Israel has launched airstrikes in Lebanon in response to a militant missile barrage, raising fears of a full-fledged war in the region. The Israeli military confirmed the airstrikes in Lebanon without providing any specifics, while Lebanese media reported explosions in Tyre, the country’s southernmost city.
Witnesses reported hearing Israeli aircraft over Naqoura and near Nabatieh, as well as shells dropping close to a Palestinian refugee camp in Tyre.
The Israeli Defense Forces claimed to be targeting Hamas-linked targets and blamed Lebanon for any assaults launched from its territory.
They stated: “The IDF 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.”
The escalation followed a significant rocket attack by militants in southern Lebanon on Thursday, the largest since the 2006 Lebanon war, with 34 rockets fired at Israel, most of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence systems.
In response, Israel carried out airstrikes in the Gaza strip on Friday morning.
Although the rocket attacks caused fear among northern Israel residents, only two injuries were reported.
Also on Friday, the Israeli military said that a Palestinian carried out a shooting attack against Israelis in the northern West Bank. Israeli medics said that three people were critically wounded and remained unconscious.
The shooting marked the latest incident in a period of unusually high violence in the occupied territory.
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Although the Israeli military was quick to emphasize that its warplanes struck sites belonging to only Palestinian militant groups, the barrage risks drawing in Israel’s bitter foe Hezbollah, which holds sway over much of southern Lebanon and has in the past portrayed itself as a defender of the Palestinians and the contested city of Jerusalem.
Even as Israel announced it was allowing residents of the south to leave bomb shelters and return home after an hourslong lull in hostilities, the Israeli military said it was boosting infantry and artillery forces along the country’s borders with Lebanon and Gaza “to prepare for all possible scenarios.”
Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari said:”The forces are on high alert.”
A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said that Egyptian security officials have been working with Hamas and Israel to de-escalate the situation.
Earlier Friday, Israeli missiles struck an open field in the southern Lebanese town of Qalili, near the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh, according to an Associated Press photographer and residents, killing several sheep and inflicting minor injuries on residents, including Syrian refugees.
Other strikes hit a small bridge and power transformer in the nearby town of Maaliya and damaged an irrigation system providing water to orchards in the area.
The Lebanese military said it found another rocket launcher Friday after dismantling several the day before.
The Israeli airstrikes came in response to an unusually large barrage of rockets from Lebanon after Israeli police raids at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem spiralled into unrest and sparked outrage in the Arab world.
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