Israel on Thursday launched an airstrike and a heavy artillery strike on a Lebanese rocket launch site that had fired on Israel a day before. Three rockets had been fired from the site into the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. Two had landed in farmland sparking fires and the third was intercepted by the Israeli “Iron Dome” air defense systems

Kiryat Shmona is a town of 20,000 people located about six miles from the border between Israel and Lebanon. 

No one claimed responsibility for the Wednesday rocket attack on Israel, but the region that the rocket launch site is located is controlled by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group.

Some Israelis believe that the rockets were fired by a Palestinian faction that is residing in Lebanon and has fired on Israel in the past. 

Israel Calls Lebanon Responsible

Israeli firemen respond to a fire in Kiryat Shmona after rockets fired from Lebanon sparked fires. (AP photo)

Avichai Adraee, the Arabic-language spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), said that the Lebanese government is responsible for what happens on its territory and warned against more attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon.

“[Military] fighter jets struck the launch sites and infrastructure used for terror in Lebanon from which the rockets were launched,” the IDF stated adding that it also struck an area that had hosted rocket launches in the past.

The Lebanese military reported that the Israelis launched 92 artillery shells on Lebanese villages and started a fire in the village of Rashaya al-Fukhar. It added that security patrols and checkpoints were being set up and it is investigating the source of the rocket fire. 

Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV has reported that Israeli warplanes had carried out two raids on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Mahmudiya, about 12 km (7.5 miles) from the Israeli border. There were no reports of casualties.

According to the AP, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the attack was the first of its kind since 2006 and “indicated the presence of aggressive, escalatory intentions.” Aoun also posted on Twitter that the strikes were a direct threat to the security and stability of southern Lebanon and violated UN Security Council resolutions.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in an interview with YNet Television News that “This was an attack meant to send a message… Clearly, we could do much more, and we hope we won’t arrive at that.”

US Supports Israel’s Right to Self-defense

The Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona burns after being hit by Lebanese rockets. (AP)

Italian Major General Stefano Del Col, Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) called on the parties “to act with urgency” to de-escalate tensions and prevent violations of the cessation of hostilities that has been in effect since 2006.

Likewise, UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, urged both sides to “exercise maximum restraint to avoid further escalation.”

Meanwhile, Washington defended the Israelis and denounced the rocket fire coming from Lebanon.

“Israel has the right to defend itself against such attacks,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, adding that the U.S. would remain engaged with partners “in the region in an effort to de-escalate the situation.”

The Israeli-Lebanese border has seen some flashes of violence but has been mostly quiet since the bloody war in 2006 when Israel attacked Hezbollah. The war left 160 Israelis and 1,200 Lebanese dead.