Rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel on Thursday and answered by a burst of cross-border artillery fire, officials said, amid escalating tension following Israeli police raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
The Israeli military said it had intercepted at least one rocket as sirens sounded in northern towns near the border, while two Lebanese security sources said there had been at least two attacks, with multiple rockets.
Israeli news outlets reported that around 30 rockets were launched from Lebanon, half of which were intercepted, while five landed in Israeli areas. Israel’s ambulance service said one man had sustained minor shrapnel injuries.
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There was no claim of responsibility but three security sources said Palestinian factions in Lebanon, not the heavily armed Lebanese Hezbollah group, were believed to be responsible for the rocket fire. Israel fought a month-long war with Hezbollah in 2006.
Thursday’s incident came as Ismail Haniyeh, head of the group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, was visiting Lebanon. There was no immediate comment from the Lebanese military or Hezbollah.
In a written statement, the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon (UNIFIL) described the situation as “extremely serious” and urged restraint. It said UNIFIL chief Aroldo Lazaro was in contact with authorities on both sides.
Israeli broadcasters showed large plumes of smoke rising above the northern town of Shlomi and public sector broadcaster Kan said the Israel Airports Authority closed northern air space, including over Haifa, to civilian flights.
“I’m shaking, I’m in shock,” Liat Berkovitch Kravitz told Israel’s Channel 12 news, speaking from a fortified room in her house in Shlomi. “I heard a boom, it was as if it exploded inside the room.”
Shortly after the second salvo of rocket fire, the Lebanese security sources said artillery fire hit southern Lebanon and residents said they heard loud blasts but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
Watch: Israeli police cordon off an area in the northern Israeli town of #Shlomi near the #Israel-Lebanon border after rockets were fired from #Lebanon.https://t.co/GHKeB2Ciqw pic.twitter.com/pyGzIzIaBh— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) April 6, 2023
The incident came at a time of heightened tension following Israeli police raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this week.
With Israel also celebrating the Passover holiday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to hold a security assessment following the rocket fire from Lebanon and summon the security cabinet, his office said.
“No one should test us, we will take all necessary measures to defend our country and people,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Twitter.
Israel has hit a number of targets in Gaza after rockets were fired from the blockaded southern coastal strip in the wake of the al-Aqsa raids, which were condemned across the Arab world.
Speaking from Gaza, Mohammad Al-Braim, spokesman for the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees, praised the rocket strikes from Lebanon, which he linked to the al-Aqsa incidents but did not claim responsibility.
He said “no Arab and no Muslim would keep silent while (al-Aqsa) it is being raided in such savage and barbaric way without the enemy paying the price for its aggression.”