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Hezbollah, Israel trade fire as UN peacekeeping mission calls for ‘restraint’

Lebanon's prime minister called on the US and France to intervene

Hezbollah launched anti-tank rockets at military positions in northern Israel in an exchange of fire on Lebanon’s southern border, a week after the Islamist group said Israel must “pay a price” for an alleged drone attack in Beirut.

Hezbollah on Sunday, September 1 claimed its Hassan Zbeeb and Yasser Daher Brigade destroyed an Israeli military vehicle “on the road to the Avivim barracks” in northern Israel, killing and wounding the occupants.

Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Brigadier General Ronen Manelis confirmed Hezbollah struck Israeli positions with Koronet anti-tank rockets, but said there were no casualties. The IDF also said a military ambulance was hit.

“A number of anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon towards an [Israeli military] base and military vehicles,” the IDF said on Sunday.

“A number of hits have been confirmed,” the IDF statement said, adding that it was responding to the sources of fire in southern Lebanon.

The unit responsible for the attack was named after two Hezbollah fighters who the group said were killed in an Israeli strike on Syria on August 24, the Shia group’s statement added.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), called for “restraint” on both sides on Sunday.

“At about 5 p.m. today UNIFIL was informed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that an anti-tank missile had been fired from the vicinity of Marun Al-Ras in southern Lebanon at an IDF vehicle in the Avivim area, south of the Blue Line,” a UNIFIL statement read.

“In response the IDF conducted artillery fire directed at the general area from where the missile attack had originated.”

“UNIFIL is following up on the firing across the Blue Line” between Lebanon and Israel, said Andrea Tenenti, the mission’s spokesperson.

Israeli fire ceased in a number of areas along the border around 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT), Lebanon’s National News Agency reported. The IDF also said firing had died down.

“General calm has been restored in the area and the parties have reassured me of their continued commitment to the cessation of hostilities in accordance with resolution 1701,” Del Col said.

“This is a serious incident in violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 and clearly directed at undermining stability in the area,” he said.

“UNIFIL is following up to determine the facts and circumstances of the incident, including any casualties or damages caused as a result,” the statement read.

“At this time UNIFIL has no reports of casualties from either side.”

Tensions have risen in the last week between Israel and Hezbollah following an alleged drone attack in a Shia neighborhood of south Beirut.

The attack, which Israel did not confirm, came just hours after the IDF launched air strikes in neighboring Syria to prevent what it said was an impending Iranian drone attack on Israeli territory.

Hezbollah said two of its fighters were killed in those strikes.

Lebanon’s prime minister on Sunday urged the United States and France to “intervene” after the Hezbollah movement traded cross-border fire with Israel.

The Lebanese army said Israel fired 40 rockets into the south of the country.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri contacted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and French President Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic advisor to ask for intervention by their countries “and the international community in facing the developments on the southern border,” Hariri’s office said in a statement.

Earlier on Sunday, the Lebanese government said an Israeli drone violated its airspace and released “incendiary substances,” igniting fires in the area of Bastra farms on the Lebanese side of the border.

An Israeli military spokesperson said the blaze that erupted near a demarcation line between the two countries was caused by army “operations” in the area.

“A short while ago fires erupted adjacent to the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon and the fires are a result of IDF operations in the area,” she told AFP without providing additional details.

Cross-border fire

Israel fired flares over several Lebanese border areas on Saturday, one of which landed in a base run by an Indian battalion of U.N. peacekeepers, according to the U.N. and the Lebanese army. Lebanon’s National News Agency also reported heavy Israeli fire across the border.

On Wednesday, the Lebanese army opened fire on Israeli drones that had violated Lebanon’s airspace, forcing the aircraft to return across the border.

The Israeli government has accused Hezbollah of working to acquire precision-guided missiles in Beirut with the aid of Iranian advisors.

Last week, military positions of a faction of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine reportedly came under aerial attack near Qusaya, in eastern Lebanon.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said the alleged strikes on Beirut and Qusaya “resemble a declaration of war.”

Both the Israeli and Lebanese sides have accused one another of violating U.N Security Council resolution 1701, which was implemented to end the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.

The war left some 160 Israelis dead, mostly soldiers, and more than 1,200 Lebanese dead, mostly civilians.

With reporting from AFP

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