Hezbollah Rocket Fire Triggers Israeli Cross-Border Attacks
(Bloomberg) -- Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement said Friday it had fired tens of rockets toward Israeli-controlled territory, prompting cross-border attacks by Israel’s army, in the most serious exchange between the sides in over a year.
The exchanges come at a time of heightened tensions in the region amid stalled efforts by world powers to resurrect their 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, a process Israel opposes.
In a statement on its Al-Manar TV network, Hezbollah said its attack on an unoccupied area of disputed Shebaa Farms was in retaliation for Israeli airstrikes this week, which were themselves a response to an earlier barrage of rockets from Lebanon. The Israeli military said it intercepted most of Friday’s missiles, while others landed in open areas, causing no casualties.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with senior defense officials as the threat of full-blown hostilities appeared to fade.
“Our understanding is that Hezbollah deliberately aimed at what we call open areas in order not to escalate this situation,” said Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Amnon Shefler. “We do not wish to escalate to a full war, yet we are of course very prepared for that.”
A suspected hijacking of a ship near Iran and a deadly drone attack on an Israeli-operated vessel in the same area that the U.S. and its allies blamed on the Islamic Republic have raised fears of an escalating cycle of violence. Iran denies involvement in either maritime incident.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri sought to distance Lebanon from “the Iran-Israeli conflict in the Gulf of Oman,” adding in a tweet that it was the job of the country’s “military and legitimate forces” to protect the nation.
Hezbollah said it had fired 122-millimeter rockets at the Shebaa Farms, land claimed by both Lebanon and Syria that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
The last time Hezbollah sent rockets over Lebanon’s border with Israel was in September 2019. The two sides, which also skirmished last year, fought a 34-day war in 2006 that killed more than 1,000 people, caused substantial damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure and economy, and paralyzed life in northern Israel.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun criticized Israel’s strikes earlier this week, saying it was the first time the Jewish state had used its air force to hit Lebanese targets since 2006 and predicting it would exacerbate “aggressive intent” toward the country.
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