A Hezbollah missile attack that killed two Israeli soldiers has prompted Israel to respond with air and ground strikes on southern Lebanon, where a UN peacekeeper was killed.
Israeli officials warned they may take more steps after longtime enemy Hezbollah claimed Wednesday’s attack on a military convoy in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms area.
The Israeli army said in a statement it had responded with “combined aerial and ground strikes” on Hezbollah in southern Lebanon after the attack — an apparent retaliation for a recent Israeli strike on the Golan Heights that killed senior Hezbollah members.
Clouds of smoke could be seen rising from Majidiya, one of several Lebanese border villages hit by Israeli shelling.
The UN force in southern Lebanon said one of its peacekeepers was killed during the shelling and a source in the Spanish embassy told AFP he had been a Spanish soldier.
The UNIFIL mission urged all sides to show “maximum restraint to prevent an escalation”.
Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said an anti-tank missile hit a military vehicle in the Shebaa Farms, which is on the border with Lebanon.
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded in Wednesday’s attack, the military said.
Lerner said mortar fire was also aimed at military facilities in the area but no one was hurt.
Hezbollah quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had “targeted an Israeli military convoy in the Shebaa Farms composed of several vehicles which was transporting several Zionist soldiers and officers.”
“There were several casualties in the enemy’s ranks,” Hezbollah said in a statement broadcast on the group’s Al-Manar television channel.
Shortly after the hit on the convoy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the Jewish state would respond to any attack, saying the army was “ready to act with force on any front”.
Lebanese security sources told AFP that Israeli tanks began shelling areas of southeastern Lebanon shortly after the convoy attack.
Two sources told AFP that more than a dozen shells had been fired on Lebanese border villages and that Israeli warplanes were flying over the area.
There was no immediate information on casualties.
“This is not necessarily the last response,” chief Israeli army spokesman Brigadier General Moti Almoz warned on Twitter.
The fresh exchanges came after an Israeli air strike on the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general on January 18.