Ramallah - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for an urgent meeting of his security cabinet on Monday morning after a night of extreme violence in which the Israeli military attacked targets in Lebanon and on the Iraq-Syria border near its northern borders, while rockets from Gaza targeted an Israeli town in the south near its border with Gaza.
The night of violence followed a warning from the leader of Lebanese group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, who gave a rare public speech in Beirut late Sunday, warning Israel that it had crossed a red line after he accused the Israelis of sending drones packed with explosives to attack his party’s headquarters on Saturday.
As Nasrallah was warning Israelis that Hezbollah would be retaliating in the very near future, another drone attack targeted Shia militia groups in the vicinity of the city of Qaim near the Iraq-Syria border, killing six members - including a senior leader - of the coalition Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) militia group, which is backed and funded by Iran. A similar drone attack in the same area on Saturday killed three people, one Hezbollah member and two PMF members.
The Hezbollah leader said while Israel had regularly used Lebanese air space from which to launch attacks on Iranian-backed militias in Syria, attacking targets in Lebanon, and recently in Iraq, warranted a response.
In a rare admission, contrary to their usual policy of no comment, the Israelis acknowledged that they had carried out several drone attacks on the Iraq-Syria border in what they said were pre-emptive strikes against planned attacks on Israel by the PMF militia on the orders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp commander Qassem Solomeini who has publicly sworn revenge for earlier Israeli attacks on Iranian interests in Syria.
The Israelis said they had been following the movements of the Iranian militias in Syria for a while and prevented a revenge attack at the last minute, involving drones rigged with explosives, on northern Israel by the PMF last Thursday.
Meanwhile, as Israel’s northern borders heat up, three rockets from Gaza were fired at Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip in the south of the country on Sunday night.
Two of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system, while a third struck the town of Sderot as a music concert was underway, sending dozens of terrified and confused Israelis into nearby bomb shelters.
The Israeli air force subsequently carried out attacks on several targets in Gaza.
Israel has been preparing for a significant military assault on Gaza for a while and appears to be on the verge of such a campaign after a number of border incidents over the last few weeks that involved shoot-outs with Hamas gunmen and infiltrations over its border from Gaza.
Palestinian factions simultaneously have also warned repeatedly over the last few weeks that Israel’s failure to ease its crippling siege on Gaza which has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation, and was supposed to have been significantly alleviated following UN and Egyptian mediation, would lead to an explosion.
The Israelis have already cut fuel supplies to Gaza by half as part of a retaliatory measure in the wake of Sunday night’s rocket attacks. Previous fuel shortages have resulted in severe electricity shortages and the breakdown of sanitary infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces arrested dozens of Palestinians in the West Bank in the early hours of Monday morning.
The sound of explosions woke residents in and around Ramallah's old city as dozens of youths threw stones at Israeli soldiers as the latter responded with teargas and rubber bullets.
Tensions in the streets were palpable following the events overnight and in the early morning as Palestinians were rounded up, cuffed and blindfolded before being thrown into the back of waiting Israeli jeeps.
When the Israelis finally left, rocks and stones covered the roads as groups of angry man gathered in groups to discuss events with the African News Agency (ANA).
The arrests and invasion of the old city followed an IED attack, detonated from a distance, on three Israeli settlers near the city of Ramallah last Friday which resulted in the death of one of the settlers, a 17-year-old girl, and the serious injury of her brother and father, as they hiked near a natural spring.
Since the bombing, Israeli security forces have encircled Palestinian villages west of Ramallah, arresting those suspected of indirect involvement, and set up road blocks preventing the flow of traffic.