Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry said Friday that the country would file a complaint to the United Nations Security Council over Israel’s rare airstrikes in the country, which were retaliation for rocket fire into Israel as part of a wider escalation that also included Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The ministry tweeted that the Security Council complaint was over “the deliberate Israeli bombardment and attack at dawn today on areas in southern Lebanon, which constitutes a flagrant violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and threatens the stability that the Lebanese south used to enjoy.”
Resolution 1701 put in place the ceasefire that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Lebanon’s Defense Ministry was quoted by the Ynet news site as saying the violence was a “threat to stability, and the Lebanese army is ready to defend against any attack.” The statement added: “The army is making sure to work in coordination with UNIFIL in order to preserve quiet in the south.”
UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force tasked with monitoring Israel’s northern border, warned early Friday morning of a possible “serious escalation” after the rare flareup.
UNIFIL said the Israel Defense Forces had informed it of an “an artillery response” to the rocket fire, adding its personnel heard loud explosions around the city of Tyre in southern Lebanon, and that the head of mission and force commander, Major General Aroldo Lázaro, was speaking with authorities on both sides.
“Both sides have said they do not want a war,” UNIFIL said in a statement, warning that the “actions over the past day are dangerous and risk a serious escalation.”
The Lebanese Army said in a tweet Friday morning that it had located several rockets prepared for launch in the Marjeyoun District of southern Lebanon.
— الجيش اللبناني (@LebarmyOfficial) April 7, 2023
The overnight retaliatory strikes were the first time Israel has confirmed an attack on Lebanese territory since April 2022, after it responded to a rocket that was fired and landed in an open area near Kibbutz Matzuva. That was one of just a handful of flareups since the end of a major war in 2006.
Israeli officials said 34 rockets had been fired toward the border on Thursday, with five landing inside Israel, four with unknown impact sites and the rest downed by the Iron Dome air-defense system. Israel has blamed the Hamas terror group for the rocket fire. Two people were lightly hurt by shrapnel in the attacks.
Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility, a Hezbollah source told the Al-Arabiya network that the Lebanese terror group was not behind it, apparently blaming Palestinian groups in the area. However, it was unlikely they would attack without at least the tacit approval of the Iran-backed terror group that controls southern Lebanon.
The salvo also came just hours after Hezbollah said it would support “all measures” Palestinian groups may take against Israel after clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The current round of violence began Tuesday following clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. That led to rocket fire on Thursday from Gaza and, in a significant escalation, the unusual barrage of rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel. The fighting comes during a delicate time — when Jews are celebrating the Passover holiday and Muslims are marking the holy month of Ramadan.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in a statement Thursday that the country “refuses any escalation from its territory,” condemning the rocket fire launched from its soil.
Mikati said that Lebanon “rejects the use of its territory to carry out operations that destabilize the situation,” after Israel threatened to retaliate against Palestinian terror groups it accused of the attack.
The IDF said it struck several “infrastructure targets” and other sites belonging to Hamas in Lebanon in its overnight strikes, and said it held Beirut responsible for all fire from the territory.
Israeli missiles struck an open field near the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh, close to the coastal southern city of Tyre, according to an Associated Press photographer. Other strikes hit a small bridge and power transformer in the nearby town of Maaliya and a flock of sheep in the town of Qalili, on the outskirts of the Palestinian camp. Several sheep were killed and residents of the town, including Syrian refugees, reported minor injuries.
‘“I was sleeping and suddenly I couldn’t feel anything except the impact,” said Qalili resident Majid Abdelsattar. The strikes, he said, damaged his parents’ house and the family’s citrus orchard.
The IDF said Friday it would bolster the Southern Command and Northern Command with additional infantry and artillery forces amid the tensions.
In a Twitter post, military spokesman Daniel Hagari said the decision to bolster forces was made following a recent assessment and in order “to strengthen defenses for possible scenarios.”
“The forces are at a high level of readiness in the north, in the south, and in [the West Bank]… in order to respond to sudden events and attempts to harm residents,” he said.
“The IDF is capable, ready, and prepared to carry out its missions,” Hagari added.
Late Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the high-level security cabinet to discuss the security developments and weigh Israel’s response.
“Israel’s response, tonight and later, will exact a significant price from our enemies,” Netanyahu said in a brief statement after the meeting, which lasted about three hours.
The statement did not provide further details on any decisions made by the ministers.
The massive barrage of three dozen rockets was the largest number of projectiles fired from Lebanon since the 2006 war, during which thousands of rockets were launched at Israel. In August 2021, Hezbollah fired 19 rockets at northern Israel.
The rocket fire and retaliatory strikes marked the second night of unrest in a spillover of violent tensions from Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on the flashpoint Temple Mount site, where skirmishes between police and Muslim worshipers at the mosque quickly escalated at the start of the Passover holiday on Wednesday.
Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip then fired rockets toward Israel, further stoking concerns of a broader flareup.
The IDF responded by bombing Hamas sites in Gaza. More rockets were fired from the Palestinian coastal enclave overnight Thursday, drawing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in addition to the attacks on southern Lebanon.
On Friday morning, after several hours of calm, Israel lifted restrictions on residents of Gaza-area towns who had been ordered to stay near bomb shelters, in what was seen by Hebrew media as a sign the round of fighting could be over.
An Israeli soldier was also hurt Thursday in a shooting attack in the West Bank, just north of Jerusalem.
The rocket barrage from Lebanon came a day after Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Beirut for what Hamas sources called a “private visit.” Media reports said he was meeting with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Haniyeh met with the heads of other Palestinian organizations on Thursday as Israel threatened a military response to the rocket fire. In his statement, Haniyeh called on “all Palestinian organizations to unify ranks and intensify their resistance against the Zionist occupation.”
Hezbollah has close ties with Hamas, which rules Gaza, and with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which is also based in the coastal enclave.