Aug 6, 2021 - World

Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel for first time since 2006 war

Israel-Lebanon border
A Hezbollah flag flies on the Lebanon side of the Israel-Lebanon border. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images

Hezbollah on Friday fired 19 rockets from southern Lebanon toward Israeli military outposts on the border between the two countries. Most were intercepted by the Iron Dome system and there were no casualties, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Why it matters: This is the first time Hezbollah has fired rockets on Israel and publicly taken responsibility since the 2006 war. It's a significant escalation in tensions on the Israeli-Lebanese border in recent weeks.

The latest: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke on the phone on Friday with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Gantz asked that the U.S. put pressure on the Lebanese government and Lebanese army to stop the rocket fire from Lebanese territory toward Israel, according to the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

Driving the news: On Thursday, several rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Israel and landed in open areas near the city of Kiryat Shmona. The IDF said Palestinian factions were likely responsible.

  • Several hours later, the IDF retaliated with several airstrikes hitting the areas in southern Lebanon where the rockets were launched. These were the first Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon since the 2006 war.
  • Hezbollah fired the rockets from a launcher on a pickup truck. Videos on social media showed the truck being stopped by Druze residents of the village of Hasbaya in southern Lebanon after the shooting.
  • Of the 19 rockets fired, 10 were intercepted, three landed in Lebanese territory, and six landed in open areas in Israel, according to the IDF.

What they're saying: Hezbollah issued a statement stressing that it fired the rockets on Friday as a retaliation to the Israeli airstrikes the previous day.

  • The Hezbollah statement also hinted this was a retaliation for the killing of two of the organization’s operatives by Israel in recent months — one in Syria and the other while he tried to cross the border into Israel during the last war in Gaza.

The big picture: The escalation comes as Lebanon faces a deep political and economic crisis, with efforts underway to form a functioning government that will move ahead with the reforms the international community has set as a condition for financial aid.

  • The flare-up in Lebanon also comes amid high tensions between Israel and Iran over the attack on the Mercer Street cargo ship last week. The U.S. and the U.K. have determined Iran was behind the drone attack, which killed one British national and one Romanian national.
  • Since the beginning of the Gaza war in May, there have been five incidents of rocket launches from Lebanon into Israel — but all were seen in Israel as connected to Palestinian factions and not directly launched by Hezbollah.

What’s next: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened an emergency meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and the security and intelligence chiefs to discuss the Israeli response.

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