Hezbollah says it carried out roadside bomb attack on Israeli military – Peter Beaumont/The Guardian
Israeli military vehicles burning in Shebaa farms, an Israeli occupied area along the Israeli-Lebanese border – January 2015.
Lebanese group targets armoured patrol in disputed Shebaa farms area after days of Israeli artillery fire into southern Lebanon
Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb targeting two Israeli military vehicles on Israel’s northern border, raising tensions that were already high after the assassination of a prominent militant in December.
The attack by the Lebanese group on Monday followed days of Israeli artillery fire into southern Lebanon, which resumed after the bomb attack with 20 shells reportedly fired into Lebanon after the incident.
The explosion occurred at about 3.15pm local time near the occupied Shebaa farms, with Israeli retaliatory fire hitting the vicinity of the Lebanese village of al-Wazzani.
Confirming it was behind the attack, Hezbollah said it had set off a large explosive device as an armoured patrol passed in the disputed Shebaa farms area, destroying a Humvee and causing casualties among the soldiers inside. In an initial response, however, the Israeli military said it had no indications of any injuries.
Witnesses said at least 10 Israeli shells had hit al-Wazzani shortly after the blast, causing material damage, with the pro-Hezbollah al-Manar Lebanese television reporting injuries.
Footage of the aftermath showed a heavy pall of white smoke over the area of the border fence.
Details of the incident were reported by al-Manar, as well as Lebanese and Israeli military officials.
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, Israeli civilians close to the northern border with Lebanon were told to remain inside and roads were closed to non-military traffic.
According to Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Brig-Gen Moti Almoz, the two vehicles hit during the incident were heavy armoured vehicles including a D-9 bulldozer.
“We have opened artillery fire, and created a smoke screen to cover the area. We are in control of the incident,” Almoz said, adding the explosion was “relatively large”.
Israel’s northern border has been tense since the Israeli assassination of Samir Kuntar, a prominent militant who has been associated with Hezbollah, in an Israeli airstrike on a building in the Syrian capital Damascus. Kuntar was killed in an airstrike in Damascus on 20 December which was widely attributed to Israel.
Last week, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, publicly warned that retaliation for his death was inevitable.
Hezbollah said the unit that carried out the bombing on Monday was named after Kuntar, who was the longest serving Lebanese prisoner in Israel before he was released in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in a cross-border raid two years earlier.
The IDF chief of staff, Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot, said later that Israel’s enemies would face “severe consequence” if they threatened its security.