A Palestinian terror group in Lebanon, which was apparently the target of IAF strikes early Friday morning in response to rocket fire in northern Israel Thursday, expressed surprise at the raid, given that a Sunni, al-Qaeda-inspired group claimed responsibility for the rocket attack.
A spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) promised retaliation against Israel. “The Zionist enemy will not drag us into responding. It will come at the right time, in the right place.”
Hezbollah has denied any involvement. Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah member of the Lebanese Parliament, said Friday that the terror group had no knowledge of the rocket attacks, but that targeted action against Israel would not be condemned by the group, Israel Radio reported.
Israel has made clear that it holds the Lebanese government responsible for the attacks.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Friday that Israel will not tolerate attacks or other provocations against it. “We will not allow this or that group to disrupt the lives of our citizens,” said the defense minister.
“The responsible body is the government. [Lebanon has] a prime minister and a president and they are responsible,” Minister for Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Friday morning during a tour of the north to meet with affected residents.
“Israel will not allow harm to come to innocent civilians. This time, we were lucky that no one was hurt. The message is that whoever tries to hurt our civilians, will be hurt. That’s why we responded. If they continue [to fire], our response will be much harsher,” said the minister.
According to the Israeli military, IAF pilots reported a pinpoint strike early Friday on terrorist targets near the coastal town of al-Naameh, 15 kilometers south of the Lebanese capital. It was the first air raid on the area since the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group.
The Lebanese media reported that the Israeli navy was also involved in the retaliation, alleging that one of the missiles that struck the site came from a navy boat.
The site of the attack was confirmed by the PFLP-GC, headed by Ahmed Jibril, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a Hezbollah ally and an Iranian proxy.
A journalist with the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper at the scene of the raided site said the entrance to one of a series of underground tunnels belonging to the PFLP-GC, which maintains a military base in the area, was damaged as a result.
The Lebanese media quoted Lebanese army officials as saying that the Israeli raid left a 50-meter crater at the site.
Ramez Mustafa, a Lebanon-based official with the PFLP-GC, said the raid occurred at 4 a.m. and caused no casualties.
The IDF spokesman said Israeli fighter jets struck targets south of Beirut early Friday morning in retaliation for the rocket attacks on Israel Thursday afternoon.
The IDF would not confirm whether the PFLP-GC’s headquarters were the target of Friday’s strike.
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai announced on Facebook just before 5 a.m. morning that “in response to rocket fire at the north [on Thursday] afternoon, IAF aircraft struck a terrorist target south of Beirut overnight.
“At this hour, in which our planes returned safely, I wish a good and quiet morning to all residents of Israel and especially residents of the north and those traveling there,” Mordechai wrote.
Friday’s foray into Lebanon came about 12 hours after four rockets fired from Lebanon struck Israel’s north. There were no casualties, but damage was caused to several homes in the Nahariya and Acre area. The red-alert siren sounded in the cities of Nahariya, Acre, Kiryat Shmona and Karmiel. Three Israelis were treated for shock.
Lebanese media reported that the IDF promptly retaliated, attacking targets in south Lebanon, but the army denied those reports.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an al-Qaeda-inspired group based in Lebanon, claimed responsibility for the attack in a post on the Twitter account of Sirajuddin Zurayqat, a prominent Islamic militant leader. Zurayqat said the rockets were capable of flying 40 kilometers, or 25 miles — putting Haifa in its range. The group, designated a terrorist organization by the US, has claimed responsibility for past rocket attacks on Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to strike back at the aggressors.
“We are acting on all fronts, in the north and in the south, to defend the citizens of Israel from such attacks,” Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement on Thursday
“We employ various measures, both defensive and preventive, and we are acting responsibly,” he added. “Our policy is clear: to protect and to prevent. Whoever tries to harm us should know we will harm them.”
AP contributed to this report.