations Hamas or Islamic Jihad, which are based in Gaza but also operate in Lebanon, may be involved. However, he stated that the army believed Hezbollah and the Lebanese government were also aware of and responsible for the incident.

The mosque, which is the third-holiest site in Islam, is located on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. Throughout the years, the competing claims to the site have repeatedly escalated into violence.

No Lebanese faction has claimed responsibility for the barrage of projectiles.

Najib Mikati, the interim prime minister of Lebanon, condemned the launching of rockets from Lebanon and stated that Lebanese forces and United Nations peacekeepers were conducting an investigation and searching for the perpetrators. Mikati stated that his government “categorically rejects any military escalation” and the use of Lebanese territory for threatening actions.

Hezbollah did not respond to a request for comment on the rocket discharge, despite having condemned the Israeli police operations in Jerusalem. Israel and Hezbollah have evaded a full-scale battle since a 34-day war in 2006 ended in a stalemate.

Netanyahu may be limited by his own domestic issues. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated against his plans to reform the country’s judicial system for the past three months, arguing that it will lead the country towards authoritarianism.

Key military units, including fighter pilots, have threatened not to report for duty if the reform is enacted, prompting Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to warn that Israel’s national security could be jeopardised by the divisive proposal. Netanyahu initially stated that he was dismissing Gallant, but later recanted and placed the reorganisation on pause for several weeks. Critics may also allege that he is attempting to use the crisis to divert attention from his domestic problems.

Netanyahu stated that internal divisions had no bearing on national security and that the nation would remain united in the face of external threats.

Israel appears to have escalated its covert war against Iranian-linked targets in Syria, another close ally of Iran, Israel’s regional archenemy.

In recent weeks, suspected Israeli airstrikes in Syria killed two Iranian military advisers and temporarily shut down the country’s two main airports. Hecht, a military spokesman, stated that Thursday’s projectile discharge was unrelated to events in Syria.

Vedant Patel, the principal deputy spokesperson for the State Department in Washington, stated, “Israel has every right to defend itself and has legitimate security concerns.”

However, he also called for calm in Jerusalem, stating that “any unilateral action that threatens the status quo is abhorrent to us.”

At Al-Aqsa, the situation in Jerusalem remained fraught. Two nights prior, Palestinians confined themselves inside the mosque with rocks and fireworks.

Worshippers have demanded the right to pray overnight in the mosque, which is typically permitted only during the last ten days of the month-long Ramadan holiday. They have also remained in the mosque in protest of threats by religious Jews to conduct a Passover ritual animal sacrifice at the holy site.

Friday morning, Israel did not attempt to prevent individuals from spending the night in the mosque, presumably because it was the weekend, when Jews do not visit the compound. However, tensions may flare up again on Sunday when Jewish visits resume.

Israel prohibits ritual slaughter on the site, but appeals by Jewish extremists to revive the practise, as well as monetary rewards for anyone who attempts to transport an animal into the compound, have increased Muslim fears that Israel is plotting to seize control of the site.

In the violence this week, Israeli police launched stun grenades and rubber bullets to evict worshippers who had sealed the building’s entrances. Officers were pelted with stones and pyrotechnics by Palestinians. After several hours of scuffles that left a trail of destruction, the authorities were able to expel everyone from the compound.

The police brutally assaulted and detained over 400 Palestinians. Israeli authorities control access to the territory, but Islamic and Jordanian officials administer the compound.

The violence at the site has reverberated throughout the region, eliciting condemnations from Muslim leaders.

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