One rocket exploded just west of Kiryat Shmona, though apparently 5 were launched.
Israeli PM Netanyahu: Hezbollah carried out a ‘double war crime under the cover of the Lebanese gov’t.’
At least five Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanon at northern Israel on Sunday, one of which exploded inside of Israeli territory. No casualties or damage were reported.
The military confirmed that a 122-mm rocket, apparently a Russian-made Katyusha, exploded in an open area west of the city. Police bomb squad was dispatched to the scene to examine it.
There has yet to be a claim of responsibility for the unprovoked attack. Israeli artillery forces fired in response toward the sources of the launches.
Lebanon’s state news agency reported that more than 20 shells fired from Israel struck a mountainous, rugged area around the southern Lebanese border area of Rachaya early Sunday. There were no reports of injuries on the Lebanese side.
Israel lodged a formal complaint with UNIFIL, a United Nations peacekeeping force stationed along the border with Lebanon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for the Hezbollah militant organization’s “double war crimes.”
“What’s happening in Lebanon is that Hezbollah is positioning thousands of missiles and rockets in apartments and committing two war crimes simultaneously. First, threatening citizens with fire and second hiding among a civilian population. This is a double war crime carried out under the cover of the Lebanese government,” Netanyahu said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that would respond with force to any attack on Israel.
“We will not tolerate fire from Lebanese territory and will not allow any force to disrupt the lives of Israeli citizens,” said Ya’alon. “We hold the Lebanese government and the Lebanese army responsible for this morning’s fire and activities, and we will not let such activities become the norm. The IDF responded an hour ago with massive artillery fire toward the launching site, and will operate with much more force if necessary. I do not recommend anyone test our tolerance and our determination to maintain the security of Israel’s citizens.”
Residents of Kiryat Shmona and the area reported hearing loud blasts early Sunday morning, and initial reports indicated that two rockets had exploded near the city of Kiryat Shmona. Rocket sirens failed to go off.
“At about 7 A.M., while I was driving to work with two of my friends, we heard a loud blast,” Yitzhak Tyson, a resident of Kiryat Shmona, told Haaretz. “When we arrived at work we heard the second explosion.”
The explosions were heard a few hours after Israel approved the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, as part of the U.S.-brokered peace talks.
This is the first time northern Israel has been hit by rocket fire since August, when four Katyushas were fired from Lebanon. The Israel Air Force responded to that rocket fire by attacking a target south of Beirut.
Two weeks ago, an Israeli soldier was killed while driving along the border with Lebanon. He was struck by six or seven bulleted fired from a relatively short distance by a Lebanese soldier.
Incidences of rocket fire have been infrequent on the Lebanese-Israeli since the countries agreed to a cease-fire that ended the 2006 war. In the most serious incident of recent years, Lebanese forces killed a high-ranking Israeli officer in 2010 and Israel responded with artillery fire that killed three Lebanese.
The 2006 war broke out after Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas crossed into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. The ensuing month-long conflict killed about 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis.
Israel and Lebanon have fought several wars before. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon with the stated intention of driving Palestinian guerrillas out of the south. The Israeli military battled halfway through the country into Beirut and occupied south Lebanon until 2000.
Given the years of enmity between the two countries, even the smallest incident raises the risk of sparking a wider conflagration.
Lebanon is unusually jittery after a Friday car bombing in an upscale district of Beirut. On Sunday, Lebanese soldiers fanned out throughout the country, manning checkpoints and closing off sensitive roads.
Nonetheless, the Lebanese government is notoriously unable to control its own security. Hezbollah has its own large, well-trained militia that dominates the southern border. There are also small bands of Palestinian militants who claim responsibility for some isolated rocket attacks.
View original HAARETZ publication at: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.565959