After reported strike on Hezbollah, PM says Israel will defend itself

After reported strike on Hezbollah, PM says Israel will defend itself

Netanyahu refuses to address reports of raid on Lebanon-Syria border, but says Israel’s defense doctrine clear

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

A fully armed F-16 during take off. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
A fully armed F-16 during take off. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted Tuesday at Israeli involvement in a reported air raid on a Hezbollah convoy on the Lebanon Syria border a night earlier.

Speaking at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Netanyahu said he would not speak to the reports that Israeli planes struck a missile shipment or missile base in the Baalbek region on the border between the Syria and Lebanon.

However, he added that Israel would defend itself through whatever means necessary.

“Our policy is clear,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about the strike. “I won’t speak about what is being claimed or not being claimed. However, we will do everything we need to in order to defend the security of our citizens.”

Reports out of Lebanon Monday night indicated Israeli planes had struck Hezbollah sites near Nabi Sheet and Janta, both strongholds of the Shiite terror group.

Lebanon’s Daily Star reported overnight Monday that the strikes targeted a weapons shipment meant for Hezbollah. Citing unconfirmed reports, Al Arabiya said the strikes hit a moving convoy carrying ballistic missiles from Syria to Lebanon, to be put to use by Hezbollah.

However, Abu al-Majd, a Syrian rebel in the nearby town of Yabroud, told The New York Times that the air raid hit Hezbollah trucks loaded with weapons heading from Lebanon into Syria.

Israel has refused to comment on the report, but US officials have confirmed Israeli involvement in raids on missile shipments from Syria to Lebanon in the past.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group said Israeli warplanes bombed a rocket launcher for Hezbollah fighters near the villages of Janta and Yahfoufa along the border. It was not known if the strikes hit inside Lebanese or Syrian territory, the Observatory added.

The border in the area is poorly marked, The New York Times reported.

“Two Israeli raids hit a Hezbollah target on the border of Lebanon and Syria,” a Lebanese security source told AFP earlier Monday.

The Israeli military declined comment.

Hezbollah seemed eager to downplay the reports that there had been a strike in Lebanon, which would require the group, already stretched thin by fighting in Syria, to respond to Israel.

The Hezbollah television station Al-Manar said there had been “no raid on Lebanese territory,” reporting only the “strong presence of enemy planes over the area north of Bekaa” in eastern Lebanon.

Al-Arabiya reported several Hezbollah casualties in the strike.

Satellite image of suspected Hezbollah training site near Janta. (screen capture: Google Maps)
Satellite image of suspected Hezbollah training site near Janta. (screen capture: Google Maps)

Janta lies along a known smuggling route for arms between Syria and Lebanon, the Daily Star reported. According to a 2012 report, Hezbollah built a training facility at Janta “which includes a suspected driver training course, a 100-meter firing range and a possible urban terrain assault course.”

There was no independent confirmation of the reports.

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An officer in the IDF’s Northern Command told Reuters that “we have known for some time that there are efforts to move serious weaponry from Syria to Lebanon,” but would not comment on Monday night’s reports.

AP and AFP contributed to this report.

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