IDF: Anti-tank missile from Lebanon explodes near border, artillery returns fire

Military says projectile landed in Israeli territory, close to northern village of Ghajar; at least 15 shells fired in response

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

Explosions are seen in Lebanon following IDF artillery strikes in response to a rocket fired at northern Israel, July 6, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Explosions are seen in Lebanon following IDF artillery strikes in response to a rocket fired at northern Israel, July 6, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)

An anti-tank guided missile fired from Lebanon at Israel on Thursday morning exploded on the border fence close to the northern village of Ghajar, the military said.

The Israel Defense Forces said that in response it carried out artillery strikes against the area from which the missile was launched.

The military had at first assessed the missile was a rocket, but later amended this.

Part of the projectile was found in Israeli territory, while another part landed in Lebanon.

The military was still looking into who was behind the attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed that Israel would respond to the attack.

“Against any violation of our sovereignty and challenge to our presence in our country, we will respond at the place and time of our choosing, in overt and covert ways, that will exact a clear price from those responsible,” said Gallant at a memorial event for fallen soldiers of South Lebanon Army, a Christian militia supported by Israel between the mid-1980s and the summer of 2000.

Initially, the Reuters news agency reported that two rockets were fired from southern Lebanon toward Israel. The report said three Lebanese security officials confirmed that one of them landed in Lebanese territory and the second fell near a disputed area close to the border with Israel.

Hebrew-language media initially assessed the blast was caused by an old land mine on the border.

But in a subsequent statement, the IDF said that after forces arrived at the scene, “it emerged that a launch was carried out from Lebanese territory that exploded adjacent to the border in Israeli territory.”

“In response, the IDF is currently striking the area from which the launch was carried out in Lebanese territory,” the military said, adding that there were no special instructions for citizens of northern Israel.

According to Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV network, associated with the Hezbollah terror group, at least 15 artillery shells were fired at an open hill in the area.

The UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, said it could not verify what caused the explosion, but that the sounds were “consistent with a possible launch.”

UNIFIL said it sent peacekeepers to investigate the incident, while the head of the mission spoke to both Lebanese and Israeli authorities to ease the situation.

“This incident comes at a sensitive time and in an area that has already experienced tensions earlier this week,” UNIFIL said in a statement. “We urge everyone to exercise restraint and avoid any action that could cause further escalation.”

The incident came amid rising tensions on the border after the Hezbollah terror organization set up two tents several dozen meters inside of Israeli territory last month.

The Mount Dov area where the tents were erected, also known as Shebaa Farms, was captured by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War and later effectively annexed along with the Golan Heights. The Lebanese government says the area belongs to Lebanon.

Hezbollah evacuated one of the two tents on Sunday, but there has been no confirmation from the Iran-backed terror organization.

An aerial photo of Hezbollah tents in Israeli territory, June 2023. (Courtesy)

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006.

Last week, Hezbollah said it shot down an Israeli drone flying over a village in southern Lebanon. The group has in the past claimed downing Israeli drones, and Israel’s military also has said in the past that they have shot down Hezbollah drones.

Hezbollah has long been the IDF’s most potent adversary on Israel’s borders, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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