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Rocket attack from south Lebanon draws Israeli artillery retaliation

  • Lebanese Army units in the area were placed on alert.

RMAISH, Lebanon: Lebanese authorities confirmed Tuesday that one rocket fired from southern Lebanon landed in Israel overnight, prompting Israeli troops to retaliate by firing four artillery shells at Lebanese territory.

President Michel Sleiman condemned the rocket attack as a violation of Lebanese laws and Lebanon’s international obligations.

In the meantime, the militant Al-Qaeda-affiliated group Abdullah Azzam Brigades has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“On Tuesday morning 29/11/2011 a unit from Abdullah Azzam Brigades shelled Zionist settlements in north Palestine from south Lebanon and the missiles have hit their targets. Victory is but from God,” the El Nashra website quoted part of the statement which it claims had been sent as saying.

The Israeli army does not believe the attack was the work of Hezbollah, but rather of Palestinian or Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, the Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday. The attack came on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The Lebanese Army said in a statement that unidentified elements fired a rocket from the outskirts of the border town of Rmaish toward the occupied Palestinian territories at midnight Monday. The U.N. peacekeeping force UNIFIL also confirmed that its radars detected firing of “at least one rocket into Israel after midnight.”

Israeli enemy forces retaliated by firing four artillery shells that landed inside Lebanese territory between the border towns of Rmaish and Hanin, without causing any casualties, the army statement said.

It added that army units deployed in the area were placed on alert, with troops taking tight security measures and increasing patrols to restore calm.

A military committee began an investigation to uncover the party that fired the rocket and arrest its members and plug the loopholes that could be exploited by any party wishing to carry out similar acts, the statement said. It added that the Army was following up the situation in coordination with UNIFIL.

In another statement, the army said an Israeli reconnaissance plane violated Lebanese airspace over the border village of Kfarkila and another similar plane violated Lebanese airspace over the border town of Naqoura Tuesday.

Sleiman condemned the rocket attack against Israel as a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.

“The firing of rockets, which was carried out individually, toward occupied Palestinian territory does not serve the interest of solidarity with the Palestinian people,” Sleiman said. The attack also shatters the state of stability prevailing in the south and violates Resolution 1701 as well as Lebanese laws and international obligations, he added.UNIFIL force commander Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas described the rocket attack as “a serious incident.” He said he is maintaining close contact with the parties and has called for maximum restraint in order to prevent any escalation of the situation.

“This is a serious incident in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area. It is imperative to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this attack and we will spare no efforts to this end working in cooperation with the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces],” Asarta said in a statement released by UNIFIL. He said additional troops have been deployed on the ground and patrols have been intensified across our area of operations to prevent any further incidents.

“At the same time, there is a need to act with restraint and the parties have reassured me of their continued commitment to maintain the cessation of hostilities in accordance with resolution 1701,” Asarta added.

Israeli authorities indicated to UNIFIL that a number of rockets impacted in northern Israel.

A security source told The Daily Star that Lebanese troops found two homemade rocket launch pads in a vacant area between Rmaish and Ain Ibl. The source said a battery and a timer were also left behind.

In Occupied Jerusalem, the Israeli army said several rockets landed in the western Galilee region, causing no causalities. “The Israeli army considers that it is a serious incident and believes that it is the responsibility of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Army to avoid this kind of attacks,” an army statement said.

Israeli public radio reported that four rockets had landed in Israel – one caused minor damage, while another landed in a populated area but failed to explode.

The last incident at the Israeli-Lebanese border dates back to Aug. 1, when soldiers from the two countries exchanged fire along the Blue Line, the U.N.-drawn border. A similar incident more than a year earlier left two Lebanese soldiers, a journalist and a senior Israeli officer dead.

And in May 2011, Israeli troops killed 10 people and wounded more than 110 others on the border in south Lebanon during a Palestinian refugee protest to mark the anniversary of the 1948 creation of the Jewish state, which Palestinians term the “Nakba,” or catastrophe.  

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 30, 2011, on page 1.
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