(Jerusalem) Two Israeli-British men were shot dead and their mother seriously injured on Friday in the occupied West Bank, the latest tragedy in a sudden rise in tension in the Middle East, after Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip and the south from Lebanon.
Israel said it had targeted positions of the Palestinian movement Hamas before dawn in Gaza and Lebanon, in response to the firing of dozens of rockets against its territory.
This outbreak of fever follows the brutal irruption of Israeli forces and violence on Wednesday in the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. International condemnations have multiplied and Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip, denounced an “unprecedented crime” by Israel, in the middle of Ramadan.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed Israeli forces were “forced to act to restore order” in the face of “extremists” barricaded in the mosque.
On Friday, two sisters from the Israeli settlement of Efrat, aged 16 and 20, were killed and their mother seriously injured in an attack in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
The sisters also held British nationality, British diplomacy said in a statement calling on “all parties in the region to reduce tensions”.
According to the army, which is looking for the assailant, their vehicle came under Palestinian fire at the Hamra junction in the northeastern West Bank.
The attack comes after Israeli strikes in Gaza and Lebanon, in an escalation not seen on the Israeli-Lebanese front since 2006.
In Lebanon, the Israeli army claimed to have struck three Hamas “infrastructures” in the Rashidye area, where there is a Palestinian refugee camp, near Tyre.
On Thursday, the day of Passover, around 30 rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel, injuring one person and causing material damage.
The IDF said the unclaimed shots were “Palestinian,” and likely from Hamas or Islamic Jihad, another armed group.
Mr. Netanyahu promised to make Israel’s “enemies” pay “a full price” for “every aggression” against his country.
“Threats and intimidation from Zionist leaders will lead nowhere,” reacted Friday Naïm Qassem, number two of the Shiite Hezbollah movement, de facto master of southern Lebanon.
“The whole axis of resistance is on high alert,” he added, after his organization on Thursday expressed its support for “any steps” that Palestinian groups might take against Israel.
“Palestinians in southern Lebanon cannot fire a shot without Hezbollah’s agreement,” said Fabrice Balanche, an analyst at Université Lumière Lyon 2.
“By hitting back at the Palestinians, Israel is not directly hitting Hezbollah in Lebanon,” which would lead to escalation, he notes.
On Friday evening, the Israeli army said it shot down a drone that entered its territory from Lebanon, without further details.
Israel and Lebanon are technically in a state of war after different conflicts and the ceasefire line is controlled by the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL), deployed in southern Lebanon.
She said she called on “all parties to cease all actions.” “Both sides said they don’t want a war,” she said.
The Lebanese army announced that it had dismantled a new launch pad for rockets in the south that could be fired at Israel, and the Lebanese Foreign Ministry assured that Lebanon wanted to preserve “calm” there.
Hamas has warned that it holds Israel “fully responsible for the consequences” of the strikes.
The Israeli army said it carried out several airstrikes overnight in Gaza, targeting ten targets of Hamas, which has ruled there since 2007.
In response, several dozen missiles were fired from the micro-territory under Israeli blockade. Only one hit an Israeli urban area, Sderot, damaging a house, according to the army.
Doha, which has in the past mediated between Israel and Hamas, is “working towards de-escalation”, a Qatari official told AFP on Friday, on condition of anonymity.
“Qatar’s primary objective is to prevent unnecessary carnage and avoid destructive consequences for Palestinians and civilian populations,” he said.
Gaza’s health ministry reported “damage” to al-Dorra pediatric hospital (in eastern Gaza City) following the Israeli raids, condemning an “unacceptable” act.
“Targets near” the hospital were targeted, an Israeli military spokesman told AFP, but “to our knowledge, there was no damage or direct impact to the hospital”.