NABI SHEET, Lebanon: Four members of Hezbollah were killed in the Israeli airstrike on the eastern Lebanese-Syrian border that targeted a missile shipment from Syria, security sources said Tuesday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sources told The Daily Star that the airstrike, which took place late Monday evening, was aimed at two trucks, one transferring missiles and the other carrying a missile launcher. The sources said the trucks were heading to Hezbollah’s missile warehouses in Lebanon.
They said the Israeli attack killed four Hezbollah members, but gave no further information.
Hezbollah did not comment officially on the raid, while the party-affiliated television station Al-Manar downplayed the event.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday the Jewish state was doing everything needed to protect the country.
“We are doing everything that is necessary to defend the security of Israel,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by AFP.
A security source told The Daily Star Monday that Israeli warplanes had launched four rockets targeting a shipment of “qualitative” weapons in the border area of Janta near the eastern village of Nabi Sheet. Hezbollah has military training camps and important military posts in Nabi Sheet that were established not long after the party was formed in 1982.
Unpaved roads link Nabi Sheet to the Syrian region of Serghaya and the hills overlooking Zabadani in rural Damascus, all of which are under the control of Syrian regime troops.
The Lebanese Army did not comment on the attack directly, with the military instead releasing a statement Tuesday saying: “At 21:50 p.m. yesterday [Monday], four Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese airspace above the sea to the west of Chekka [in north Lebanon] and then headed to the east, all the way to the regions of Baalbek and Hermel.
“[The planes] performed circular flights over different Lebanese regions and then left Lebanon’s airspace at 22:25 p.m., flying over the sea facing the village of Naqoura.
“At around 11:15 p.m., an Israeli reconnaissance airplane violated Lebanese airspace above Naqoura and preformed circular flights above the areas of Riaq, Baalbek, Hermel, Beirut and its suburbs and then left Lebanese airspace above Alma Shaeb at 12:15 a.m.”
Speaking to The Daily Star, a Lebanese Army source said it was possible that the airstrike had targeted Syrian territories, adding: “We would have for sure known if it hit Lebanese territories.”
The source added that the Lebanese Army had no further information about the matter.
An Internal Security Forces report obtained by The Daily Star said that two explosions were heard near the border town of Nabi Sheet but that “their source and type were not identified” and that “no casualties were reported.” Nabi Sheet’s mayor and residents also said the airstrike did not target their village, suggesting it hit Syrian territory near the border.
President Michel Sleiman Tuesday discussed the airstrike and the appropriate way to confront such aggressions with Army Chief of Staff Maj. Walid Salman, according to a statement from Sleiman’s office.
Israeli local media reported that the Jewish state’s air force was behind the strikes, according to AFP.
Israel’s top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot ran the front page headline, “Foreign reports: Israeli strike in Lebanon,” but referred within its story to strikes that Israel implicitly admitted to carrying out against Hezbollah in Syria last year.
Israel is believed to have carried out several airstrikes on Syrian targets in January, May and October of last year in a bid to prevent the transfer of arms from Syria to Hezbollah, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Other media pointed to remarks made last weekend by Israeli army chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz in which he warned against any such activity.
“We are monitoring closely the transfer of all types of weapons to all fronts,” Gantz was quoted as saying. “Sometimes, in case of necessity, something can happen.”
Lebanon’s Information Minister Ramzi Joreige told a local radio station that if it turned out that the strike had targeted Lebanese territories, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil should file a complaint against Israel before the U.N. Security Council to deter it from future such violations.
Meanwhile, an Israeli unit combed the border with Lebanon Tuesday morning, focusing on the area stretching from the village of Abbasiyeh all the way to the occupied Kfar Shuba hills.