- Day three of salvos in a theater of long-standing conflict
- Projectiles hit open ground, suggesting no desire for war
- Tension mounts after Gulf tanker attack
- Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war 15 years ago
TEL AVIV / BEIRUT, Aug.6 (Reuters) – The Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah fired rockets at Israeli forces on Friday, prompting Israeli retaliatory fire into southern Lebanon during a third day of cross-border salvos amid broader regional tensions with Iran.
Suggesting that its attack was calibrated to prevent further escalation, Hezbollah said it had targeted open ground near Israeli forces in retaliation for Israeli airstrikes that also struck open areas.
Israel has said it does not want to degenerate into all-out war, even though it is ready for one.
“Our understanding is that Hezbollah has deliberately targeted open areas so as not to aggravate the situation,” said IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler.
The outbreak, which claimed no casualties, follows an alleged Iranian attack on an Israeli-run tanker in the Gulf last week in which two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed. Tehran has denied any involvement. Read more
With the Islamic Republic facing the possibility of Israeli or international action in response to the Gulf incident, violence erupted across a border that has long been a scene of conflict between Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Israel. .
The salvos began on Wednesday with a rocket strike on Israel from Lebanon, for which no group has claimed responsibility. This attack, on which Hezbollah has not commented, drew artillery and Israeli airstrikes in retaliation.
Hezbollah, one of Iran’s main allies in the Middle East, said it fired dozens of rockets on Friday into open ground near Israeli positions in the disputed border area of ââShebaa Farms in response to Israeli airstrikes from Thursday. Read more
The attack sparked criticism from opponents of Hezbollah in Lebanon, a country suffering from a crippling financial crisis that the ruling elite are failing to tackle.
In a rare challenge for Hezbollah, the fighters who fired the rockets were stopped by locals as they passed through a Druze area afterwards. Read more
“What is happening in the south is dangerous, very dangerous, especially in light of the great tension that is emerging in the region,” said on Twitter Samir Geagea, a Christian politician with close ties to Saudi Arabia and ardent opposing Hezbollah.
NO INJURIES TO REPORT
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon declared the situation very serious and urged all parties to cease fire.
The IDF said its Iron Dome system intercepted 10 of 19 rockets on Friday, six of which landed in open areas and three landed in southern Lebanon.
There have been no reports of casualties or serious damage during the three days of airstrikes, which rocked a long period of relative calm since Israel and Hezbollah waged a month-long war in 2006.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it was consulting its defense and military chiefs on the violence. The military said it hit “rocket launch sites in Lebanon” on Friday in response to Hezbollah’s salvos.
Security analysts have long raised the risk of Israel becoming entangled in a multi-front war with Iran, which also supports Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip with whom Israel waged an 11-day conflict in May. .
Israel says it rallies global action against Iran following last week’s attack off the coast of Oman on Mercer Street, an Israeli-run tanker, but is ready to act alone if necessary. The United States and Britain say they will work with their allies to respond to the attack.
Tehran has denied any role in the July 29 incident.
Britain will raise the attack on the tanker at a closed-door UN Security Council meeting later on Friday, diplomats said, but the 15-member body is unlikely to take any action. Read more
Foreign ministers from wealthy Group of Seven economies said Iran threatened international peace and security and all available evidence showed it was behind the attack on Mercer Street. Read more
Report by Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv and Tom Perry in Beirut; Editing by Mark Heinrich
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