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Israel fires '100 shells' at Hezbollah

September 1, 2019

Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged fire in the latest confrontation between the bitter rivals. The UN has urged both sides to de-escalate the situation and avoid "a new conflict that none of the parties can afford."

Smoke rises from Israeli army shells that landed in the southern Lebanese border village of Maroun Al-Ras, Lebanon
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo

On Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon in response to a missile attack on Israeli military targets.

The Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for destroying a military vehicle and any potential casualties. Shortly afterward, the IDF reported that no one had been injured.

"Hezbollah fired 2-3 anti-tank missiles from Lebanon, hitting an IDF military outpost and ambulance in northern Israel," said an IDF tweet. "We fired at the Hezbollah squad responsible. No Israelis were injured in the attack."

Read more: Israel on edge after Syria strikes, Lebanon 'drone attack'

Rising tensions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the IDF responded "with 100 shells, aerial fire and various measures."

"I have given instructions to be prepared for any scenario, and we will decide on what's next depending on how things develop," he said.

Over the past week, tensions reached a fever pitch between Israel and Hezbollah when two drones crash-landed into Hezbollah offices in southern Beirut.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened retaliation on Saturday for the apparent Israeli attack, saying the country "must pay a price."

Read more: Hezbollah's new 'power' threatens Israel

A picture of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah lies amid other damage inside the Lebanese Hezbollah media office, in a southern suburb of Beirut
One of the Israeli drones crash-landed into Hezbollah's media office in southern BeirutImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Hussein

'Could lead to new conflict'

The UN peacekeeping force deployed in southern Lebanon has been in contact with both sides in order to de-escalate the situation. "Calm has returned in the area," UN spokesman Andrea Tenenti said late Sunday.

Earlier this week, the UN Security Council warned Israel and Lebanon about violating the terms of UN resolutions, saying it "could lead to a new conflict that none of the parties or the region can afford." France said it was in contact with both sides to mediate the situation.

Despite deep hostility between Israel and Hezbollah, both have avoided direct conflict since 2006, when they fought a brutal monthlong war that ended in a stalemate.

Israel has one of the most advanced armed forces in the world, while Hezbollah has thousands of battle-hardened fighters who fought in support of the Assad regime in Syria's civil war.

Read more: Hezbollah's young adherents emboldened after US announcement on Jerusalem

After the exchange of fire between Israel and the militant group, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the situation on Lebanon's border. 

A US official told news agencies that "the United States fully supports Israel's right to defend itself." 

France has made "multiple contacts" to prevent further aggression between Israel and the group, an official told news agencies.

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mkg, ls/cmk (Reuters, dpa, AP)