JERUSALEM/BEIRUT (Reuters) – A Hezbollah missile strike wounded four Israeli soldiers on Wednesday, the biggest attack on Israeli forces by the Lebanese guerrilla group since a 34-day war in 2006.
In an apparent revenge attack for an Israeli air strike in Syria that killed senior Hezbollah members, the group said its “Quneitra Martyrs Brigade” had carried out Wednesday’s hit on an Israeli convoy in the Shebaa Farms frontier area, prompting concerns of further escalation.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said an Israeli soldier had been captured in the operation, but the Israeli military immediately denied that.
Israeli artillery fired at least 22 shells into open farmland in
southern Lebanon after the strike, a Lebanese security source said, and thick smoke rose over the area.
The frontier area had been largely quiet since the 2006 conflict as Iran-backed Hezbollah engaged in fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria’s civil war and Israel focused on the Gaza Strip, where it fought for 50 days last summer against Hamas militants.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made security his top priority in a campaign for re-election on March 17, said, that “whoever is trying to challenge us on the northern frontier” should bear in mind Israel’s Gaza offensive last year. Speaking in Sderot, an Israeli town bordering the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu said Israel was “prepared to act powerfully on all fronts,” adding: “Security comes before everything else.” An Israeli military source said Wednesday’s missile hit a military vehicle, wounding four soldiers. Mortar bombs then struck an army position on Mt Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, causing no casualties.