Israel begins airstrikes in Gaza, drawing new rocket barrage

AP , Friday 7 Apr 2023

The Israeli military struck targets in the Gaza Strip early Friday, pushing the region closer toward a wider conflagration after a day of rocket fire along the country's northern and southern borders following two days of Israeli attacks on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

Israeli strikes
File photo: Plumes of smoke rise in Gaza following early morning Israeli airstrikes, February 13, 2023. AFP


A pair of explosions were heard in Gaza late Thursday. 

The Israeli military said it had bombed four sites belonging to the Hamas militant group, which rules Gaza.

The sound of outgoing rocket fire could be heard in Gaza and air-raid sirens sounded in southern Israel early Friday.

​The sirens went off shortly after Israel began bombing Gaza.

It was the latest signs of rising tensions during a sensitive holiday period. Similar fighting in 2021 led to an 11-day Israeli war on Gaza.

The airstrikes came after militants in Lebanon fired a heavy barrage of rockets at Israel earlier in the day, forcing people across Israel's northern frontier into bomb shelters, wounding at least two people. In Gaza, militants also fired rockets toward Israel.

Israel's army said it had identified 34 rockets and 25 of them were intercepted by Israeli air defences, while "five rockets landed in Israel.

Israeli army spokesperson Lt. Colonel Richard Hecht said Palestinian groups were responsible for the rockets.

"We know for sure it's Palestinian fire," he told reporters. "It could be Hamas, it could be Islamic Jihad, we are still trying to finalise but it wasn't Hezbollah.

No faction claimed responsibility for the salvo of rockets, and a spokesperson for Hezbollah did not respond to a request for comment. 

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired several rockets toward Israel. On Thursday, Hezbollah condemned Israel’s storming of Al-Aqsa. 

A Lebanese security official, who spoke on the condition, said the country's security forces believed the rockets were launched by a Lebanon-based Palestinian militant group, not by Hezbollah militants. The official said there were no casualties on the Lebanese side.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad hailed the rockets as “a heroic operation against the Israeli crimes in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, is visiting Lebanon, where he met with exiled leaders of Palestinian militant groups late Thursday. “Our Palestinian people will not remain passive towards the ongoing aggression,” he said.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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