Violence erupts in Israel as tensions simmer after rare airstrikes on Lebanon


After Israel launched its biggest airstrikes on Lebanon in 17 years, tensions in the region remained high Saturday after two Israeli sisters were shot dead in the West Bank and at an Italian tourist was killed in a car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv.

Israeli police said in a series of tweets on Friday that the car plowed into a group of people near a popular bike and walking path in Tel Aviv and overturned. The driver was shot dead by a nearby police officer who noticed him “trying to reach for what looked like a rifle-like object,” police said.

They added that the driver was 45 years old, and a resident of Kfar Kasem, a small town about 14 miles west of Tel Aviv.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni identified the victim as Alessandro Parini, in a tweet. She did not provide any more details about him. “Closeness to the victim’s family, to the wounded and solidarity with the State of Israel for the cowardly attack that hit him,” she wrote.

The Magen David Adom emergency service said in a statement that five others were transported to the hospital in moderate to mild condition. It added that all of them were tourists.

The ramming came hours after two Israeli sisters, 20 and 16 years old who had joint British nationality were shot dead in an attack on their car near the Jewish settlement of Hamra in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military said. Their mother was also seriously injured.

No groups have claimed responsibility for either attack, but Hamas, a militant group that runs Gaza praised both incidents as retaliation for Israeli raids and violence in al-Aqsa mosque in east Jersualem earlier this week. Islamic Jihad issued a similar statement.

As soldiers hunted for the gunman, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered border police reserves and additional military forces to be mobilized to confront the wave of attacks. 

The State Department condemned both attacks in a statement in which it reaffirmed America’s “enduring commitment to [Israel’s] security,” and added that “the targeting of innocent civilians of any nationality is unconscionable.” 

The U.K.’s foreign office said it was “saddened to hear about the deaths of two British-Israeli citizens and the serious injuries sustained by a third individual” and called for “all parties” to de-escalate tensions.

Both attacks came less than 24 hours after Israel launched a wave of airstrikes on Lebanon and Gaza early Friday after dozens of rockets struck the north of the country.

The exchanges, which came during the Jewish Passover holiday, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and in the run-up to the Christian holy day of Easter represent the most serious escalation between Israel and Lebanon since a 34-day war in 2006.

No group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, although Israel blamed Hamas, and said that it was investigating the involvement of Hezbollah, a Shia Islamist political party and militant group in Lebanon that also has links to Iran.

The Israeli military was quick to emphasize that airstrikes targeted only areas linked to Palestinian militants. In Lebanon, missiles struck an open field near the southern town of Qalili near a Palestinian refugee camp, according to the Associated Press.

The Palestinian Authority said that Israeli attacks in Gaza damaged a children’s hospital, in contravention of the Geneva Convention. 

Israel said that it would hold Lebanon responsible for any “hostile fire” emerging from the territory, including that which it suspected came from non-governmental militant groups.

Lebanon’s foreign ministry said Friday said in a statement that the attack “constitutes a flagrant violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty,” and added that its permanent mission to the United Nations in New York would submit an official complaint over the bombing. 

The escalation came after Israeli police raided al-Aqsa mosque twice earlier this week, as worshippers barricaded themselves into the mosque’s compound to pray during the holy month of Ramadan. 

Police stormed the compound and fired stun guns at Palestinian youths who hurled firecrackers back early Wednesday morning. Inside the mosque, police beat worshippers — including women and children — using batons, chairs and rifles, people detained at the scene told the Associated Press. Fifty people were injured in the raid, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Al-Aqsa mosque sits on a hilltop sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The spot, known to Jews as Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism, revered as the location of biblical Jewish temples. It is also the third-holiest site in Islam. Conflicting claims over the area have frequently spilled out into violence before, most recently in an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2021 in which both sides claimed victory. 

Israeli police did not comment on the beatings, but said security forces entered the compound in response to “masked suspects pelting rocks” toward officers stationed at the compound’s gates.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed.


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