Israel has escalated its response to rocket attacks this week by launching air strikes on Lebanon, military officials said.
The Israeli army said that jets struck the launch sites from which rockets had been fired over the previous day, as well as an additional target which had been used to attack Israel in the past.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) blamed the state of Lebanon for the shelling and warned “against further attempts to harm Israeli civilians and Israel’s sovereignty”.
Not only is rocket fire from Lebanon at Israeli civilians an act of terrorism, it also is indicative of the Lebanese government's lack of governance of terrorist organizations operating in Lebanon.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) August 4, 2021
The Lebanese government is responsible for all attacks from Lebanon.
Lebanese president Michel Aoun said Israel’s use of its air force to target Lebanese villages “is the first of its kind since 2006 and indicated the presence of aggressive, escalatory intentions” against Lebanon. In a statement, he said Lebanon would submit a complaint to the United Nations.
The overnight airstrikes were a marked escalation at a politically sensitive time.
Israel’s new eight-party governing coalition is trying to keep the peace under a fragile ceasefire that ended an 11-day war with Hamas’ militant rulers in Gaza in May.
Several incidents leading up to this week’s rocket fire from Lebanon have focused attention on Israel’s northern border, and the United States swiftly condemned the attacks on Israel.
Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fought a devastating, monthlong war in 2006 which killed some 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and around 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
The war failed to neutralise the group’s rocket threat, and Israeli officials say Hezbollah’s improved missile arsenal is now capable of striking virtually anywhere in the country.
No one has claimed responsibility for the rocket fire from Lebanon, and Hezbollah has not commented.
The Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar TV reported the strikes at around 2am, saying they had hit an empty area in the Mahmoudiya Village in Marjayoun district.
Avichai Adraee, the Israeli army’s Arabic-language spokesman, said the Lebanese government is responsible for what happens on its territories and warned against more attacks on Israel from south Lebanon.
Three rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory on Wednesday and the army responded with sustained artillery fire, Israel’s military said.
The announcement came after sirens sounded in northern Israel warning of a possible rocket attack. Two rockets landed inside Israeli territory, the army said.
Channel 12 reported that one rocket exploded in an open area and another was intercepted by Israel’s defence system, known as the Iron Dome.
Israeli media reported that the incoming rockets started fires near Kiryat Shmona, a community of about 20,000 people near the Lebanese border.
The Lebanese military reported 92 artillery shells fired by Israel on Lebanese villages as a result of the rocket fire from Lebanon.
It said the Israeli artillery shelling resulted in a fire in the village of Rashaya al-Fukhar.
The Lebanese army also said it was conducting patrols in the border region and had set up a number of checkpoints and opened an investigation to determine the source of the rocket fire.
US state department spokesman Ned Price condemned the rocket fire from Lebanon. “Israel has the right to defend itself against such attacks,” he told reporters in Washington, adding that the US would remain engaged with partners “in the region in an effort to de-escalate the situation”.
At the United Nations, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, known as Unifil, was aware of the rocket fire and Israel’s artillery response.
He said the Unifil commander, Maj Gen Stefano Del Col, appealed for a ceasefire and urged both sides to “exercise maximum restraint to avoid further escalation”.