Tensions Mount in Gaza After Israel Intensifies Airstrikes

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The clashes erupted after Israeli police had raided at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site to Muslims for two consecutive days, firing gas canisters and stun grenades at worshippers.

GAZA/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israel on Friday intensified airstrikes on military posts in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, in response to rockets fired at several parts in the Jewish state, escalating tensions with Palestine over the past three days the Israeli police attacked Palestinian worshippers a the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.

Hamas security sources said that Israeli reconnaissance drones and fighter jets launched dozens of airstrikes on military posts and facilities that belong to the Al-Qassam Brigades, the militant group’s armed wing, reports Xinhua news agency.

Residents told Xinhua that they heard the buzz of the fighter jets and drones hovering over the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and that bombings were heard all over the coastal enclave.

Medical sources in Gaza said that no injuries were immediately reported and hospitals and clinics have declared a state of emergency and readiness to receive possible casualties.

The Al-Qassam Brigades and other minor militant groups said in separate statements that their militants fired anti-craft missiles at the Israeli jets that hovered over the Gaza Strip.

The joint Palestinian chamber of operations, which comprises several armed wings of Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, said earlier that their militants “are ready to confront any Israeli attack”.

“In light of the enemy’s threats to our resistance and our people in Gaza, we affirm our readiness to confront and respond with all force to any aggression and to defend our people in all places of its presence and our sanctities,” it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, an Israeli army spokesman said that sirens were turned on in southern Israel after barrages of projectiles and rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip and that Israeli fighter jets bombed several Hamas posts and facilities in the southern, central, western and northern Gaza Strip.

“The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) attacked tonight, using a remotely manned aircraft, a heavy launcher from which missiles were fired at IDF aircraft and Israeli territory,” said the spokesman.

The Israeli army on Friday confirmed that the country’s air force struck southern Lebanon as Israel accused Hamas and other militant groups of being responsible for firing at least 34 rockets from south Lebanon at northern Israel.

According to the army, 25 rockets were intercepted by the IDF Aerial Defense Array, while five landed in Israeli territory and four additional launches were under review.

The Israeli military warned that it will not permit Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and has a smaller presence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to operate from within Lebanon, and that it “holds the state of Lebanon responsible for every directed fire emanating from its territory”.

The Israeli airstrikes began as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was convening his Security Cabinet to discuss possible military responses to the rockets fired from Lebanon — the biggest single barrage in 17 years.

The latest escalation comes during a sensitive holiday time as Muslims were observing the holy month of Ramadan with prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Jews were commemorating the Passover holiday.

The clashes erupted after Israeli police had raided at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site to Muslims for two consecutive days, firing gas canisters and stun grenades at worshipers.

Earlier this week, militants in Gaza fired about 20 rockets at southern Israel in a response to Israeli raids at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

In the past as well, the shrine has often witnessed clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli security forces, triggering wider unrest.

In May 2021, an Israeli raid here contributed to an 11-day full-scale conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militant group which governs the Gaza Strip. — IANS

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Photo: Fire and smoke are seen following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, on Friday. Israel launched an airstrike on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza Strip late Thursday night. — Xinhua

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