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Gantz warns Israel will use ‘necessary force’ if any more Lebanon rocket attacks

Defense minister hints at further retaliation after military shells launch site in response to rocket fire

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with Druze officials during celebrations of Nabi Shuayb at the tomb of the Prophet Jethro in northern Israel, April 25, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with Druze officials during celebrations of Nabi Shuayb at the tomb of the Prophet Jethro in northern Israel, April 25, 2022. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz threatened Lebanon on Monday with further retaliation if more rockets are fired at northern Israel, after the Israeli military struck a launch site in response to a rocket attack overnight.

“The State of Israel demands that the Lebanese government take responsibility for what happens on its territory,” Gantz said during a meeting with Druze officials for celebrations of Nabi Shuayb at the tomb of the Prophet Jethro.

“If terrorism and violence continue, we will know to use the necessary force against the right targets,” he added, in comments provided by his office.

According to the Lebanese army, the Israel Defense Forces fired 50 artillery shells at several locations in south Lebanon. The IDF said it struck the area from which the rocket was fired as well as “an infrastructure target,” without elaborating further.

No damage was reported in the Israeli strikes, according to Lebanese authorities and media.

The Lebanese army also said it located two rockets that were aimed at Israel and defused them.

IDF artillery fires shells at targets in Lebanon on April 25, 2022, after a rocket was fired into Israel. (Israel Defense Forces)

The rocket that was fired into Israel from Lebanon shortly after midnight on Monday landed in an open area near Kibbutz Matzuva, close to the border, without causing damage or injuries. Hezbollah-linked media in Lebanon reported that the rocket had been fired from an area between the towns of Qlaileh and Maaliyeh, southeast of Tyre.

No rocket warning sirens sounded in Israel as the rocket landed in an open area, and the military said that alert levels in the area remain “normal.”

The United Nations peacekeeping force along the border, UNIFIL, urged restraint.

“A rocket was launched from Lebanon toward Israel early this morning. Israel Defense Forces are returning fire with dozens of shells. UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander @aroldo_lazaro urges calm and restraint in this volatile and ongoing situation,” UNIFIL tweeted.

IDF spokesperson Ran Kochav said he believed Palestinian groups in Lebanon were responsible.

“It is estimated that these are Palestinian factions and that this is related to the Ramadan period and the events of the Temple Mount,” he told Kan public radio.

There have been several instances of rocket fire from Lebanon into Israel in recent years, with most blamed on Palestinian factions in the country, not the Hezbollah terror group. However, it is unlikely that terrorists in southern Lebanon would be able to fire rockets without at least the tacit approval of the Iran-backed militia, which maintains tight control over the area.

Armed fighters and people take part in a funeral procession for Hamza Ibrahim Shahin (pictured in posters), a member of the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, in the Burj al-Shamali camp for Palestinian refugees near the southern Lebanese coastal city of Tyre, on December 12, 2021. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

Military analysts believe authorities’ use of the term “Palestinian factions in Lebanon” refers to a branch of the Gaza-based Hamas terror group, that has established a base of operations in the Tyre area. In December, an explosion at a Hamas site in a refugee camp near the Lebanese port city killed an operative.

Lebanon is home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Many live in 12 refugee camps scattered around the small Mediterranean country. By longstanding agreement, the Lebanese army does not enter the camps, leaving security inside to Palestinian factions.

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