The group Hezbollah launched this Friday from Lebanon more than ten rockets against Israel, which it replied with attacks, in an escalation of the tension between the Hebrew state and the Shiite movement supported by Iran.
The hostilities began with the launch of a dozen rockets, claimed by Hezbollah, in disputed territories in the Golan plateau region, occupied by Israel since 1967, in response to Israeli airstrikes in southern Lebanon on Thursday.
“The Islamic resistance bombarded with dozens of rockets a territory near the positions of the Israeli occupation forces in the region of the Shebaa farms”, Lebanese name for that sector, the group stated.
An AFP correspondent in southern Lebanon said he heard several explosions and saw smoke rising in the Shebaa farms area and in the town of Kfarchouba.
Israel assured that 19 rockets were fired, of which six reached its territory. Three missed their targets and the others were intercepted by air defenses.
Shortly after that action, the Israeli army responded by “attacking the launching sources (of the rockets) in Lebanon”, according to a military statement.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said on Saturday that it launched airstrikes against a Palestinian movement base Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for the launching of incendiary balloons into its territory.
“In response to the continued launching of incendiary balloons from Gaza into Israel during the day, warplanes attacked a Hamas military base and rocket launch site,” the Israeli army said in a statement.
Initially no casualties were reported from this incident.
On Thursday, the Israeli air force claimed responsibility for its first airstrikes in years in Lebanon, claiming to have targeted rocket launch sites after firings into northern Israel that were not claimed.
“We do not want an escalation to a real war, but we are ready for it and we will not allow these terrorist acts to continue,” Amnon Shefler, a spokesman for the Israeli army, told reporters. “We will do whatever it takes”, he asserted.
For his part, the number two of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem, assured that the group was determined to respond to any attack on Lebanon.
“We do not believe that things are going to move towards an escalation, although Hezbollah is prepared” to do so if necessary, he noted.
“Very dangerous situation”
Meanwhile, the United States asked Lebanon, which has had an interim government for almost a year, to prevent attacks by Hezbollah against Israel.
“We urgently call on the Lebanese government to prevent such attacks and to take control of the area.” Said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“We strongly encourage all efforts to remain calm”, he stressed.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (FINUL) described the military escalation as a “very dangerous situation” and called for an “immediate” ceasefire.
“It is a very dangerous situation, with acts of escalation observed from both sides during the last days.” Finul warned in a statement.
The UN mission commander, General Stefano del Col, affirmed that he was in contact with the parties concerned, calling for an “immediate ceasefire”.
Israeli aviation regularly bombs suspected Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip and it also carries out operations in neighboring Syria, where it attacks targets of pro-Iranian elements.
But its last recognized airstrikes in Lebanon dated back to 2014, the Israeli army confirmed to AFP.
Since the 2006 war between the two sides, which killed 1,200 mostly civilian Lebanese and 160 Israelis, Israel had not attacked Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Lebanon.
In 2019, the tension between both parties grew, when Hezbollah attacked an Israeli military vehicle in response to two “Israeli” attacks against the Shiite movement in Syria and Lebanon.
In a rare and surprising event, Druze residents of the southern Lebanese town of Hasbaya stopped a truck carrying a multi-barreled rocket launcher used in the attack on Hezbollah, a military source told AFP.
“An army unit in Chwayya Township arrested four people who fired the rockets and commandeered the rocket launcher,” the Lebanese army said in a statement.
A video widely shared on social media shows enraged locals blocking the truck and accusing Hezbollah of endangering civilian lives by firing rockets from near residential areas.
This week, Israel urged Lebanon to take responsibility for the actions launched from its territory against Hebrew interests and civilians.
Lebanon faces a triple social, economic and political crisis, without a fully functioning government for a year and plunged into one of the worst recessions since 1850, according to the World Bank.
These exchanges of hostilities coincide with the rise in tension between Israel and Iran following the deadly attack on an oil tanker run by the company of an Israeli millionaire in the Sea of Oman.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.