Lebanon’s prime minister on Sunday urged the United States and France to intervene after the Hezbollah terror group fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli territory, prompting retaliatory fire by the Israel Defense Forces.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri contacted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and French President Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic adviser to ask for intervention by their countries “and the international community in facing the developments on the southern border,” Hariri’s office said in a statement.
Hezbollah earlier said it had destroyed an Israeli military vehicle across the border. The IDF said no Israeli soldiers were injured by the 2-3 missiles fired by Hezbollah, which struck a military jeep and an IDF post.
The anti-tank fire came more than a week after an Israeli airstrike against an Iranian-controlled base in Syria in which several operatives were killed, including two Hezbollah members.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed to respond following the strike, which came around the same time a drone attack blamed on Israel reportedly struck equipment in Beirut for the terror group’s missile program.
Amid Sunday’s exchange of fire across the border, the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon urged “maximum restraint.”
“UNIFIL is following up on the firing across the Blue Line” between Lebanon and Israel, said Andrea Tenenti, spokesman for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon.
UNIFIL chief Major General Stefano Del Col “is in contact with the parties urging the maximum restraint and asked to cease all activities,” he told AFP.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who has previously expressed support for Israel’s right to self defense and has met publicly with Israeli officials, criticized the Lebanese government for allowing the Hezbollah attack to take place.
“A state standing by, watching battles taking place on its borders and putting its people at risk, is a state that greatly neglects its responsibilities,” he wrote on Twitter.
United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also tweeted that: “Our hearts are with Lebanon and the Lebanese people this evening,” noting that they always suffer from “decisions taken by a single player and the consequences,” an oblique criticism of Hezbollah.
In Jerusalem, President Reuven Rivlin warned Hezbollah that Israel will defend its citizens “without hesitation.”
“We are prepared and do not want to show just how well-prepared we are. The border can only be quiet on both of its sides,” he wrote on Twitter.
With national elections just over two weeks away, Blue and White leader leader Benny Gantz said he was freezing his party’s political campaign due to the tense security situation.
Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, tweeted that there is “no opposition and no coalition” when it comes to Israel’s fight against its enemies.
“In light of the security situation, I have ordered our campaign frozen at this stage until the security incidents are clarified,” he wrote.
But around the same time, Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid appeared to blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Hezbollah fire.
Lapid said the prime minister — who is also defense minister — has shifted away from the military’s longstanding policy of ambiguity on Israel’s operations in neighboring countries, in a bid to drum up political support ahead of the September 17 elections.
“The children in the north are in shelters for one reason: Because Bibi [Netanyahu] violated the successful policy of ambiguity ahead of the elections,” tweeted Lapid. “This is what happens when the prime minister plays politics at the expense of security.”
He praised the security forces in the north.
Echoing Gantz, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for politics to be put aside.
“Israel stands behind the prime minister like a fortified wall against our enemies,” Smotrich, a member of the Yamina alliance of national-religious parties, wrote on Twitter.
“Mr. Prime Minister, act with determination. You have full backing for this. With the help of God, we will win,” he added.