Despite its preoccupation with the Syria crisis Hezbollah claimed responsibility for planting a bomb that wounded two Israeli soldiers on the south Lebanon border Tuesday, two days after a Lebanese soldier was wounded by Israeli fire in the area.
“We wanted to tell Israelis that we are ready and that there is no way they can assault us while we stand by and watch,” Hezbollah’s No. 2 Sheikh Naim Qassem told OTV. “The Shebaa Farms are occupied and it is the right of the resistance to conduct operations to liberate the land.”
“At 2:22 p.m. Tuesday, the brigade of the martyred Ali Hasan Haidar of the Islamic Resistance set off an explosive device under an Israeli patrol in the Shebaa heights, which led to several casualties among the ranks of the occupying soldiers,” read a Hezbollah statement.
The brigade responsible for setting off the explosive device was named after 25-year-old Ali Hasan Haidar, a Hezbollah explosives expert, who was killed last monthwhile trying to dismantle four Israeli devices planted on Hezbollah’s telecommunications network in Adloun, south Lebanon.
One motive behind the attack Tuesday was linked to the name of the brigade that carried it out, said Qassem, hinting that the incident was retaliation over Haidar’s death.
Nevertheless, Qassem added the resistance was not limiting itself to tit-for-tat attacks, “It is our right to carry out operations against Israel when and where we see fit,” he said.
When asked why Hezbollah swiftly claimed responsibility for the operation, Qassem said the move was meant to express Hezbollah’s readiness to counter any breach carried out by the Israeli army.
In an implicit warning to the Israeli forces, the Hezbollah official said that the resistance was capable of planting explosives in areas monitored by Israeli forces.
“This means that the resistance went from Lebanese territories to occupied territories,” despite heavy Israeli surveillance, Qassem said.
The Israeli army confirmed the incident, saying that two soldiers had been wounded in the blast. “Initial reports indicate that the explosion was caused by an explosive device that was planted” to attack Israeli soldiers, Israel’s army tweeted.
Within minutes of Hezbollah claiming responsibility for the blast, the Israeli army tweeted that it had fired artillery at two Hezbollah posts along the border. However, an Al-Manar reporter said that no Hezbollah posts were situated in the area.Security sources told The Daily Star that Israel had launched at least 15 artillery rounds in retaliation near the Shebaa hills, at a rate of two per minute. The site of the attack lies 200 meters from Lebanese residential areas along the border.
The Lebanese Army issued a statement saying the Israeli army targeted the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba hills with 23 15-millimeter artillery shells. The Army said no casualties were reported, adding that it undertook necessary “defense measures” and was coordinating with UNIFIL.
A senior Israeli army source told The Jerusalem Post that “the incident hasn’t ended yet from our standpoint.”
“We have proved that we responded forcefully to every attempt to harm us, be it in the north, south or any other sector,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, quoted by his office.
“The Lebanese government and Hezbollah are directly responsible for this blatant breach of Israel’s sovereignty” tweeted Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
Several reports cited a second blast that came within minutes of the first explosion. Security sources denied such reports, however.
In response to a question concerning possible Israeli retaliation, the Hezbollah official said that it was not feasible for Israel to wage a military operation against Lebanon.
“The resistance’s readiness and capabilities makes Israeli forces wary of the consequences,” Qassem said.
Following the assault, UNIFIL forces contacted both parties “urging maximum restraint and asking them to cooperate with UNIFIL in order to reduce tension and prevent escalation,” read a statement published by the group Tuesday. UNIFIL is also launching an investigation to determine the facts and circumstances of the incident.
UNIFIL deemed the incident a violation of U.N. Resolution 1701. “Such actions are in contravention of our objectives and efforts to reduce tensions and establish a stable and secure environment in southern Lebanon,” the statement said. Israeli troops routinely violate the internationally recognized Blue Line around the Al-Sendaneh area to kidnap shepherds and conduct other operations.
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