Palestinian gunmen from the Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command stand outside their base that was attacked by Israeli warplanes on Friday – Photo: AP
Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon issued a statement Friday following the rocket strike and the subsequent IAF strike, insisting that Israel will not allow anyone to disrupt the daily lives of the Israeli people.
“The State of Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for anything that happens on its soil, and we will respond to any fire or provocation directed at us. We view yesterday’s [rocket] fire into Israel with grave severity and we will not allow anyone to disrupt the lives of our citizens,” the defense minister noted.
Ya’alon added that the defense establishment was working “responsibly and with much consideration” to ensure the security of Israel and the safety of its citizens.
Earlier Friday, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement that “Israel will not tolerate terrorist aggression originating from Lebanese territory.”
The Israel Defense Forces said Friday that Israeli warplanes targeted “a terror site located between Beirut and Sidon” in response to the rocket attack. The IDF said it had scored a direct hit on its intended target.
Ramez Mustafa, an official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, said warplanes struck the organization’s base in the coastal town of Naameh, 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Beirut, at 4 a.m. He said there were no casualties.
According to a report on Lebanon’s Al-Manar television, the organization was surprised to be the target of the strike, since a Sunni jihadist organization had earlier claimed responsibility for Thursday’s rocket attacks on Israel.
Defense sources told the French news agency AFP that the Naameh valley base of the PFLP-GC was hit. The group has a number of heavily fortified positions in Lebanon. Headed by Ahmed Jibril, the group is known for close ties with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The relative calm that has prevailed in Israel’s north since the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006 was shattered on Thursday when, shortly after 4:30 p.m., four rockets were fired at Israel from Lebanon. One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome defensive shield, while two others hit small communities in the western Galilee where they damaged property but caused no injuries.
The incident began with explosions that were heard in the areas of Nahariya and Rosh Hanikra, followed by air raid sirens. The IDF is looking into the reason that the siren did not sound when the first rocket was launched, but sounded only before the additional rockets hit.
It later emerged that an Iron Dome battery had intercepted one of the rockets in the sky between Acre and Nahariya. Another rocket landed amid houses in Kibbutz Gesher Haziv. Shortly afterward, dozens of onlookers appeared, collecting shrapnel and taking photos.
A additional Katyusha rocket fell in Shavei Tzion, a moshav between Acre and Nahariya, where it caused damage to the external walls of the guest house, which houses Holocaust survivors, and to vehicles parked in the area. The Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya treated five victims for shock. The IDF said on Thursday that it would look into the functioning of the Iron Dome system.
An IDF spokesman said that responsibility for Thursday’s rocket attacks on Israel fell squarely on the Lebanese government.
The Ziad Jarrah Battalion, the Lebanese branch of the Sunni global jihad group Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for firing the rockets. An announcement on the Twitter feed of one of the organization’s heads, Sheikh Sirajuddin Zurayqat, said the Ziad Jarrah Battalion was “behind the firing of the four rockets.”
The Twitter feed also said that the rockets fired had a range of more than 40 kilometers, and that the group possessed missiles and rockets that could reach Haifa.
“The Jewish enemy and Iran’s yes-men, Hezbollah, have conspired to preserve the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad,” he said. “Now Hezbollah’s mission to defend the Jews has been made that much harder.”
Earlier on Thursday, Lebanese president Michel Suleiman condemned the attacks, saying they were a violation of the U.N. cease-fire arrangement between Israel and Lebanon and a violation of Lebanese sovereignty. He asked his security forces to find the perpetrators and put them on trial.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour accused the rocket launchers of attempting to drag Lebanon into conflict with Israel.
Meanwhile, a Hezbollah parliament member said, “Hezbollah will never condemn fire aimed at Israel.”
Southern Lebanon is a stronghold of Shiite Hezbollah, which fought the 2006 war against Israel. Israel blamed Thursday’s salvo on a “global jihadi organization,” its term for the Sunni Muslim al-Qaida and its offshoots.
In Syria, Sunni Muslim jihadi fighters are battling alongside rebels trying to oust Assad, who is supported by militants from the Shiite Hezbollah.
A strike on Israel by jihadis would be a show of force just a day after opposition activists in Syria accused Assad’s loyalists of using chemical weapons to kill hundreds of people in a rebel-held Damascus suburb. Syria denied the allegations.
Israel believes jihadi groups in Egypt’s lawless Sinai along Israel’s southern border have been behind sporadic rocket attacks on its Red Sea resort of Eilat, where an Iron Dome battery shot down a rocket on Aug. 13. On Monday, suspected Islamist militants killed 25 Egyptian policemen in Sinai.
Thursday’s rocket strike “is directly connected to all of the events taking place in the Middle East,” IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said on Thursday.
Lebanese media reported that the rockets were most likely launched from the villages of Rashidia and Hush, south of Tyre. The Lebanese army has blocked access to the launch area, where searches revealed a timer used to operate a rocket launcher as well as the rocket launcher itself. Other reports claimed a second launcher and additional rockets were found.
In response to the rocket attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday: “We are operating on all fronts, in the north and south, to defend Israel’s citizens from these attacks. We are employing a variety of methods of defense and prevention and we are acting responsibly. Our policy is clear: to defend and to prevent. Anyone who strikes us or attempts to strike us will know that we will hurt them.”
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=11543