A Lebanese soldier examines the remains of a Katyusha-style rocket fired from Lebanon towards Israel on Dec. 29. The Israeli military fired a barrage of shells into southern Lebanon in retaliation after five Katyusha-style rockets were launched against the Jewish state, officials said. (AFP)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — Israel has threatened the government of Lebanon with forceful and possible pre-emptive action if it fails to contain rocket attacks and other violence along their shared border.
Speaking shortly after a Dec. 29 rocket attack from southern Lebanon and Israel’s retaliatory cross-border artillery barrage, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Beirut for violence by Hezbollah and other militant groups operating beyond its northern border.
“We see the government of Lebanon as responsible for fire coming from its sovereign territory,” Netanyahu said.
In Dec. 29 remarks to the Israeli Cabinet, Netanyahu accused leaders in Beirut of complicity “in a double war crime” by “not lifting a finger” to prevent attacks from southern Lebanon.
“What’s happening in Lebanon is that Hezbollah deploys thousands of rockets and missiles in apartment houses in the heart of a civilian population. By doing so, it is committing two acts of war crimes at once by orchestrating fire on civilians, as it tried to do today, and by using civilians as human shields,” Netanyahu said.
Israeli sources noted that UN Resolution 1701 that ended Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanese-based Hezbollah obliged Beirut to deploy forces throughout the entire country, including along the border with Israel. Similarly, the resolution ostensibly aimed to prevent the re-arming of Hezbollah’s re-arming or independent action by militant forces operating from sovereign Lebanese territory.
No casualties or damage resulted from the Dec. 29 rocket attack, and it was unclear by presstime whether Lebanon suffered human or material losses in Israel’s retaliatory shelling.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli Army spokesman, said Israel registered an official complaint to the UN force deployed at the border.
“This attack is an inexcusable, unacceptable blatant breach of Israel’s sovereignty. Launching rockets from Lebanon into Israel jeopardizes thousands of civilian lives in the north; a reality no sovereign state would accept,” Lerner said.
He added: “The IDF maintains the right to self-defense and will operate accordingly.”
The Dec. 29 attack was the second incident of violence along the Israeli-Lebanon border since August. Earlier this month, along the Syrian sector of Israel’s northern border, Israel responded to gunfire and a mortar launched from Syrian territory.