Israel Air Force Hits Target in Lebanon in Response to Rocket Fire in the North

Air force action follows rocket attack on Israel's north Thursday night; Defense Minister Ya'alon: 'we will not allow any foreign element to disrupt the lives of Israeli citizens.'

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The Israel Air Force attacked a target south of Beirut early Friday morning in response to the firing of katyusha rockets into Israel the previous day, the Israel Defence Forces spokesman announced.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon held a briefing with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz on Friday morning.

At the briefing, Ya'alon said "the IDF attacked a terror target in Lebanese territory overnight, south of Beirut. The attack was a response to rocket fire at the western Galilee yesterday. Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for the incidents, and will not ignore any rocket fire or other provocation. We take yesterday's attack very seriously, and we will not allow any foreign element to disrupt the lives of our citizens. We are acting responsibly and cautiously in order to preserve the safety of Israel and its citizens."

The strike was said to have been successful, and all the planes returned safely to base. The IDF spokesman reiterated that Israel held the government of Lebanon reesponsible for all hostile activity emanating from its territory.

The target of the air force raid was located in the area of Na'ameh, between Sidon and Beirut.

A Palestinian militant group in Lebanon said one of its bases south of Beirut was hit by an Israeli rocket on Friday, but said that the strike caused no injuries or significant damage, Lebanon's Al-Manar Television reported.

The station quoted a spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command as saying the group's base in Na'ameh was attacked. The spokesman said the PFLP-GC was surprised it was targeted because the earlier rocket fire was claimed by a separate Al-Qaida-linked Sunni Muslim group.

Ramez Mustafa, a Lebanon-based official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, said the raid occurred at 4 A.M. and caused no casualties.

A Lebanese security source confirmed that a rocket hit an area near Na'ameh, south of the Lebanese capital Beirut, near a network of tunnels used by the PFLP-GC in hills overlooking the Mediterranean coast.

He said the rocket caused a 5-meter (16-foot) crater, but no casualties.

In two previous incidents, in 2009 and 2011, the IDF returned fire in Lebanon with artillery, not with air strikes. Apparently, the choice to respond with an air strike was made in order to accurately hit a specific target, which the army has called a "terror target," in the Na'ameh area. The IDF reported a "direct hit on the target."

At least three rockets were fired on Israel from southern Lebanon on Thursday afternoon, setting off air raid sirens in the Nahariya and Acre areas.

One of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said.

The army believes that global jihad operatives, and not Hezbollah, are behind the attacks.

It was not immediately clear exactly how many rockets were fired. The IDF identified a barrage of either three or four rockets fired from the Klayaa area, south of Tyre, Lebanon.

Mordechai said that "the IDF sees the incident as an isolated incident and thus no new home front instructions were issued."

Air traffic in the Haifa area was closed, but the IDF stressed this was not due to information on additional rocket fire, rather taken as a precautionary measure "until the situation becomes clear."

"We are acting on all fronts, in the north and in the south, to defend the citizens of Israel from such attacks," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Thursday evening, referring also to the Syrian civil war, where reports have emerged of large-scale chemical warfare, and to the ongoing unrest in Egypt. "We employ various measures, both defensive and preventive, and we are acting responsibly. Our policy is clear: to protect and to prevent. Whoever tries to harm us should know we will harm them."

Following the attack, Lebanon's official news agency reported that Israel Air Force drones were circling the area from which the rockets were believed to have emerged.

Home Front Command officers emphasized that when sirens are sounded, civilians must enter bomb shelters and remain there for 10 minutes.

Adar Sharif, a resident of the Western Galilee, told Haaretz he had heard two loud explosions, which sounded like Katyusha rockets, but could not say where they hit. "Since then, my family and I have been staying in a shelter, awaiting official instructions."

Seven houses and three cars sustained damage when debris fell in a village north of Nahariya. "I was in the living room, when I heard the boom and rushed to the secure space," Avril, a resident of the village told Haaretz, after her house was damaged by shrapnel. "Its scary for a second, but then the adrenalin makes you function fast." She added "you're always afraid. We've already experienced similar events and even worse. I hope it won't be an ongoing event."

Ben Levy, 11, who lives nearby said that he wasn't in the house, and that he and his friend immediately lay down on the ground, as they were drilled in school. "I saw the Katyusha pass above me and after the fall, I ran to the secure space, because I feared there would be more. I hope quiet returns."

Avi Gini, another resident, said that the rocket woke him up from his nap. "I'm really angry at them," he said jokingly, adding that "we really don't know what to expect. The whole Middle East is in turmoil."

Yehuda Shavit, head of the Mateh Asher Regional Council said that the village was hit by a Katyusha, while residents said it seemed to be a motar bomb or parts of an Iron Dome intercepting rocket.

The shrapnel hit electric lines, causing a power failure in the village.

Jacky Sabag, the Mayor of Nahariya said that he didn't receive orders to open shelters, but decided to declare them open anyway so that residents would have an extra sense of security.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "For the past while the borders have been relatively quiet, but there are no guarantees. The Middle East is hot and turbulent, whether among the extremist Islamic movements or the spread of global jihad."

Two weeks ago, four IDF soldiers were injured in an explosion near the Lebanese border. According to a statement made by the Lebanese army the incident took place on the Lebanese side of the border.

Debris from the Iron Dome interception of a rocket from Lebanon, August 22, 2013.
The village where debris fell.
A house damaged by the debris.
A car damaged by the debris.
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The village where debris fell.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
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A house damaged by the debris. Credit: Reuters
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A car damaged by the debris. Credit: AFP
Damage from the debris

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