JERUSALEM: The Israeli army said Thursday it was conducting strikes on southern Lebanon after a mortar launched from its northern neighbour exploded in the border area between the two foes, reports AFP.
The latest military action was launched three months after the two countries saw their worst cross-border fire in years.
It also comes at a time of rising tension between Israel and Arab countries after Israel carried out its biggest military operation in years in the occupied West Bank targeting the Jenin refugee camp, a Palestinian militant stronghold. A launch was carried out from Lebanese territory which exploded adjacent to the border in Israeli territory, an Israeli army statement said.
An army spokesman said the projectile was a mortar, after an army statement earlier reported the explosion had hit near the border town of Ghajar.
In response, the IDF (Israeli military) is currently striking the area from which the launch was carried out in Lebanese territory, an army statement said.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency said Israel had fired more than 15 artillery shells which hit around the communities of Kfar Chouba and Halta.
UNIFIL commander Major General Aroldo Lazaro was working with the Israeli and Lebanese authorities to prevent further escalation, the peacekeeping body said in a statement, calling on everyone to exercise restraint.
Earlier on Thursday, Lebanon’s armed Hezbollah movement denounced Israel for building a concrete wall around Ghajar, a small town that straddles their common border.
The Iran-backed Shiite group called on the Lebanese state to take action to prevent the consolidation of this occupation by Israel of Ghajar, home to around 3,000 people.
Hezbollah denounced Israel for the erection of a barbed wire fence and the construction of a concrete wall around the entire locality.
The so-called Blue Line cuts through Ghajar, formally placing its northern part in Lebanon and its southern part in the Israeli-occupied and annexed Golan Heights.
Hezbollah charged that Israel had now completely imposed their force on the Lebanese, occupied parts of the town and submitted it to its administration, in parallel with the opening of the town to tourists.
Thursday’s cross-border fire follows Israel bombarding Lebanon in April, in response to a barrage of rockets fired from the country.
The April incident was the heaviest rocket fire from Lebanon since Israel fought a war with Hezbollah in 2006.
UNIFIL, which was established in 1978, was beefed up in response to that 34-day conflict.
Last month, Hezbollah said it shot down an Israeli drone that had flown into Lebanon’s southern airspace.
Israeli warplanes and drones regularly violate Lebanon’s airspace, while the powerful Shiite Muslim movement for years has been sending drones towards Israel.
Weeks earlier Hezbollah had put on a display of military might, with mock cross-border raids into Israel a few miles (kilometres) from the border.
The strikes on Lebanon come a day after Israel hit militant targets in the Gaza Strip, in response to rocket fire from the coastal Palestinian territory.
Twelve Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in the two-day raid on the northern city of Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp.
Israeli forces launched drone strikes and employed an army bulldozer to rip up streets in Jenin’s refugee camp, prompting at least 3,000 residents to flee.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War and has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since 2007, when the militant group Hamas took power.