Israel has launched several attacks against southern Lebanon in response to previous Lebanese attacks

Tension rises on Israel-Lebanon border

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The Israeli army has announced attacks in southern Lebanon in response to rocket fire from Lebanese territory. This type of offensive has not occurred since the July 2006 war that pitted the two countries against each other for more than 30 days. As reported by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), fighter jets "struck launch sites and infrastructure used for terrorism in Lebanon".

Lebanese sources told the Arab media outlet Al-Sharq that the targets of the Israeli aircraft were the outskirts of the town of Al-Aishiya, near the towns of Jezzine, Nabatieh and Marjayoun. Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar TV also reported the Israeli operations, claiming to have struck an empty area at around 2am. Avichay Adraee, a spokesman for the Hebrew army, said these actions in the area "will continue and may intensify" in the face of attempts to "attack Israel and its citizens". The Lebanese army, meanwhile, reported 92 Israeli shells, some of which caused a fire in the village of Rashaya al-Fukhar.

Earlier on Wednesday, air raid alarms were sounded in several locations in northern Israel, including Kiryat Shemona, Tel Jai and Kibbutz Kafr Giladi. The Hebrew authorities did not report any damage to property or human casualties, but said that one of the rockets fell inside Lebanese territory. One of the rockets that did penetrate Israel caused several fires near Kiryat Shemona, a town of 20,000 inhabitants. On the other hand, Israel's efficient Iron Dome defence system intercepted some of the rockets.

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"The firing of rockets from Lebanon at Israeli civilians is not only an act of terrorism, but also an indication of the Lebanese government's lack of leadership towards terrorist organisations operating in Lebanon," the Israel Defence Forces tweeted. Adraee, its spokesman, also blamed the Beirut government, stressing that it "bears full responsibility for any shots fired from its territory". He also stressed "the lack of control by the Lebanese state over the activities". "Israel will not allow its sovereignty to be attacked," he added. Although the Israeli government has not officially blamed any one group, a Hebrew official claimed that Hamas-related groups were behind the attacks, not Hezbollah. However, the Shiite militia, which has a strong influence in southern Lebanon, is said to have consented to the firing of rockets into Israel.

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This new escalation of tension on the Lebanese-Israeli border comes at a politically sensitive time in both countries. While the new Israeli coalition is trying to maintain peace with Hamas through a ceasefire that ended an 11-day war, the northern border is becoming a new front for Tel Aviv. Elsewhere, Lebanon faces one of the worst crises in its history as Najib Mikati, the third prime minister in a year, has been tasked with forming a new government.

Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically at war; since the end of the 2006 war, the border regions of the two countries have seen frequent episodes of tension.

The US, Israel's main ally, has defended Tel Aviv's actions. "Israel has the right to defend itself against such attacks," said State Department spokesman Ned Price. He condemned "the missile attack launched by armed groups based in Lebanon against Israel". Price added that Washington "will remain engaged with Israeli and Lebanese partners to calm the situation".


UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN peacekeeping mission, UNIFIL, was aware of the Lebanese rocket fire and the Israeli military response. Commander Stefano Del Col of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has called for a ceasefire and urged both sides to "exercise maximum restraint to avoid further escalation".