Israel denies claims it struck eastern Lebanon killing five Palestinian militants

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An Israeli airstrike targeting positions of a Syria-backed Palestinian group in eastern Lebanon early Wednesday killed five Palestinian militants and wounded 10 others, two Palestinian officials said.

An Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity denied the country had any role in the incident. Israel does not typically respond to foreign reports.

Anwar Raja of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, told The Associated Press in Damascus that the Israeli strike hit positions in the Lebanese eastern town of Qusaya near the border with Syria. He said two of the wounded are in critical condition.

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Another PFLP-GC official, the Lebanon-based Abu Wael Issam, told the AP that his group will retaliate “at the suitable time.” He added that the strike will not deter his group from “escalating the fight against the Israeli enemy.”

The Lebanese army and Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group also had no immediate comment on the airstrike.

Asked about the Israel response, Raja attributed Israel’s denial to “the sensitivity of the situation in Lebanon,” a suggestion that any acknowledgement of a strike by Israel would push Hezbollah to retaliate.

It has been rare for Israel to carry out airstrikes on Lebanon in recent years.

Israel launched rare strikes in southern Lebanon in April, a day after militants fired nearly three dozen rockets at Israel, wounding two Syrian workers and causing some property damage. The Israeli military said at the time that it had targeted installations of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, in southern Lebanon.

The PFLP-GC has positions along the Lebanon-Syria border as well as military presence in both countries. The group had carried out attacks against Israel in the past.

The militant group became known for major attacks against Israel, including the hijacking an El Al jetliner in 1968 and the machine gunning of another airliner at Zurich airport in 1969. In 1970, it planted a bomb on a Swissair jet that blew up on a flight from Zurich to Tel Aviv, killing all 47 passengers on aboard.

The Damascus-based group also carried out attacks against Israel from its bases in Lebanon.

During Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1985, the PFLP-GC captured three Israeli soldiers and negotiated their release in exchange for more than 1,100 mostly Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian prisoners.

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