Israeli officials said two women were killed in a suspected terror attack near a West Bank Israeli settlement Friday.
It said this as it launched rare strikes in southern Lebanon and continued bombing targets in the Gaza Strip, marking a further escalation in the region following violence this week at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.
Friday’s strikes in southern Lebanon came a day after militants fired nearly three dozen rockets from there at Israel, wounding two people and causing some property damage.
The Israeli military said it targeted installations of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, in southern Lebanon and Gaza.
With tension mounting, Israeli officials reported the shooting terror attack near the Israeli settlement of Hamra, in the occupied West Bank, saying two sisters in their 20s were killed and their mother was left fighting for her life.
Israel’s military said “a shooting attack was carried out on a vehicle” and troops were searching the area for suspects.
Roads in and out of the area were closed by Israeli forces amid the search.
A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he was being updated regularly on the attack and would convene his senior security officials to assess the unfolding events.
After that meeting, the military said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had “instructed the defense establishment to direct all the necessary resources to apprehending the terrorists and to reinforcing security on all the key routes and communities in Judea and Samaria and across Israel.”
The exchange of rocket and missile fire and the latest apparent attack on Israeli civilians came at a time of heightened religious fervor, as Jews celebrate Passover, Muslims are in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan and Christians begin Easter weekend. In 2021, an escalation also triggered by clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound spilled over into an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
Associated Press correspondents in the area said several missiles fired by Israeli warplanes struck an open field in the town of Qalili near the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh, close to Lebanon’s coastal southern city of Tyre, while others struck a bridge and power transformer in the nearby town of Maaliya and a farm on the outskirts of Rashidiyeh, killing several sheep. No human deaths were reported.
Israeli strikes in Lebanon risk drawing Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia into the fighting, which could lead to war. The Iran-backed group, armed with thousands of rockets and missiles, holds sway over much of southern Lebanon and is viewed by Israel as a bitter foe.
The Israeli military was careful to note in its announcement about Friday’s attack that it was targeting only sites linked to Palestinian militants. In recent years, Hezbollah has stayed out of other flareups related to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which stands on a hilltop revered by Muslims and Jews.
Israel and Hamas exchange strikes following clash at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.
Hamas issued a statement condemning the Israeli strikes, while Israel’s military said it had struck targets belonging to the militant group in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in response to the rocket attacks.
“The (Israel Defense Forces) will not allow the Hamas terrorist organization to operate from within Lebanon and holds the state of Lebanon responsible for every directed fire emanating from its territory,” it said in a statement.
In Washington, principal deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said Israel had “legitimate security concerns” and “every right to defend themselves,” but he also urged calm, saying “any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo [around the al Aqsa Mosque] to us is unacceptable.”
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly appealed Friday for “all parties across the region to de-escalate tensions.” He condemned the rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and Lebanon, and also criticized Israeli police for “violence” inside the Al-Aqsa mosque.
In a tweet early Friday morning, Lebanon’s national army said it had discovered a rocket launcher with unfired missiles in the south of the country, only about five miles from the border with northern Israel, and that work was underway to dismantle the device.
The head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Aroldo Lázaro, said he was in contact with Israeli and Lebanese authorities early Friday. The force, known as UNIFIL, said that both sides had said they do not want war.
In Jerusalem, before dawn prayers on Friday, violence erupted again at the hilltop compound as Israeli police stationed at one of the gates forcibly dispersed vast crowds of worshippers who chanted praise for Hamas while pushing their way into the limestone courtyard. Videos from the scene showed police beating large groups of Palestinian men with sticks until they stumbled backward, falling and knocking down vendors’ tables.
Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes on Gaza resumed early Friday, after militants fired more rockets from the blockaded territory, setting off air raid sirens in the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. The military said targets included the entry shaft to an underground network used for weapons manufacturing.
Source : Vanguard