Lebanese President Michel Aoun accused Israel of “aggressive, escalatory intentions” on Thursday after Israel carried out airstrikes on targets in southern Lebanon in response to rocket fire from across the northern border.
The airstrikes in Lebanon were the first ones openly acknowledged by the military in southern Lebanon since 2014. But Israeli air maneuvers are commonly reported in Lebanese airspace, which the Lebanese decry as a violation of their sovereignty.
“Israel’s use of its air force to target Lebanese villages is the first of its kind since 2006,” Aoun asserted, “and indicates the presence of aggressive, escalatory intentions in the midst of ongoing threats against Lebanon and its sovereignty.
“What happened is a flagrant and dangerous violation of Security Council Resolution 1701 and a direct threat to security and stability in the south,” Aoun said, referring to a United Nations resolution that ended fighting between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah in 2006.
Israel said it struck military targets in Lebanon late Wednesday in response to rocket fire that sparked fires in northern Israel. Three rockets in total were fired by Palestinian terror groups in Lebanon, the Israeli military said. One fell short of the border. The others landed outside city limits inside Israel.
The army said it held “the country of Lebanon” responsible for attacks originating from its sovereign territory, which took place with the government in Beirut undergoing its worst economic crisis in decades and the country on the brink of collapse.
On the Israeli side of the border, firefighters on Thursday were still battling blazes sparked by two of three rockets fired from Lebanon.
Israel responded to the attack by firing some 100 artillery rounds into Lebanon in three rounds over the course of Wednesday, followed by the airstrikes.
It is unclear whether Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group backed by Iran, had foreknowledge of or involvement with the rocket attacks.
Lebanon is in the midst of an ongoing political and economic crisis that threatens the future of the country. Spiraling hyperinflation has dramatically devalued the Lebanese lira against the dollar, leading many Lebanese to see their life savings evaporate. Common goods and medicines have become increasingly scarce.
As the economy has collapsed, law and order has deteriorated in the streets. Lebanese have seen rising petty crime and even violent firefights erupt between armed groups and security forces.
Dissatisfaction and anger with the country’s political elite have also been on the rise. The country has long seen patchwork governance at best — with electrical blackouts common even in upscale areas of Beirut.
Wednesday saw thousands of grief-stricken Lebanese mark the first anniversary of a devastating explosion in Beirut port that killed at least 214 people and irreparably scarred the nation’s psyche.
The government resigned in the face of a wave of popular anger but a year later, despite a worsening economic meltdown, no replacement administration has been formed.
Massive rallies in Beirut on the anniversary of the catastrophe were met with tear gas and rubber bullets by Lebanese government forces, according to local media.