Two IDF Soldiers Killed in Hezbollah Rocket Attack on Jeep; Netanyahu Warns of Harsh Response
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel will exact a heavy price for a Hezbollah anti-tank attack on an Israeli military vehicle on the Lebanon border Wednesday morning which killed two soldiers and wounded at least seven others, Israel’s Ch. 2 News reported Thursday afternoon.
The soldiers’ families have been notified, the IDF said in a statement to reporters. One of the soldiers is reported to be a senior officer, although the army has not confirmed the rank.
Netanyahu commented on the attack at the Mt. Dov area, near the nexus of Israel, Lebanon, and Syria warning that Israel’s response could be severe and comparable to its response to Hamas rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, and added that “Israel was prepared to operate on all fronts.”
“To all those who try to challenge us on the north, I suggest you look at what happened in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said at a cornerstone laying ceremony in Sderot, near Gaza, before heading back to the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv for an emergency security cabinet meeting.
IDF artillery reportedly fired at least 25 shells at some five Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon, including Kfar Shuba, in the wake of the attack, according to local media.
A UNIFIL soldier from the Spanish Brigade was also killed in an IAF retaliatory air strike. In the wake of the death, the IDF requested that UNIFIL troops “remain at their posts,” in order not to get hit by the Israel military response at Hezbollah targets.
In a “first communique,” on Hezbollah’s al-Manar television, the group said “The Quneitra Martyrs Group” perpetrated the attack, named after the site of an IDF air strike on a Hezbollah convoy 10 days ago, in which an Iranian general and some 10 terror operatives were killed.
IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz convened senior military officials to assess the situation and consider further moves, Israel Radio reported.
The tactics and location of the attack resemble a Hezbollah strike on an IDF patrol in 2006, in which two soldiers were abducted and three others killed, sparking the start of the second Lebanon War.
The IDF Spokesman assured reporters, however, that no soldiers were abducted in Wednesday’s attack.
Residents of the Israeli town of Metulla and other villages on the Lebanese border, however, were instructed to remain within protected areas, over concerns of a possible infiltration and hostage-taking event, Army Radio reported. Officials also closed airfields in Rosh Pina and Haifa, according to local reports.
Officials at the Mt. Hermon ski resort began evacuating some 400 tourists from the site as several mortars slammed into the vicinity, and Israeli police closed roads in the area, including Rt. 99, Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told reporters, as sounds of explosions shook the area and army and air force personnel flooded into the area, and nearby Ghajar.
The Israeli casualties were evacuated to a hospital in Safed, about ten kilometers from the Lebanon border. City officials are preparing to open public shelters, according to the Walla News site.
Overnight, the Israeli Air Force carried out bombing raids on several Syrian army targets, in the wake of a second volley of rockets fired into Israel at the Mt. Hermon area.
Tuesday morning, army artillery fired some 20 shells at Syrian positions after several rockets hit open areas near the mountain tourist center and Israeli and Druze villages.
The IDF said later, after an investigation, that the rockets were fired from areas under Syrian government control, but held the Lebanon-based Shiite group responsible. Syrian reports said there were casualties from Israel’s bombardment.
“Hezbollah is responsible for the incident in which rockets were launched into Israeli territory,” a senior defense official said.
On the Israeli side, while there was no physical injury or damage near several kibbutzim and Druze villages in the area, police evacuated the Neve Ativ resort at the foot of the tourist and skiing center, and closed roads in the area, according to Army Radio.
The IDF Spokesman said that the shooting last night from Syrian territory “was a gross violation of the sovereignty of the State of Israel. The IDF holds the Syrian regime responsible for what occurs in the territory, and will work at any time and in any way it sees fit to protect the citizens of Israel. Exact hits on targets were identified.”
Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, said Wednesday morning that the assault on Assad regime targets in Syria was a clear message that Israel would not tolerate any fire into its territory and sovereignty.
This report will be updated as more details are confirmed.