Israeli jets carry out strikes in Lebanon in response to rockets launched from area held by Iranian-backed fighters

  • Israeli jets bombed two sites in neighbouring Lebanon overnight Wednesday 
  • IDF said sites had been used to launch rockets at Israel just hours earlier 
  • Two rockets struck Israel on Wednesday, causing fires but no serious damage 
  • Defence minister Benny Gantz said he believes rockets were launched by Palestinian groups operating within Lebanon 

Israeli jets have bombed two sites inside Lebanon which the military said were used to launch rockets at its territory. 

The IDF struck the sites overnight Wednesday after three rockets were fired earlier in the day, two which landed in Israel and one which fell short in Lebanon. 

Israel had also fired artillery earlier on Wednesday, marking a sharp increase in border fighting amid rising tensions with Iran – whose proxy groups control Lebanon.

‘This was an attack meant to send a message,’ defence minister Benny Gantz told Israeli media afterwards. ‘Clearly we could do much more, and we hope we won’t arrive at that.’

Israeli jets bombed two sites in Lebanon overnight which it said had been used to launch rockets at the country on Wednesday

Gantz added that he believes a Palestinian faction had launched the rockets. Small Palestinian factions in Lebanon have fired sporadically on Israel in the past. 

The rockets struck open areas in northern Israel, causing brush fires along the hilly frontier but causing no further damage or casualties.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, which came from an area of south Lebanon under the sway of Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas.

Israel responded with several rounds of artillery fire on Wednesday before launching air strikes early on Thursday, the military said.

‘(Military) fighter jets struck the launch sites and infrastructure used for terror in Lebanon from which the rockets were launched,’ the military said in a statement.

The military also struck an area that had seen rocket launches in the past, it added.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said that Israeli warplanes had carried out two raids on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Mahmudiya, about 7.5 miles from the Israeli border. There were no reports of casualties.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Israel’s air strikes were the first targeting Lebanese villages since 2006 and showed an escalation in its ‘aggressive intent’.

Aoun also said in a tweet the strikes were a direct threat to the security and stability of southern Lebanon and violated U.N. Security Council resolutions. 

The border has been mostly quiet since Israel fought a 2006 war against Hezbollah, which has advanced rockets. 

Israeli aircraft struck Hezbollah posts in the border area last summer. Israel says its aircraft last struck inside Lebanon in 2014, though Al-Manar TV reported one such strike in 2015.

This week’s cross-border fire came after a suspected drone attack last Thursday on a tanker off the coast of Oman that Israel, the US and Britain blamed on Iran. 

Two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed. Iran has denied any involvement.

The United States and Britain said on Sunday they would work with their allies to respond to the attack. 

Israel says it is keeping the option open of acting alone if necessary.

Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz said the attacks were designed as a warning, adding ‘clearly we could have gone further’ but chose not to

Security sources have also blamed Iran for a second incident on board tanker Asphalt Princess this week, after a suspected hijacking on Tuesday afternoon.

Those briefed on the incident said five or six armed Iranian commandos had raided the vessel in an attempt to divert it to an Iranian port.

But the plan was foiled when crew scuppered the engine, allowing US and Omani warships in the area to catch up to the tanker – prompting the commandos to flee.

However, no official accusation of responsibility has been made. Tehran has again denied involvement. 

Iran and its proxy groups have been involved in a years-long shadow war against regional rivals and western allies Israel and Saudi Arabia that – at times – has threatened to push the region to an all-out conflict.

Meanwhile Israel was involved in an 11-day conflict with armed Palestinian groups in Gaza in May this year that killed hundreds and left more than 1,000 wounded – most of them Palestinian.

A ceasefire was declared on May 21, with both sides claiming victory. 

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