Two Israeli soldiers killed in Hezbollah attack
The latest attack has increased the specter of a full-blown Israeli-Hezbollah war
The specter of a full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah escalated on Wednesday after the Lebanese militia fired a missile at an Israeli army vehicle along the frontiers, killing two and wounding seven Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli army confirmed the soldiers’ deaths hours after the cross border attack. The announcement was delayed until their families were notified, a military statement said.
“Confirmed: Two IDF soldiers were killed and an additional seven were wounded in the Hezbollah attack near Mt. Dov earlier today,” said the statement posted on the army’s Twitter account.
An earlier tweet said: “Several injured in attack near Mt. Dov. We hold Hezbollah responsible for the attacks in northern Israel today.”
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said nine Israeli vehicles were damaged in the attack on the Shebaa farms frontier area. The militant group said it will release a statement on the attacks soon.
The Israeli army, meanwhile, declared the Golan Heights and its northern frontiers area a closed military zone.
After that, its ambassador to the U.N. sent a letter to the Security Council saying that Israel will take all necessary measures to defend itself.
“Israel will not stand by as Hezbollah targets Israelis,” Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor said in a letter to the Security Council.
“Israel will not accept any attacks on its territory and it will exercise its right to self-defense and take all necessary measures to protect its population,” he added.
The United States condemned Hezbollah’s attack as “an act of violence” and called for calm.
“We urge all parties to refrain from any action that could escalate the situation,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a daily briefing.
The U.N. Security Council has called an emergency meeting from 2100 GMT on Wednesday to discuss the flare-up of violence, diplomats said.
Wednesday's attack came several hours after Israel launched an air strike in Syria in retaliation for rockets launched at the Israel-occupied Golan Heights a day earlier, the Israeli army said.
Tensions have escalated in the area over the past 10 days after an Israeli strike in Syria which killed several Hezbollah men and an Iranian general.
On Tuesday, at least two rockets from Syria hit the Golan Heights and Israel responded with artillery fire, the army said.
The incident forced Israel to evacuate its Mt. Hermon ski resort on the Golan Heights, although a resort official said it had reopened for business on Wednesday.
The airstrike on January 18 killed six fighters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, who were fighting in support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Lebanon was committed to U.N. resolution 1701 that ended 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, the national news agency reported.
Iran warns of consequences
Iran has told the United States on Tuesday that Israel “crossed Iran's red lines” for killing an Iranian general in the attack on the Golan Heights.
"We have sent a message to the United States through diplomatic channels telling the Americans that the Zionist regime crossed Iran's red lines with this action," said Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
"In this message, we said those responsible should wait to suffer the consequences of their act," he added, in remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said before the Israeli response that Washington had seen the news of Tuesday's rocket firing and did not want "an escalation of the situation."
"We support Israel's legitimate right to self defence and have been clear about our concerns over the regional instability caused by the crisis in Syria," she told reporters.
"We call upon all parties to avoid any action that would jeopardise the long-held ceasefire between Israel and Syria and abide by the 1974 disengagement of forces agreement."
Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Mortar shells and rockets have struck the heights numerous times during Syria’s nearly four-year-old civil war.