Israel’s raids on Al Aqsa during Ramadan
Israeli security forces were captured on April 5 in shocking footage mercilessly beating Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. The brutal violence inflicted on Islam’s third holiest site resulted in at least 12 Palestinians being injured and sparked public outrage.
Israeli security forces carried out their first attack on Tuesday night, resulting in the arrest of at least 450 Palestinians. As of now, approximately 50 individuals remain in detention. Many of those released appeared battered and bruised, with some being barefoot. According to a lawyer present at the scene, detainees, including children, were subjected to beatings and interrogations. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that paramedics were prevented from accessing wounded individuals in the mosque compound due to Israeli forces firing rubber bullets at ambulances.
These actions have been condemned by Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, who described the attacks as part of Israel’s cruel system of apartheid. Worshippers were once again ordered to leave the mosque on Wednesday, resulting in a significantly reduced number of individuals present. Israeli security forces stormed the mosque, firing stun grenades and beating people. Fifty Palestinians still remain in detention from the first attack, and those who have been released are prohibited from entering Jerusalem’s Old City, including the al-Aqsa Compound, for one week.
The international community has been urged to take immediate action to protect Palestinians from violent oppression and hold Israeli authorities accountable for their actions against international law. The fear of further violence has left many Palestinians anxious.
Lebanon fires rockets into Israel
On Thursday, the Israeli military reported that 34 rockets had been launched from Lebanon, with 25 of them intercepted, and four hitting Israel. The incident marked the first time rockets had been fired from Lebanon to Israel since last April and the biggest attack since Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fought a war in 2006.
Three people were injured in the rocket attack, with a 19-year-old man suffering from shrapnel injuries in mild condition, and a 60-year-old woman injured while running to a nearby shelter. Several others were treated for shock. Israel’s army announced that it was currently striking in Lebanon, with a Lebanese TV station reporting explosions near a Palestinian refugee camp in the southern port city of Tyre.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Israeli army stated that it believed the rocket fire was “a Palestinian-oriented event,” linking it to the violence in Jerusalem earlier in the week. The Israeli military spokesman Richard Hecht suggested that either Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both based in Gaza but also operating in Lebanon, could be involved. The army also believed that Hezbollah and the Lebanese government were aware of what happened and held responsibility.
However, Hamas representative in Lebanon, Ahmed Abdel Hadi, denied the group’s involvement. A Lebanese security official stated that the country’s security forces believed that the rockets were launched by a Lebanon-based Palestinian armed group and not Hezbollah. Hezbollah did not condemn the rocket fire, but its deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said in a Twitter post that the group was “vigilant” after Thursday’s exchange of fire over the Lebanon-Israel border.
Caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati warned against Lebanon’s territory being used for acts that could threaten security in the country. The rocket attack occurred amid the assaults by Israeli forces on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa, which caused global and regional criticism of Israel.
How will Israel respond?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged a tough response to the rocket attacks from Lebanon, stating that “We will strike our enemies and they will pay the price for any act of aggression.” The Israeli military launched air strikes on Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, targeting infrastructure belonging to the Palestinian movement Hamas, according to the military. There were no known casualties in the strikes.
The Lebanese Army said it had located several rockets prepared for launch in southern Lebanon, and the UN peacekeeping force on the Lebanon-Israeli border said that “both sides have said they do not want a war.” Several areas in the Gaza Strip were also hit in different raids, with no reports of casualties. Hamas condemned the Israeli air strikes on Lebanon and said it stood by the Lebanese people against the aggression.
Netanyahu said that “Israel’s response, tonight and later, will exact a significant price from our enemies,” but stopped short of announcing a military operation in Gaza or Lebanon. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Twitter that “the defence establishment is prepared with high readiness in all arenas… we will know how to act against any threat.”
Despite the Israeli military’s retaliatory strikes targeting Palestinian infrastructure in Lebanon following rocket attacks on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge for a strong response suggests that further action may be taken. However, it is evident that the Israeli government assigns primary responsibility to Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Lebanon rather than the Lebanese government or Hezbollah. Consequently, it is unlikely that Israel will launch a large-scale military operation against Lebanon or Hezbollah but will instead persist in targeting the bases of Palestinian groups in Gaza and Lebanon.