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Hezbollah claims responsibility for attacks, but calm restored after a day of rocket fire in the North, incendiary balloons in the South

Israel not interested in escalation, but says will not allow attacks to go unanswered

View of the Lebanese village of Maroun El Ras near the Border with Israel, as seen from the Israeli side, February 16, 2020. (Photo David Cohen/Flash90)

Hezbollah apparently wanted to show other factions in southern Lebanon who is boss.

That’s what Israeli officials surmised after the Iranian-supported group based in southern Lebanon took credit for firing about 20 rockets at Israel today – two days after three rockets were launched at Israel by what is widely believed to be from Palestinian factions in Lebanon.

An army spokesman said that Hezbollah wanted “to show that it controls the region in southern Lebanon after a rogue Palestinian faction fired rockets at Israel on Wednesday.” The rockets were aimed at open spaces rather than cities and residential communities.

On Wednesday, three rockets were fired at Israel from Lebanon, but not by Hezbollah. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for today’s attack though.

Videos circulating on social media showed residents of a southern Lebanese town driving out a team of Hezbollah rocket launchers, preventing them from firing weapons from the town.

Nevertheless, Israel does not believe Hezbollah is looking for ongoing fighting.

“We don’t believe Hezbollah wants a full-out war, and we definitely don’t want a full-out war, although we are very prepared for that,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler told reporters on Friday.

The United Nations, which has a peacekeeping force on the border between the two countries, said the situation is concerning but currently under control.

“This is a very dangerous situation, with escalatory actions seen on both sides over the past two days,” Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, commander of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), said in a statement. “UNIFIL is actively engaging with the parties through all formal and informal liaison and coordination mechanisms to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.”

When the rockets were fired at Israel on Friday, many wondered whether full-on war was on the horizon after a week or would it be followed by months of sporadic attacks. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on targets in southern Lebanon.

On Wednesday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun called the Israeli response “aggressive.”

“Israel’s use of its air force to target Lebanese villages is the first of its kind since 2006 and indicates the presence of aggressive, escalatory intentions in the midst of ongoing threats against Lebanon and its sovereignty," Aoun said.

Reports surfaced of members of a Druze community attacking Hezbollah operatives who had fired the rockets.

Meanwhile, it appeared that Hamas in Gaza began launching incendiary balloons at southern Israel later on Friday, sparking several brush fires.

According to Palestinian reports, Israel responded with strikes on Gaza as well on Friday night.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin that Israel’s defense establishment is prepared for any scenario and will continue to operate against Hezbollah or any of its proxies in order to defend Israeli citizens. He also said that Israel is prepared to provide Lebanon with humanitarian aid through the international community or from Israel should it be needed.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan issued a statement on Friday saying that Hezbollah’s attacks were ordered by Iran to “deflect attention from the undeniable truth: Iran is responsible for last week’s attack on the Mercer Street civilian vessel,” which resulted in the deaths of two crewmen.

Erdan also said that Israel holds Lebanon responsible for any action originating from within its territory.

“It is clear that Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations are trying to distract from their active role in bringing Lebanon to its current state of crisis by attacking Israeli civilians,” he said.

“The recent attacks and growing tensions in the region, exacerbated by Iran’s activities and arming of its proxies, especially Hezbollah, demonstrate once again the urgent need to actively enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006)... I call upon the Security Council to unequivocally condemn these grave violations, and to remain seized on these matters in its upcoming deliberations on Security Council Resolution 1701.”

“The actions of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations, as well as the Lebanese government’s failure to prevent them, have the potential to wreak havoc and cause destruction in Lebanon,” he said. “While Israel is not interested in escalation, we will not allow attacks on Israeli civilians to go unanswered. If these attacks continue, Israel will have no choice but to respond and dismantle Hezbollah’s terrorist infrastructure that threatens Israel’s security and the lives of its citizens.”

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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