The Lebanese militia Hezbollah fired several rockets at Israeli positions on Friday close to the border between both countries in retaliation for Israeli airstrikes launched the day before, and the UN, alarmed, called for an “immediate” ceasefire.
Shells, 122 millimeters, were directed against areas “in the vicinity of Israeli occupation positions in the Shebaa farms“At around 11:15 a.m. local time, the Shiite formation reported in a statement. The action was a” response to Israeli air strikes on open lands in the areas of Al Yarmak Y Al Shauakir last Thursday night, “says the note, referring to the first bombing carried out by Israel in Lebanese territory since the war it fought with Hezbollah in 2006.
The attacks constitute a significant escalation between the new Government of Israel and the Shiite militia, very influential in Lebanon and backed by Iran, and they come amid growing tensions between Israel and Iran in the Persian Gulf area. This is the third day of attacks across the volatile boundary between Lebanon and Israel, although statements by Israeli authorities and aspects of the Hezbollah bombings seemed to indicate that both sides prefer to avoid a major conflict.
Israel had said Thursday that its airstrikes had been in response to the firing of nine rockets from Lebanon, and the prime minister Naftali Bennett he quickly called a meeting with the country’s top defense officials. “We do not want this to escalate to an all-out war, although of course we are prepared for that,” said Lieutenant Colonel. Amnon Shefler, spokesman for the Israeli Armed Forces. In a sign of the regional repercussions that a further escalation could have in the area, Israel’s defense minister warned on Thursday that his country is prepared to attack Iran, which it holds responsible for financing and arming Hezbollah.
Meanwhile in Beirut the acting Prime Minister of Lebanon, Hassan Diab, called on the UN to pressure Israel to stop “violating Lebanese sovereignty” and return calm to the common border area.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (FINUL) described it as a “very dangerous situation” the military escalation and called for an immediate ceasefire. “It is a very dangerous situation, with acts of escalation observed from both sides in recent days,” Finul warned in a statement. The UN mission commander, General Stefano Del Col, claimed to be in contact with the parties involved, calling for a prompt truce.
The mermaids warning of impending bombardments rang through the Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee near the border with Lebanon this Friday morning. Hezbollah said in a statement that it hit “open fields” near Israeli positions in the disputed area of Shebaa farms, with “dozens” of rockets, following the Israeli attack, of which no casualties were reported.
The Shebaa Farms are an enclave where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet. Israel interprets that area as part of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in a war in 1967. Lebanon and Syria say the Shebaa Farms belong to Lebanon, while the United Nations says the area is part of Syria and that Damascus and Israel should negotiate their fate.
The escalation, on the other hand, comes at a delicate moment in Lebanon, mired in multiple crises, including a devastating financial and economic crisis and a political stalemate that left the country without a government for a full year.
It is also a politically sensitive time in Israel, as the new ruling coalition tries to keep the peace under a fragile ceasefire that ended 11 days of hostilities with Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza last May.
Israel has long viewed Hezbollah as its most serious and immediate military threat. It is estimated that the group owns more than 130,000 rockets and missiles capable of attacking anywhere in Israel. In recent years, Israel has expressed concern that the group is trying to import or develop an arsenal of precision-guided missiles. Since a war between the two sides in 2006, Israel had not attacked Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Lebanon.
In 2019 the tension between the parties grew when Shiite militia attacked an Israeli military vehicle in response to two attacks against the Islamic group in Syria and Lebanon. Then, Hezbollah promised to respond to the death of two of its members during an Israeli airstrike near Damascus, also accusing Israel of a drone attack on the southern periphery of Beirut, its main stronghold in the Lebanese capital.