23:55 GMT08 May 2021
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    The Israeli military launched mortar, artillery and air strikes against multiple targets in southern Lebanon on Sunday, responding to a Hezbollah anti-tank missile attack targeting Israel Defence Force positions along the border. Lebanon’s prime minister has called on the United States and France to intervene to calm the crisis.

    Israel has suffered no injuries, “not even a scratch” in the back and forth barrage of fire between the IDF and Hezbollah along the Israel-Lebanon border, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said.

    Commenting on the security situation in the area in a Hebrew language post on his Twitter account following Sunday’s violence, Netanyahu said he had instructed the military to “be prepared for any scenario” in accordance with developments on the ground.

    For his part, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin took to Twitter to warn “all those who seek to harm us” that Israel was “ready and willing to defend Israel’s citizens wherever they are, without hesitation.”

    ‘One Way to Deal With Enemies’

    Earlier, speaking to students at a school in an Israeli settlement community in the West Bank at a back to school event, Netanyahu blamed Iran for most of violence and terrorism being faced by Israel in the region, and called the country a “new empire” whose mission is to destroy Israel.

    “They build proxies in Lebanon in the form of Hezbollah, in Gaza in the form of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They are trying to entrench themselves in Iraq to turn it into not only a country through which it can transfer arms to Syria and Hezbollah, but also to turn it into a launching pad for rockets and infiltration against us,” Netanyahu said, his remarks quoted by the Jerusalem Post.

    According to Netanyahu, while Israel was prepared to make peace “with enemies that decided to stop being an enemy,” those “that continue to fight against you, who say openly that they want to destroy you – there is only one way to deal with them: if someone rises to kill you, rise up and kill him first, and prevent him from getting game-changing weapons,” he said.

    Netanyahu and Rivlin’s comments followed the largest exchange of fire between the Israeli military and Lebanese political and paramilitary force Hezbollah in years on Sunday. Hezbollah was said to have fired multiple anti-tank missiles at an IDF base and military vehicles along the border with Lebanon after reports that Israeli drones entered Lebanese airspace and dropped incendiary bombs in several areas of south Lebanon. The IDF responded to the anti-tank missile fire by lobbing over 100 mortar rounds across the border, shelling more targets with artillery and deploying at least one helicopter gunship.

    Neither side had reported casualties as of 9:00 pm local time Sunday, although Lebanese media had earlier claimed that at least one anti-tank missile had struck and destroyed one Israeli military vehicle.

    Sunday’s exchange of fire followed the Israeli military’s announcement Saturday that it would call off planned military drills in another part of the country to redeploy forces to the northern border amid tensions with Hezbollah.

    Tensions escalated dramatically last Sunday, after Lebanese media alleged that Israel had carried out a drone attack against a Hezbollah media office in Beirut, and air strikes along Lebanon’s border with Syria. Further suspected Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace were reported throughout last week. On Saturday, Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel that it must “pay a price” for the drone attacks.

    On Thursday, the IDF accused three senior Iranian military officers of assisting Hezbollah in efforts to establish clandestine rocket factories on Lebanese territory, and warned that Israel would take the necessary actions to disarm this threat. Nasrallah denied the claims, and accused Tel Aviv of seeking a pretext to attack Lebanon.

    Sunday’s escalation was the worst cross border exchange of fire in years. Israel and Lebanon have fought four wars since 1947, with the last conflict taking place in July and August of 2006, and costing over 1,300 lives and billions of dollars in damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure before being halted by a UN-brokered ceasefire.


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