Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday convened Israel's security chiefs for a situation assessment at the IDF command's headquarters in Tel Aviv, after two soldiers were killed by an anti-tank missile on the Lebanese border.
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"Whoever is behind today's attack will pay the full price," Netanyahu said at the opening of the briefing with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen and other senior security officials.
Two IDF soldiers were killed and seven wounded on Wednesday morning in an attack by Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. Israel responded with artilley fire, shelling several targets in southern Lebanon.
"For some time now Iran is trying, via Hezbollah, to set-up a terrorist front against us in the Golan Heights," the prime minister added. "We are working aggressively and responsibly against this attempt."
Netanyahu said Israel sees the Lebanese and Syrian governments responsible for the consequences of any attack originating from their territory. "Our mission is to defend the State of Israel," he added.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that "Iran and Hezbollah are trying, and will continue to try, to hurt Israel in every way, from the Goaln Heights and certainly from Lebanon, with ruthless terrorist infrastructures aimed at military and civilian targets."
Ya'alon said that the top of such a terrorist infrastructure was hit a few days ago, hinting at an airstrike in Syria that killed several Hezbollah and Iranian operatives, attributed to Israel.
Ya'alon said Israel will continue to act against "the terrorists and those who send them," and urged residents of northern Israel to resume their daily routines.
Earlier on Wednesday, Zionist Camp co-chairman MK Isaac Herzog commended the IDF and said: "If anyone in Hezbollah thinks that he can threaten or divide us during election season he's making a big mistake – when it comes to the fight against terrorism, there is no coalition and opposition."
Zionist Camp co-chair MK Tzipi Livni said, during a tour of the northern border, that Israel will respond "harshly" to Hezbollah's Wednesday morning attack.
"At this time it should be clear to all: Whether this [attack] is Iran acting through Hezbollah, or whether it is the Syrians, an attack on soldiers or civilians will be answered harshly and without compromise by the IDF," said Livni. "Hezbollah is part of the extreme Islamist axis in the Middle East and it must be dealt with by force, and the IDF and its soldiers know how to do this precisely and responsibly."
The IDF did, in fact, respond to Hezbollah's attack by shelling targets in southern Lebanon. Lebanese media quoted security officials as saying that Israel fired at least 25 artillery shells into Lebanese territory. A UNIFIL soldier was reported killed in the shelling.
Hezbollah had fired an anti-tank missile at an IDF vehicle in the Har Dov area near the Lebanese border, as well as firing mortar shells at nearby Israeli targets. One of the shells launched from Lebanon struck a home in Ghajar, a village that straddles the border, setting the house alight. The mortar fire continued into the afternoon, aimed at the Hermon region. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for all of the attacks.
Wednesday's exchange followed one on Tuesday, in which Israel struck Syrian army posts following rocketing from the Syrian Golan Heights. Iranian officials said the attacks on Israel were in response to the January 18 air strike in the Syrian Golan, widely attributed to Israel, that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Mohammed Allahdadi and six Hezbollah guerrillas.
During her tour of the border, Livni, whose Hatnuah party is running with Labor in the March elections as the Zionist Camp joint slate, said, "The Golan Heights is not open for negotiation. It is part of Israel."
Meanwhile, Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On warned of an "impulsive" Israeli reaction to the Hezbollah attack, urging the government to "calm the situation with immediate diplomatic steps."
"We have bitter experience with military escalations on the eve of elections," Gal-On wrote on her Facebook page. "The Israeli government must not act impulsively as it has in the past."
Gal-On blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reaction to Hezbollah's attack, in which he "recommend[ed] to anyone who would challenge us on the northern border to look at what happened ... in Gaza."
Said Gal-On: "This statement must set off a warning light for everyone. We've already experienced too much bloodshed and grief in the past year. Getting dragged into an unnecessary war in Lebanon is the last thing Israel needs now. It is no one's interest to fight a Third Lebanon War."