Gantz: We won't let Beirut's crisis become threat to Israel

IDF shells Lebanon after two rockets fired at northern Israel

One rocket shot down, second hits open area, no damage or injuries reported; Palestinian group believed behind attack, which comes after reported Israeli strike in north Syria

Illustrative: An Iron Dome missile defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, is deployed in northern Israel on May 7, 2018. (Jalaa Mary/AFP)
Illustrative: An Iron Dome missile defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, is deployed in northern Israel on May 7, 2018. (Jalaa Mary/AFP)

Two rockets were fired at northern Israel from Lebanon early Tuesday morning, setting off warning sirens in the Western Galilee region, the Israel Defense Forces said. The army fired artillery shells at the source of the launches in response.

One of the rockets was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, while the second projectile fell in an open area near the coast, the IDF said.

There were no reports of injuries or damage, and the army said there were currently no special instructions for residents of the region.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday that Lebanon was responsible for the overnight rocket attack since it “allows terrorists to operate within its territory.”

“Israel will act against any threat to its sovereignty and its citizens, and will respond in accordance to its interests — at the relevant time and place,” Gantz said, adding that Israel “will not allow the social, political and economic crisis in Lebanon to turn into a security threat to Israel.”

Gantz also called upon the international community to act to restore stability to Lebanon, amid what the World Bank says is one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s.

The attack came some four hours after Syrian state media said Israeli aircraft launched a number of missiles at targets near the Syrian city of Aleppo and following clashes on the Temple Mount between Israel Police and Muslim protesters on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The Israeli military believes the rockets were fired by a Palestinian group in southern Lebanon, not by the country’s powerful Hezbollah terror group. However, Hezbollah maintains tight control over southern Lebanon, making it unlikely that such an attack would be conducted from this area without at least its tacit approval.

In response, the army said it had fired artillery shells at the source of the rocket fire, in Lebanon’s Wadi Hamoul region. This was also the area from which rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinian terrorists in May.

There are several Palestinian terror groups operating in southern Lebanon, along with Hezbollah, which is backed by Tehran and closely allied with Syria’s Assad regime.

Israel has frequently hit Hezbollah targets and fighters in Syria in an effort to keep the terrorist militia from opening a second front against Israel there.

Around midnight Monday, the official SANA news agency said that Syrian air defenses repelled the strikes near the town of al-Safirah, southeast of Aleppo. Syrian war analysts generally dismiss the military’s regular claims of interceptions as false, empty boasts.

Syria rarely retaliates directly for Israeli strikes but has in the past accidentally fired anti-aircraft missiles into Israel while trying to shoot down Israeli jets and missiles.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or what was damaged in the strike, but photographs and videos posted to social media showed a series of explosions in the area, with huge fireballs and smoke. A video posted by SANA appeared to show a missile moving through the sky as anti-aircraft fire was directed at it.

Syrian media outlets also reported that Aleppo’s military airport was struck in the attack.

Explosions seen near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on July 19, 2021 following a reported Israeli airstrike (Screencapture/Twitter)

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor that has activists on the ground in Syria, said the Israeli strikes targeted weapons depots that belong to Iranian-backed militia operating the area. The group said the strikes were followed by loud explosions, which likely indicates secondary blasts caused by munitions detonating. The weapons depots were located inside Syrian military posts, the group said.

The IDF did not comment on the reported strikes, in accordance with its long-standing policy to neither confirm nor deny its activities in Syria, save for those in retaliation for attacks from the country.

Aleppo is a major city in northern Syria, near its border with Turkey, and is an uncommon — but not unprecedented — site for reported Israeli airstrikes. The last reported Israeli strikes in the area were in September 2020.

The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.

The pace of attacks has slowed considerably in recent months.

The was the first reported Israeli strike on Syria since early June, when strikes targeted air force positions near the village of Khirbet al-Tin on the outskirts of Homs, as well as an arms depot belonging to Hezbollah. The Israeli air force also hit targets in several regions of Syria, in the capital Damascus as well as in Hama and Latakia provinces. Eleven Syrian military members were reported killed in those strikes.

AP contributed to this report

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