The Israeli air force claimed responsibility for the attack on “launch sites and terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon, from which rockets were fired.” Its last known airstrikes on this neighboring country date back to 2014.
On August 5, the Israeli air force claimed responsibility for its first raids in Lebanon in years, claiming to have targeted rocket launch sites after fire from southern Lebanon to northern Israel.
“Army fighter planes targeted launch sites and terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon, from which rockets were fired,” the army said in a statement, without naming the armed movement Hezbollah Lebanese very influential in the south of Lebanon.
The Israeli air force regularly bombs suspected positions of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip and also carries out strikes in Syria, where it targets positions of pro-Iranian elements. However, its last claimed airstrikes in Lebanon dated back to 2014, the IDF confirmed to AFP, and came in the wake of an exchange of fire at the border.
According to the pro-Hezbollah Lebanese channel Al-Manar, two raids took place on August 5 at around 12:40 a.m. (August 4 at 11:40 p.m. Paris time) in the Mahmoudiya sector, about ten kilometers from the border between the two countries.
The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, also pro-Hezbollah, accused Israel of having crossed “a red line” with these strikes which constitute a “dangerous development”. They hit an uninhabited area, according to Al-Akhbar.
This is “Israel’s first use of its air forces to target Lebanese villages since 2006,” Lebanese President Michel Aoun said in a statement on August 5. This “suggests an intention to intensify attacks” against Lebanon, he said. The last Israeli airstrikes against Lebanese territory took place near the border with Syria in 2014, but they have not targeted Hezbollah strongholds – located in southern Lebanon – since the 2006 conflict between the state Hebrew and the Shiite movement.
Three rounds of strikes following the launch of three rockets at Israel
On August 4, three rockets were launched from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, according to the IDF: two of them landed on Israeli soil and the third did not cross the border. No injuries were reported but four people in shock were taken care of by Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross.
Shortly after the fire, the Israeli army launched three rounds of artillery strikes towards Lebanon.
The Israeli Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, asked according to the ministry that a “firm message” be sent to UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon deployed in the south of the country. Present in Lebanon since 1978, UNIFIL has been monitoring the Israeli border since 2006 in coordination with the Lebanese army and overseeing the application of Security Council resolution 1701, adopted after the war between Israel and Hezbollah.
The commander of the UN mission, General Stefano Del Col, called “the parties [à] cease fire and exercise maximum restraint to avoid an escalation, particularly on this solemn anniversary, ”UNIFIL said on August 4, the first anniversary of the explosion at the port of Beirut.
On August 4, 2020, the explosion of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate left 214 dead, more than 6,500 injured and devastated several neighborhoods in the Lebanese capital, a country mired in the worst socio-economic crisis in its history.
An upsurge in tensions between Israel and Iran
The exchange of fire on the Lebanese-Israeli border coincides with a resurgence of tensions between the Jewish state and Iran – a country allied to Hezbollah and enemy of Israel – in the wake of a deadly attack in the Arabian Sea against the tanker Mercer street, run by the company of an Israeli billionaire.
Israel, like the United States and the United Kingdom, immediately accused Iran of being behind this attack which was not claimed and killed two people. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he had evidence of Iranian involvement and promised a response. “We know how to send a message to Iran in our own way,” he warned earlier this week.
Tehran, whose new president, conservative cleric Ebrahim Raïssi, was inducted this week, denies the charges. Iranian Foreign Spokesman Said Khatibzadeh promised in a statement that his country “[répondrait] immediately and decisively to any possible adventurism ”.