Jerusalem: A rocket attack by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Sunday wounded 17 people, including seven Israeli soldiers, in northern Israel. The Israeli army and rescue service confirmed the casualties, which marked the worst escalation on the Lebanon-Israel border in weeks.
The rocket attack came as a retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on November 5 that killed a woman and three children in southern Lebanon. The airstrike was the first by Israel in Lebanon since the 2006 war between the two sides. It also violated the UN resolution that ended the conflict and called for a cessation of hostilities.
The Israeli army said in a statement that seven of its soldiers were lightly injured by mortar shells fired by Hezbollah near the town of Manara, close to the border. The army said it responded with artillery fire and air strikes on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.
The rescue service said that the other 10 people injured in the rocket attack were civilians, including two who were in critical condition. The service did not specify the location of the attack, but local media reported that rockets hit several towns and villages in the Upper Galilee region of Israel.
The rocket attack triggered sirens and warnings in northern Israel, prompting residents to seek shelter. Some schools and businesses were closed as a precaution. The Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened an emergency meeting of his security cabinet to discuss the situation.
Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement. It said it fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Israeli military positions and settlements in northern Israel. It said the attack was a “response to the enemy’s repeated aggression and crimes against our people and sanctities in Lebanon.”
The attack also came amid rising tensions between Israel and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program and regional influence. Israel has accused Iran of being behind a series of attacks on its ships and facilities in recent months. Iran has denied the allegations and blamed Israel for sabotaging its nuclear sites and killing its scientists.
The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, urged both sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation. UNIFIL said it was in contact with both parties to de-escalate the situation and preserve the ceasefire. It also said it was investigating the incidents and their impact on the ground.