Calm urged as Hizbollah, Israel exchange fire at Lebanon border - GulfToday

Calm urged as Hizbollah, Israel exchange fire at Lebanon border

Lebanon-Journalist

Journalists and villagers watch as Israeli army shells cause fires in the southern Lebanese border village of Maroun Al Ras on Sunday. Associated Press

The United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon is calling on Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah to exercise restraint, after Hizbollah fired anti-tanks into an Israeli military base and Israel responded with heavy artillery fire.

The force, known by its acronym UNIFIL, said in a statement on Sunday that it was following developments and that its commanding officer, Major General Stefano Del Col, “is in contact with the parties urging the maximum restraint and asked to cease all activities endangering the cessation of hostilities.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri held telephone calls with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as well as an adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron urging Washington and Paris as well as the international community to intervene in the volatile situation.

Hariri’s office said he made the calls “asking the United States and France to intervene in the face of developments at the southern border.”

Hizbollah on Sunday claimed it destroyed a military vehicle in northern Israel and killed and wounded those inside, a week after accusing Israel of launching a drone attack on its Beirut stronghold.

The Iran-backed Hizbollah has vowed that Israel “must pay a price” for the Aug.25 drone attack on the southern suburbs of Beirut.

On Sunday, Hizbollah fighters “destroyed a military vehicle on the road to the Avivim barracks (in northern Israel), killing and wounding those inside,” the Shiite group said in a statement.

The unit responsible for the attack was named after two Hizbollah fighters who the group said were killed in an Israeli strike on Syria on Aug.24, the statement added.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported Israeli fire in the area near the south Lebanon town of Maroun Al Ras, across Israel’s border and the Avivim community.

Israel’s army confirmed that “a number of anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon towards an (Israeli military) base and military vehicles.”

“A number of hits have been confirmed,” the Israeli military said, adding that it was responding to the sources of fire in southern Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel was prepared for any scenario after a cross-border clash with Hizbollah but neither side seemed eager for another conflict.

Israel’s military said anti-tank missiles from Lebanon targeted an army base and vehicles and that it responded with fire into southern Lebanon, after a week of growing tension raised fears of a new war with long-time enemy Hizbollah.

Netanyahu, whose re-election campaign ahead of a poll less than three weeks away could have been complicated by war in the north, signalled business as usual after the hostilities erupted along he frontier with Lebanon.

The Israeli leader kept to his regular schedule, commenting on the security situation, in Hebrew only, at the start of a meeting with Honduras’ visiting president, and did not take questions from reporters.

“We were attacked by a few anti-tank missiles. We responded with 100 shells, aerial fire and various measures. We are in consultations about what’s to come,” Netanyahu said.

“I have given instructions to be prepared for any scenario, and we will decide on what’s next depending on how things develop,” he said, almost dismissively, in a departure from his usually much tougher language towards Israel’s enemies.

“I can make an important announcement - we have no casualties, no wounded, not even a scratch.”

In Sunday’s fighting, the Israeli military statement reported a “number of hits” by anti-tank missiles fired at an army base and military vehicles near the Lebanese border in northern Israel. It said it was responding with fire toward “the sources of fire and targets in southern Lebanon.”

There was no word on casualties.

In Lebanon, the Israeli shelling was concentrated on areas close to the border near the villages of Maroun Al Ras and Yaroun, triggering some fires.

Tensions have risen in the last week between Israel and its arch-foe Hizbollah following the drone attack on the group’s Beirut bastion.

The attack, which Israel did not confirm, came just hours after the Jewish state launched air strikes in neighbouring Syria to prevent what it said was an impending Iranian drone attack on the Jewish state.

Hizbollah said two of its fighters were killed in those strikes.

Agencies