BEIRUT/MARI, Lebanon: A member of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya fired rockets at Israel Friday, sources from the group told The Daily Star, adding that Hussein Izzat Atwe acted of his own volition.
“Atwe is not a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria or the Nusra Front, nor is he a terrorist,” the source said.
“Atwe is a member of Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya who acted of his own volition in sympathy with the people of Palestine.”
The source highlighted that while Atwe did not refer to Al-Jamaa’s top command, the Islamist group considered Friday morning’s firing of rockets on Israel “an honorable act of resistance.”
The source disclosed that Al-Jamaa was holding contacts with officials to secure the release of Atwe, was arrested by the Internal Security Forces in Al-Bire Hospital in the Bekaa Valley, where he was receiving treatment for severe burns he sustained after launching the rockets.
The source argued that policy statements of successive Lebanese governments mentioned the right of the Lebanese people to resist Israel, adding that Atwe’s act fell within that realm.
The attack Friday morning triggered Israeli retaliatory artillery shelling of the Lebanese village of Kfar Shuba and heightened tensions on the generally calm border between the two countries. Lebanese authorities arrested two men suspected of involvement in the dawn rocket attack on Israel.
Hours before Atwe’s arrest, the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch apprehended a Lebanese man, identified as Samir Abu Qais, in the Hasbaya village of Hebbarieh after they found blood stains in his car that sparked a search of area hospitals for suspects.
Lebanese security sources told The Daily Star that Lebanese Army Intelligence had found traces of six rockets in the village of Mari in Hasbaya, some 2 kilometers from the Blue Line, the United Nations-demarcated border line between Lebanon and Israel.
They said the Army defused two 107mm Grad rockets that were primed to be fired toward Israel following a search for launch pads.
The sources confirmed that three rockets, with a range of 10 kilometers, had been fired toward Israel from the Mari area near the village of Majidieh between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Only one projectile was reported to have hit Israel, according to the Israeli army.
The sources said a sixth rocket failed to fire and exploded in place, wounding the person handling it. They said traces of blood and a ripped shoe were found at the site.
After searching the area, the Army discovered two missile platforms with more rockets ready for launch and dismantled them, the statement said. It added that troops were searching for the perpetrators to arrest them.
U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon spokesman Andrea Tenenti said commander Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra warned that the attack was aimed at undermining stability in the area.
The UNIFIL command is “in close contact with the parties urging maximum restraint in order to prevent any escalation of the situation,” Tenenti said.
Serra said the incident was a “serious” violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and “is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area.”
Lebanese military sources said that the situation in the south is under control by Resolution 1701 and as a result of constant coordination between the Army and UNIFIL troops.
The military sources described the firing of rockets from south Lebanon as “an attempt by some extremist organizations to assert their presence.”
“There is no decision by Hezbollah or Palestinian factions to ignite the front with Israel,” the military sources said.
They added that Lebanese military and security forces were fully ready to face “fifth column” attempts to carry out suspicious actions that serve only the Israeli enemy.