Israeli artillery forces shelled targets in Lebanon on Monday, a military spokesperson said, marking a rare flareup on Israel's relatively quiet northern border with Lebanon. The strike at "the source of the launch" came hours after a rocket launched toward Israel fell in an open area shortly after midnight.
Lebanese media cited local reporters saying that 65 rounds of retaliatory shelling were counted, and that they all landed in open areas.
According to the Lebanese news channel al-Jadeed, local sources confirmed that a rocket was launched from the area of Ras El Ain, south of Tyre towards Israel.
No sirens were sounded and no alert was declared in northern Israel following the rocket launch, the Israeli military confirmed.
Loud explosions were heard late on Sunday outside the town of Shlomi, located near the Israel's northern border with Lebanon. Following the launch the IDF said instructions for residents of the area have not been changed.
An IDF spokesperson told Army Radio on Monday morning that while no group claimed responsibility, Israel suspects Palestinian militants were behind the late night rocket fire, with military sources saying it could have been either a local Hamas grouping in southern Lebanon or a group identified with one of the smaller factions.
Defense authorities had been prepared for the possibility that an escalation in Jerusalem and the territories would lead to an attempt to shoot rockets from Lebanon in an effort to create the impression of a confrontation on multiple fronts, sources told Haaretz.
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This isn’t the first time that Hamas has taken similar steps. A decade ago, it had been reported that the organization’s military wing was establishing local cells around refugee camps in the vicinity of Tyre whose role would be to shoot rockets at Israel during rounds of fighting in the territories. Rockets were shot at Israel from Lebanon during the war that Israel fought with Hamas in 2014 and during last year’s war in May. In addition, last summer a Palestinian cell shot rockets at the Galilee.
What is not altogether clear, however, is the extent to which Hezbollah might be connected to the rocket fire. In recent years, Hezbollah’s control over what happens in southern Lebanon has slackened somewhat and not every rocket launched from the area has necessary been carried out with its approval.
Aroldo Lazaro, head of the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL), has urged "calm and restraint in this volatile and ongoing situation", the mission said on Twitter.
The relatively rare exchange of fire on the Israeli-Lebanese border followed ongoing confrontations over the past two weeks between Palestinians and Israeli forces at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem that have triggered outcry from some of Israel's closest Arab allies and prompted international concern.
In August, 19 rockets were fired from south Lebanon at the Golan Heights. Hezbollah took responsibility for the launch, and in response the IDF struck sites with artillery fire in southern Lebanon.