Dozens of rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel

Attacks come amid escalating tension following Israeli raids on Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem

Israel’s security cabinet convened on Thursday night to consider how to respond after at least 34 rockets were launched at northern Israel from southern Lebanon, raising the possibility of another major conflagration.

Even though the projectiles were launched from Lebanon, Israel army spokesman Daniel Hagari blamed Hamas, the Palestinian group which controls Gaza.

“We are in an event with multiple theatres, but a single organisation - the Palestinian factions of Hamas are shooting from Lebanon. Iranian involvement is also being examined. The state of Lebanon carries responsibility when shots are fired from within it,” he said.

Twenty-five of the projectiles fired on Thursday afternoon were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence batteries but at least five landed in the western Galilee border region. Three civilians were lightly hurt and damage was caused to property at various locations and fields set on fire.


Public bomb shelters were opened and residents in some areas were ordered to stay close to shelters or safe rooms.

The rocket barrages, which came on the first day of the Jewish Passover festival, were the most significant since the second Lebanon war in 2006 when Israel and Hizbullah engaged in a one-month conflict.

On Thursday night, mortar fire was also directed at the Israeli border town of Metulla in the eastern Galilee.

Major General Aroldo Lázaro, head of the Unifil peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, which includes more than 340 Irish troops, was in contact with the Israeli and Lebanese authorities.

“The current situation is extremely serious. Unifil urges restraint and to avoid further escalation,” a Unifil statement read.

A source close to Hizbullah, which controls southern Lebanon, denied any involvement. “We have nothing to do with the rocket fire,” the source said.

No group claimed responsibility but sources in Lebanon indicated that “Palestinian factions” were behind the rocket fire which emanated from Palestinian refugee camps in the Sidon area.

Israeli military experts said it was unlikely that an attack on such a scale from south Lebanon could have taken place without the knowledge and approval of Hizbullah.

Ahead of Thursday night’s security cabinet meeting, opposition leader Yair Lapid said that while the actions of the government of Binyamin Netanyahu have damaged Israel’s deterrence, the country will give full backing to the government’s response.

“When it comes to security, there is no opposition or coalition in Israel. We will stand united against any enemy.”

The flare-up along the border with Lebanon came during heightened tension in the middle of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, exacerbated by two consecutive nights of clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque at the Haram al-Sharif noble sanctuary in Jerusalem’s Old City, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, and subsequent rocket fire from Gaza.

On Wednesday night Israeli police stormed the mosque claiming that extremists had barricaded themselves inside, for the second night in a row, hording fireworks and rocks.

Militants in Gaza fired seven rockets in response- five towards Israel and two towards the Mediterranean Sea.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem