‘No Israeli airstrike in Lebanon,’ says Channel 2

Lebanese media report airstrike near Syria-Lebanon border; Hezbollah denies attack but confirms IAF overflight

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.

An Israeli F-16 during an exercise on November 25, 2013. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
An Israeli F-16 during an exercise on November 25, 2013. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Israel did not attack Lebanese territory on Tuesday, Channel 2’s Moshe Nussbaum reported Tuesday.

Lebanese media outlets had reported that Israeli jets had struck near the city of Brital, inflicting casualties, but the claims were quickly denied Tuesday.

According to Lebanese news site el-Nashra, there were multiple Lebanese injuries in two airstrikes near the towns of Brital and Arsal, near the Syrian border.

The Lebanese Daily Star also quoted a security source saying an airstrike had taken place.

However, Hezbollah’s al-Manar television network denied the accuracy of reports of Israeli airstrikes targeting Hezbollah near the border, but confirmed that Israeli planes had overflown the area on Tuesday and called the overflight a violation of Lebanese sovereignty.

The Daily Star later quoted Lebanese security sources denying any airstrikes took place.

“There was no attack,” Nussbaum added to the chorus of denials Tuesday, though he did not cite his sources. “Not every explosion in Lebanon is Israel.”

The IDF declined to comment on the conflicting reports, saying Tuesday it did not comment on foreign news reports.

Lebanese state media reported just before the reported strike that Israeli jets were flying at low altitudes over the mountains in the Bekaa region.

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Brital is located in eastern Lebanon, near the border with Syria. The region is a Hezbollah stronghold and has been the base of the Shiite militia’s operations against Syrian rebel groups. It is also a major artery for smuggling weapons, especially rockets, from Iran to Hezbollah through war-torn Syria.

Hezbollah and the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front have battled for control of the region surrounding Arsal in an offensive launched by the Lebanese group last month. Earlier on Tuesday, al-Nusra claimed it had killed several Hezbollah fighters and confiscated their weapons in raids near Arsal and Nahle.

Pictures purporting to be arms captured by al-Nusra circulated on social media Tuesday.

Israel has been blamed for attacks in Syria in the past, including along the Syria-Lebanon border.

The reported attack comes as Israel is in the midst of a major civil defense drill meant to simulate a Hezbollah attack on major population centers.

The Israeli military has said the drill is only to prepare the home front, responding to reports of Lebanese and Iranian jitters that it could be a harbinger of a coming attack.

Israeli military officials have hinted strongly at involvement in airstrikes in Syria in the past, some of which have reportedly targeted shipments of advanced weapons to the Hezbollah terror group.

“We will not allow the transfer of sophisticated weapons to terror groups, and in particular Hezbollah,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in April, following a reported Israeli strike in Syria. “We know how to reach [Hezbollah] and those who direct it, at any time and any place.”

Ya’alon’s comments came after Israel reportedly hit several targets belonging to Hezbollah and the Syrian army in a series of air attacks in the Qalamoun area on the border between Syria and Lebanon. According to a report in al-Jazeera, the Syrian targets were divisions 155 and 65 of the Assad regime’s army, units in charge of “strategic weapons,” while the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news network reported that the targets were Scud missile depots housed in the divisions’ military bases.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report

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