UPDATED: 2 soldiers were killed in the attack.ברוך דיין אמת
Breaking news from the north of Israel: an Israeli patrol near the Lebanese border came under anti-tank missile fire from over the border. Seven IDF soldiers have been reported as injured.
An Israeli army patrol came under anti-tank fire from Hezbollah operatives Wednesday in the northern Mount Dov region along the border with Lebanon. The IDF confirmed that there were casualties in the attack, but did not say how many soldiers were hurt. The army ruled out the possibility that a soldier had been kidnapped.
The incident took place in an area of the border that doesn’t have a fence. At the same time, and for over an hour after the attack, IDF positions in the area, as well as on nearby Mount Hermon, were hit with mortar shells.
Israel responded to the attack with artillery strikes in southern Lebanon. Two Lebanese officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel targeted the border villages of Majidiyeh, Abbasiyeh and Kfar Chouba with at least 50 shells. A Spanish United Nations peacekeeper was killed, Lebanese reports said. Families living on the border of the villages fled further within, fearing they’d be hit, said the officials, who are based in south Lebanon.
Hezbollah said in a statement that a squad from the “fallen martyrs of the Quneitra brigade” had attacked the Israeli convoy in retaliation for an alleged Israeli airstrike near Quneitra, just over the border in Syria, last week that killed 12, including an Iranian general and a senior commander in the organization. The statement said it was a “first announcement,” alluding to the possibility of further attacks.
Six soldiers were evacuated to Ziv Hospital in nearby Safed in light to moderate condition, and other wounded were airlifted to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Channel 2 reported.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was holding high-level consultations to mull further responses to the attack. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a tour of the Gaza Strip border region and headed to the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv to join the meeting.
In an initial reaction to the incident, Netanyahu invoked Israel’s massive campaign against Hamas and other groups in the Gaza Strip over last summer: “Anyone who tries to challenge us along the northern border should come and see what happened here, not far from Sderot, in the Gaza Strip.”
The attack, launched from an area controlled by Hezbollah, comes after repeated threats by the group, which said it would retaliate against Israel for an airstrike earlier in January that killed its top commander in the Syrian Golan Heights, along with an Iranian general and 10 others
At least two rockets launched from Syrian territory landed in the Golan Heights Tuesday in an attack that Israeli defense officials attributed to Hezbollah. In response, Israel shelled Syrian army positions, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon issued a stern warning to Hezbollah and its patron Syrian President Bashar Assad.
From the Jerusalem Post’s report:
Following the anti-tank missile, mortar shells launched from Syria were fired at IDF positions on Har Dov and the Hermon Mountain. The army evacuated dozens of people from the Hermon Mountain. A home in the Israeli border town of Kafr Rajar was damaged by a mortar shell.
The IDF responded with combined artillery and air strikes on multiple targets in southern Lebanon. “We view Hezbollah as responsible,” Almoz said. “This is not necessarily the end of the IDF’s response,” he warned.
“We are continuing to manage this incident from the northern command,” he added. “The IDF Chief of Staff is holding an ongoing evaluation of incidents. We are in the midst of this incident.”
Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks in northern Israel along the Lebanon border, according to a statement reported by Reuters on Wednesday.
The Lebanese terror group said its “Quneitra Martyrs Brigade” carried out the attack.
In the light of this attack and other recent threats from Hezbollah, the IDF has been digging near the northern border to expose any possible attack tunnels:
The IDF has begun drilling in search for possible tunnels near the norther community of Zir’it, which is situated close to the Lebanese border.
Military sources on Wednesday said the drilling was being carried out in response to a request by local residents to rule out the possibility of Hezbollah attacks in the area.
The sources have stressed that no tunnels have been located, and that it is not the first time that the army has launched underground searches in response to requests by local residents.
Arutz Sheva reports on northern residents’ fears of Hezbollah terror tunnels:
When asked about the digging noises earlier this month, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) claimed “no tunnels have been located on the northern border. Noises that were heard beneath a home turned out to be a neighbor’s horse stomping with its hooves.”
But a video posted on YouTube recently, said to have been filmed at night in Shtula on the border with Lebanon, had many seriously doubting Ya’alon’s claims.
I’ll let you be the judge of this video.
I hope that any tunnels – if indeed they exist – will be quickly exposed and destroyed. It’s bad enough to consider what might have been in the south. That this threat should reign in the north too is too difficult to contemplate.
May the injured soldiers have a speedy recovery.