Israel launches airstrikes on Lebanon in response to rockets
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - Israel escalated its response to missile strikes this week with rare air strikes on Lebanon on Thursday, the army said.
The army said in a statement that jets hit the launch sites from which missiles had been fired the day before, as well as an additional target used in the past to attack Israel. The IDF blamed the state of Lebanon for the shelling and warned "against further attempts to damage Israeli civilians and Israeli sovereignty".
The night air strikes were a clear 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 the rocket bombardment from Lebanon this week have drawn attention to Israel's northern border, and the United States has promptly condemned the attacks on Israel.
Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar TV reported the strikes around 2 a.m. and said they had hit an empty area in Mahmoudiya village in Marjayoun district.
Avichai Adraee, the Arabic-speaking spokesman for the Israeli army, said the Lebanese government was responsible for what happened on its territory and warned of further attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon.
Three rockets were fired into Israeli territory from Lebanon on Wednesday and the army responded with sustained artillery fire, the Israeli military said. The announcement came after sirens warned of a possible missile attack in northern Israel. The army said that two missiles landed on Israeli territory.
Channel 12 reported that a missile exploded in an open area and another was intercepted by Israel's defense system called the Iron Dome. Israeli media reported that the falling rockets ignited fires near Kiryat Shmona, a community of around 20,000 people near the Lebanese border.
The Lebanese military reported 92 artillery shells that Israel had fired on Lebanese villages as a result of the rocket fire from Lebanon. The Israeli artillery bombardment resulted in a fire in the village of Rashaya al-Fukhar. In a statement, the Lebanese army said it was conducting patrols in the border region and had set up a number of checkpoints and an investigation to determine the source of the rocket fire.
Lebanese security officials did not immediately confirm the Israeli air strikes.
There have been several similar incidents in the past few months.
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 work with partners in the region "to de-escalate the situation."
At the United Nations, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, is aware of the rocket fire and Israeli artillery response. He said the UNIFIL commander, Major General Stefano Del Col, had called for a ceasefire and urged both sides to "exercise maximum restraint to avoid further escalation".
Karam reported from Beirut.
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