Hezbollah Militants Who Fired Rocket Barrage on Israel Released, Says Lebanese Army in Report
A group of Hezbollah militants launching rocket attacks at Israel have been released, and the rocket launcher returned to the Shiite group.
The members of the Iran-backed organization were let go following a judge’s order, a Lebanese army spokesman told Lebanon’s L’Orient Today news on Tuesday.
The four Hezbollah fighters were arrested after firing rockets towards Israeli forces in the Shebaa Farms area on Friday, which came after an exchange of prior rocket launches and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. Following the Friday attack, Druze residents in the Hasbaya village of Shuwaya confronted the militants and intercepted two vehicles, including a mobile rocket launcher.
The militants were released and the seized truck used to fire missiles had been handed back to the Shiite party, according to a Hezbollah spokesperson.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Tuesday spoke out against the criticism received by Lebanon’s Christian Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, who had attacked Hezbollah for its dangerous escalations.
On Sunday, Rai had said that Lebanon did not want to be embroiled in military actions that would “draw destructive Israeli responses,” and called for stopping the rocket barrage from Lebanon — “not out of concern for Israel’s safety, but out of concern for Lebanon’s safety.”
After a tour along the northern border, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the crisis in Lebanon “devastating.”
“The State of Israel calls on the international community to aid Lebanon,” he said. “We are also willing to provide assistance, however we will not enable the tragedy in Lebanon to cross the border into Israel. We are well aware of Hezbollah’s attempts to exploit the situation at the expense of the safety and livelihoods of Lebanese citizens — under the direct influence of Iran.”
Tension erupted on Wednesday as rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory, prompting IDF fighter jets to strike launch sites and terror infrastructure. On Friday, the Hezbollah fired 19 rockets at northern Israel — of which 10 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, six landed in open areas, and three misfired in Lebanese territory.
Major General Stefano Del Col, Head of the UN Interform Force (UNIFIL), on Friday urged an immediate cease fire to prevent further escalation.
“Even during the severe economic and political crisis in Lebanon, Iran and Hezbollah are entangling the citizens of Lebanon in a front against Israel. Lebanon and its army must take responsibility for what is happening in their backyard,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday.