A rare, major cross-border exchange of fire between Israel and militants in Lebanon has flared-up on Wednesday into Thursday after three rockets were initially launched from southern Lebanon, which Israeli officials say struck inside Israeli territory, causing brush fires with some reports saying up to four injuries.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) then hit back with artillery fire on the launch positions, followed by airstrikes, reportedly on Marjayoun district in the south. "Israel responded with several rounds of artillery fire on Wednesday before launching air strikes early on Thursday," the military announced. The IDF later indicated it blanketed the target zone with over 100 artillery strikes.
"Fighter jets struck the launch sites and infrastructure used for terror in Lebanon from which the rockets were launched," the IDF statement said.
Israel also said it would hold the Lebanese government responsible for rocket fire out of the south, reminiscent of the 2006 war where Israel conducted airstrikes on Beirut for Hezbollah aggression. The Hill reports, "Avichai Adraee, the Israeli army’s Arabic-language spokesman, blamed the Lebanese government for the tensions and cautioned that there would be more attacks on Israel from south Lebanon."
Video from the first moments after the rocket impact near Kiryat Shmona pic.twitter.com/qVXlEmv3iC— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) August 4, 2021
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the Israeli airstrikes were the first of their kind since 2006 (though it appears the last time was actually 2014). The IDF published footage of the overnight attack on Lebanon. President Aoun denounced the Israeli aggression and said he'll take it to the United Nations:
Aoun stated that "Israel's use of its air force to target Lebanese villages is the first of its kind since 2006, and suggests an intention to escalate attacks" against Lebanon.
"These attacks are a direct threat to security and stability in the south," Aoun added.
"What happened is a flagrant and dangerous violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and a direct threat to security and stability in the south," Aoun said, referring to a 2006 UN motion that ended the war between Israel and Lebanon-based terrorists of Hezbollah.
IDF publishes footage of artillery strikes in southern Lebanon pic.twitter.com/HipdFAOVnh— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) August 4, 2021
A top UN official is meanwhile urging "maximum restraint" by both sides as tensions soar. Hezbollah or an allied militant group is believed behind the rocket launch into Israel, but has remained silent in terms of a claim of responsibility.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday threatened there could be more to come in an interview: "This was an attack meant to send a message... Clearly we could do much more, and we hope we won't arrive at that."
Israeli artillery now shelling the entire border with south Lebanon in response to shelling of Kiryat Shmona by 3 rockets from the Lebanese side hours ago. pic.twitter.com/ZAnOa3EDPo— 301🇦🇲 (@301_AD) August 4, 2021
Gantz's words included heavy focus on Iran throughout the interview, and said Israel stands ready to attack the Islamic Republic if a "multi-front" conflict opens up, likely to include Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.