The Israeli military said it intercepted a barrage of rockets fired from Lebanon, a day after Israeli police attacked Palestinians inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque for two consecutive nights.
“A rocket was fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory and successfully intercepted,” an initial military statement said on Thursday – the first from Lebanon since last April.
The army also said warning sirens sounded in the towns of Shlomi and Moshav Betzet in northern Israel.
A second rocket attack was also launched from southern Lebanon, followed by Israeli artillery fire across the border, two Lebanese security sources told Reuters news agency.
However, the rockets were reportedly fired by Palestinian factions, not the armed Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Hezbollah controls security in southern Lebanon and has fought wars against Israel in the past.
Palestinian refugee camps and armed units are also located in southern Lebanon.
The MDA ambulance service in Israel said three people were injured in the rocket fire, including a 19-year-old man with minor injuries and a 60-year-old woman who ran to a nearby shelter. Many others were treated for shock.
The UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, said in a statement that there had been “several rocket launches from southern Lebanon towards Israel” and that the Israeli military had activated its Iron Dome defense system in response.
The head of the peacekeeping force, Major General Aroldo Lazaro, has been in contact with Lebanese and Israeli officials, the statement said. “The current situation is very serious. UNIFIL urges restraint and avoidance of further escalation,” it added.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said Israel hit targets in southern Lebanon in response to the rocket attack, without reporting any casualties.
According to a Lebanese statement, Israeli artillery fired “several shells from its positions along the border” toward the outskirts of the two villages after “several Katyusha-type rockets” were fired at Israel.
However, the Israeli army did not retaliate, AFP reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is receiving regular updates on the security situation and will conduct an assessment with the heads of the security establishment,” his office said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came amid attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian worshipers at Al-Aqsa this week and has led to regional and global condemnation of Israel.
On another border – with the besieged Gaza Strip – Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip fired rockets into southern Israel for the second day in a row, the Israeli military said.
No casualties were reported in early Thursday rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
The rocket attack came after Israeli forces attacked the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City for a second night Thursday, preventing Palestinian worshipers from entering the mosque for dawn prayers.
Early on Wednesday, Israeli forces attacked worshipers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. At least 12 Palestinians were injured and more than 400 were detained ahead of the 15th day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the first day of the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Hours later, dozens of Israeli settlers entered the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound under Israeli police protection. In recent years, large groups of ultranationalist Jews have regularly visited the site under police escort, which Palestinians consider a provocation.
Following Wednesday’s attack, Israeli warplanes struck several sites in Gaza, including two sites west of the city and targets in the Nusirat refugee camp in the heart of the coastal enclave. Israeli officials said the attack was in response to four rockets fired from Gaza on Wednesday in response to a police raid on Al-Aqsa.
A group of youths marched to the barrier separating Gaza from Israel to the east and set fire to rubber tires in a sit-in protest against the crackdown on worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
On Wednesday, large crowds gathered across the Gaza Strip. The rallies, called by Hamas – the group that rules the coastal region – and other Palestinian factions, took place after Ramadan night prayers.
Protesters held up Palestinian flags and pictures of the Al-Aqsa Mosque as they shouted slogans in support of Mourabitoun, a group of Palestinian worshipers who present themselves as defenders of Al-Aqsa.
Two Palestinian factions, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, said in a statement that “attempts [by Israel] A change of position at Al-Aqsa Mosque or a change of Jewish base would trigger an unprecedented war on all fronts, especially from the Gaza Strip.