Bracing for further attacks, mayors in northern Israel open bomb shelters

UNIFIL steps up patrols along Israel-Lebanon border after rocket salvo, which followed alleged Israeli killing of Hezbollah terrorist

Illustrative photo of a woman waiting at a bus stop near a public bomb shelter, on July 6, 2015.
(Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a woman waiting at a bus stop near a public bomb shelter, on July 6, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The mayor of Nahariya and the head of the Shlomi Regional Council in northern Israel ordered the opening of bomb shelters in their respective locales late Sunday, after at least three rockets landed earlier in the evening in open areas of the Western Galilee region.

All three rockets apparently landed near Shlomi, a small town near the Lebanese border, while sirens sounded in Nahariya, a larger coastal city about 10 kilometers southwest.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a Syria-based Palestinian terror group, took responsibility for the rocket fire, according to Lebanese media cited by Israel’s Channel 2.

UNIFIL, the UN force charged with overseeing security in South Lebanon, released a statement saying it had stepped up patrols along the border between Israel and Lebanon in a bid to tamp down on cross-border violence.

The statement noted that UNIFIL radars detected three rockets shot at Israel earlier in the evening, with one of the rockets landing in the sea, according to the IDF.

UNIFIL chief Luciano Portolano added that he was in contact with officials in Lebanon and Israel in a bid to restore calm.

“This is a serious incident in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area. It is imperative to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this attack. Additional troops have been deployed on the ground and patrols have been intensified across our area of operations in coordination with the LAF to prevent any further incidents,” Portolano said, according to the UNIFIL statement.

The rockets struck open areas less than a day after an alleged IDF airstrike killed Samir Kuntar, the Hezbollah terrorist who spent decades in an Israeli jail for his role in the brutal 1979 murders of a Nahariya family.

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Air-raid sirens warning of incoming projectiles sounded in towns and cities throughout the Western Galilee ahead of the rockets’ fall. Local residents later reported hearing several explosions.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the rocket strikes.

Lebanon’s Naharnet news site reported that two rockets were fired at Israel from the al-Hinniyeh area, near the city of Tyre, and two more were fired from Tal al-Maaliyeh. Some reports by Lebanese media suggested that a fourth rocket may have landed in the sea.

A Lebanese source told AFP that the rockets were Katyushas.

Following the rocket attack, Israel Defense Forces artillery units shelled targets in South Lebanon.

“The Israel Defense Forces have responded with targeted artillery fire following the rockets that hit Israel earlier today from southern Lebanon,” a statement from the army said.

“The IDF considers the Lebanese Army as solely responsible for what is happening in the territory and will continue to act against any attempt to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the security of its citizens,” the statement added.

Earlier, Lebanese news website MTV reported heavy Israeli air activity over southern Lebanon, along with flares being fired at the al-Mansour area, close to the capital city of Beirut.

The Israel Defense Forces did not confirm any air activity on its part.

Northern Israel had been bracing for a possible Hezbollah response since the killing of Kuntar, 54, overnight Saturday.

(FILES) - A file picture taken on July 16, 2008, shows Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah (R) speaking next to freed Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar (L) at a stadium in Beirut's southern suburbs. (AFP PHOTO/MUSSA AL-HUSSEINI / AFP / MUSSA AL-HUSSEINI)
Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah (right) speaking next to freed Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar (left) at a stadium in Beirut, July 16, 2008. (AFP/Mussa al-Husseini)

Arab media reported that several Israeli Air Force missiles struck the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, killing Kuntar and eight other operatives.

Hezbollah on Sunday morning said that Kuntar was killed in an Israeli airstrike, and alleged that Israel may have coordinated the hit with Syrian rebel “terrorists” operating in the area. The Assad regime also blamed “terrorist groups” for the strike.

Reports said that Kuntar was assassinated not as revenge for his past actions, but rather because he was planning fresh attacks against Israel.

There was no official Israeli confirmation of the attack, although officials expressed satisfaction over his death. Kuntar was with a group of commanders from various terrorist groups that were planning attacks on Israel, reports said.

AFP and Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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