Israel strikes Hezbollah after gunfire on Lebanon border

MANARA, ISRAEL (AFP) – Israel said yesterday it had launched air strikes against Hezbollah observation posts in Lebanon after shots were fired from across the border towards its troops the previous evening.

The border flare-up came hours after Lebanon rejected an Israeli call to reform the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force which patrols the border ahead of a UN Security Council vote to renew its mandate.

The Israeli army had said earlier that a “security incident” was unfolding near Manara, a kibbutz near the UN-demarcated border between the two countries, and urged residents to take shelter.

“During operational activity in northern Israel last night, shots were fired from Lebanon toward (Israeli) troops,” the military said on Twitter.

“We responded with fire, and our aircraft struck Hezbollah observation posts near the border. This is a severe event and we remain ready to combat any threat to our borders.”

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported Israeli gunfire and flares in the Mays al-Jabal area across the border from Manara.

The Israeli army said “troops deployed dozens of illumination rounds and smoke shells and responded with fire”.

Afterwards “attack helicopters and aircraft struck observation posts belonging to the Hezbollah terror organisation in the border area”. It reported no Israeli casualties.

Manara was quiet yesterday morning. The army told residents they could come into the open and resume work in the fields.

Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war, and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), is tasked with monitoring their ceasefire.

Lebanon had hours earlier rejected an Israeli call to reform UNIFIL ahead of a UN Security Council vote to renew its mandate.

The incident also comes after Hezbollah announced at the weekend it had brought down an Israeli drone flying over the border.

The militant group vowed last September to down Israeli drones flying over Lebanon, following an incident a month earlier when two drones packed with explosives targetted its stronghold in Beirut.

Set up in 1978, UNIFIL was beefed up after a month-long war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah.

The 10,500-strong force, in coordination with the Lebanese army, is tasked with monitoring a ceasefire and Israeli pullout from a demilitarised zone on the border.