MARJAYOUN, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army found four rocket launchpads used in the attack on Israel Sunday hours after the Israeli military fired a barrage of shells across the border in retaliation, a security source told The Daily Star.
The Army discovered the launchpads in Khreibet in south Lebanon, where two rockets were fired into Israel earlier in the day, the source added.
In a statement, the military said two rockets were launched into Israel from Khreibet in Hasbaya at 7:02 a.m. and that Israel responded with 32 shells to the source of fire between 7:41 and 8:04 a.m.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and the Lebanese Army arrived at the site of the shelling, where a number of Syrian refugees and Lebanese farmers reside, the source told The Daily Star.
The Israeli military said Lebanese rockets landed near the town of Kiryat Shmona and that it responded with artillery fire, Reuters reported. The attack did not cause material damage or loss of life.
UNIFIL confirmed the two attacks, saying the peacekeeping force’s Commander Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra was immediately in contact with both sides and urged the parties to exercise maximum restraint in order to prevent further escalation of the situation.
“This is a very serious incident in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area,” Serra was quoted as saying in a statement.
“UNIFIL’s first imperative is to ensure that there is no further escalation of the situation and I have been assured by the parties of their full cooperation with UNIFIL in this effort and of their continued commitment to the cessation of hostilities,” he added.
Serra also said the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL personnel were trying to locate the rocket launching site and that the peacekeepers have intensified patrols across the area of operations to prevent any further incidents.
“It is of paramount importance to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this attack and we will spare no efforts to this end working in cooperation with the Lebanese [Army],” he added.
In August, a similar rocket attack from Lebanese territory into Israel was also met with swift retaliation from Israel. The Lebanese Army arrested two suspects who confessed they had transferred the rockets from the West Bekaa Valley village of Ghazzeh and delivered them to a man in the southern town of Tyre.
Tensions also ran high on the Lebanese-Israeli border when a Lebanese soldier shot and killed an Israeli soldier on Dec. 15. The Army said the incident was an individual act.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned the Lebanese government of even tougher reprisals in response to similar rocket attacks.
“We will not tolerate fire from Lebanon on our territory ... We consider the Lebanese government and Army responsible for this morning’s fire,” Yaalon said in a statement, according to Agence France Presse.
“The Israeli army responded by firing a large number of shells at the area from where the rockets were fired. If necessary, it will be even tougher.”
“I would never advise anyone to test our patience and our determination to defend the security of the Israeli people,” Yaalon said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had accused Hezbollah, saying the Lebanese party was “hiding behind civilians as human shields. ”
“What is happening today in Lebanon is that Hezbollah is stationing thousands of missiles and rockets in apartments, in the heart of the civilian population, and is thus perpetrating two war crimes simultaneously,” Netanyahu’s media office quoted him as saying.
Later in the day, residents in the village of Majdalyoun near Sidon found unexploded rocket-propelled grenades and empty shells in a dumpsite. They informed the Army and local Information Branch.
An expert who examined the nine shells said that the detonators had been removed, meaning the shells were not ready to explode.
Security sources told The Daily Star that the shells had been disposed of in the garbage dumpsite.