Israel struck targets in southern Lebanon on Wednesday after four Israelis were wounded in an attack on a military convoy claimed by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Duration: 00:44
Israel strikes Lebanon in response to Hezbollah attack
Israel strikes Lebanon after Hezbollah attack wounds soldiers / Jerusalem (Undefined) – 28 January 2015 14:33 – AFP (Hazel Ward)
Israel struck targets in southern Lebanon on Wednesday after four Israelis were wounded in an attack on a military convoy claimed by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
The army said an anti-tank missile hit a military vehicle in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms area on the border with Lebanon and close to the ceasefire line with Syria.
An Israeli security source said four people were wounded in the area when their vehicle came under “very heavy fire at close range”.
Mortar shells also struck another military position on nearby Mount Hermon, the army said, without saying whether anyone was injured.
Hezbollah quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had “targeted an Israeli military convoy in the Shebaa Farms composed of several vehicles which was transporting several Zionist soldiers and officers.”
“There were several casualties in the enemy’s ranks,” Hezbollah said in a statement broadcast on the group’s Al-Manar television channel.
Al-Manar reported that Hezbollah — which said the attack was carried out by its “Quneitra martyrs” in reference to a deadly Israeli air strike on the nearby Golan — targeted nine Israeli military vehicles and had killed “a large number” of troops.
Shortly after the hit on the convoy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the Jewish state would respond to any attack.
“The IDF (army) is ready to act with force on any front,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz convened an emergency session of his top brass, the army said.
Lebanese security sources told AFP that Israeli tanks began shelling areas of southeastern Lebanon shortly after the attack on the convoy.
Two sources told AFP that more than a dozen shells had been fired on Lebanese border villages and that Israeli warplanes were flying over the area.
There was no immediate information on casualties.
– Smoke billowing –
“At least 15 shells have been fired against five villages in the south,” one security source said, adding that Majidiyeh village was hardest hit.
Another security source said the Israeli army was firing a shell into the area about every two minutes, and was using artillery as well as tanks.
The Lebanese army is deployed in all five villages that were shelled, but it was not immediately clear whether Hezbollah had a presence there.
Images broadcast from the scene on Israeli television showed large plumes of white smoke billowing across the area.
Police sealed off several roads close to the border in northern Israel.
The fresh exchanges came after the Israeli air strike on the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general on January 18.
The day before the raid, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to retaliate against Israel for its repeated strikes on targets in Syria and boasted the movement was stronger than ever.
Israel occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until 2000 and the two countries are still technically at war.
In 2006, Israel fought a bloody war against Hezbollah that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
The Shebaa Farms area is a mountainous, narrow sliver of land rich in water resources measuring 25 square kilometres (10 square miles). It has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war.
Since Israeli troops withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000, the area has become an area of friction between Israel and Hezbollah.
Before it was seized by Israel, Syria and Lebanon both claimed ownership of the land.
Israeli warplanes also struck Syrian army targets on the Golan Heights early on Wednesday hours after rockets hit the Israeli-held sector.
Nobody was injured by Tuesday’s rocket fire from Syria, which Israel said was “intentional”.
The Israeli air force responded nearly 12 hours later by striking Syrian army targets at around midnight (2200 GMT).
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel would not tolerate any fire on its territory and would respond to any attack, whether by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or any other group.
“The overnight attack by the air force against regime targets in an area under Assad’s control in Syria is a clear message that we will no put up with any fire at Israeli territory or any breach of our sovereignty, and we will respond with force and determination,” he said in a statement.