Israel on edge

Bibi vows harsh response amid Lebanon rockets, Gaza escalation, Temple Mount clashes

'Israel’s response, tonight and later, will exact a significant price from our enemies,' PM says

Smoke rises above buildings in Gaza City as Israel launched air strikes on the Palestinian enclave on late April 6, 2023. Photo: Mohammed ABED / AFP
Smoke rises above buildings in Gaza City as Israel launched air strikes on the Palestinian enclave on late April 6, 2023. Photo: Mohammed ABED / AFP

Emerging from a cabinet meeting held amid an uptick in violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that “Israel’s response, tonight and later, will exact a significant price from our enemies.”

Israel’s high-level security cabinet convened Thursday night, hours after a barrage of 34 rockets was fired from Lebanon toward northern Israel, in the largest such attack in some 17 years.

In the evening several mortar shells impacted near the northern town of Metula, not causing any injuries or damage.

The Israel Defence Forces blamed the afternoon attack on the Hamas terror group, which has a presence in southern Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps. Israel was expected to respond strongly to the assault while attempting to avoid an uncontrollable escalation.

While the cabinet consultations continued, the Israel Air Force began targeting Hamas positions in Gaza, and Hamas launched rocket fire at southern Israel.

At the start of the security cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that ongoing internal debates in Israeli society would not prevent the country from responding firmly and significantly to escalating violence — a reference to the national crisis over his government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary.

“We are all, without exception, united on this,” he said, adding that the country “will hit back at our enemies, and they will pay the price for every act of aggression.

“Our enemies will learn again that during times that we are tested, Israeli citizens stand together united.”

Anticipating potential further attacks, a number of cities announced they were opening public bomb shelters, including Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona in the north, Ashkelon in the south and Rishon Lezion and Ness Ziona in the center The IDF has not issued instructions to open shelters at this time.

Dozens of rockets were fired from southern Lebanon on Thursday afternoon with several intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system over northern Israel, officials and the military said. At least three people were injured.

Israeli officials said 34 rockets had been fired toward the border with five landing inside Israel, and the rest downed by Iron Dome.

Such a massive barrage would make this the largest number of rockets fired from Lebanon since the 2006 war, during which thousands of rockets were launched at Israel. In August 2021, Hezbollah fired 19 rockets at northern Israel.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and a Hezbollah source told the Al-Arabiya network that it was not behind the rocket fire, apparently blaming Palestinian groups based in the area. However, it was unlikely they would do so without at least the tacit approval of the Iran-backed terror group that controls southern Lebanon.

Two people were lightly hurt by shrapnel in the rocket attacks.

The salvo also came just hours after Hezbollah said it would support “all measures” Palestinian groups may take against Israel after clashes at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

It also came a day after Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Beirut for what Hamas sources called a “private visit.” Media reports said he was meeting with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Haniyeh said Thursday in Beirut that Palestinians “will not sit with their arms crossed” in the face of Israeli “aggression” against Al-Aqsa.

Haniyeh met on Thursday the heads of other Palestinian organizations as Israel threatened a military response to the rocket fire. In his statement, Haniyeh called on “all Palestinian organizations to unify their ranks and intensify their resistance against the Zionist occupation.”

The rocket barrage came as tensions ran high after days of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, clashes at Al-Aqsa, as well as a suspected Iranian drone launched from Syria earlier in the week.

Following those incidents, Hezbollah appeared to suggest it could also enter the fray.

“Hezbollah forcefully denounces the assault carried out by the Israeli occupation forces against the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and its attacks on the faithful,” Hezbollah said in a statement.

“Hezbollah proclaims its full solidarity with the Palestinian people and the resistance groups, and pledges that it will stand with them in all measures they take to protect worshipers and the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to deter the enemy from continuing its attacks,” the group said.

Global concern has mounted after Israeli police clashed with Palestinians inside Islam’s third-holiest site Tuesday night, sparking an exchange of rockets and air strikes with terrorists in Gaza, with fears of further escalation.

The fighting raised fears of a wider conflagration. Similar clashes two years ago erupted into a bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas. Hezbollah’s warning raised the specter of an even wider conflict.

Hezbollah has close ties with Hamas, which rules Gaza, and with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which is also based in the coastal enclave.

Terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a number of rockets for a second day early Thursday morning, setting off rocket warning sirens in Israeli communities near the border, the military said.

Rockets have intermittently been fired from Gaza at Israeli communities since clashes broke out at Al-Aqsa Tuesday overnight. Israel has struck targets in the Strip in response. There have since been further rounds of violence at Al-Aqsa, as well as clashes in a few Arab Israeli communities.


read more: