Andrew Wander
The Daily Star
January 8, 2009 - 1:00am

At least three rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon on Thursday, prompting the Jewish state to lob several mortars at the town of Tair Harfa.

Katyusha rockets landed in the Nahariya area of Israel, slightly wounding two people according to Israeli officials. Israel hit back by firing five mortar shells across the border. There were no reported casualties.

The exchange came at a time of heightened tension on the border, where there are fears that resistance groups could open a second front against Israel while it is embroiled in its war on the Gaza Strip, which has thus far killed approximately 700 people, including hundreds of civilians.

It was initially unclear who fired the rockets.

Lebanese Information Minister Tarek Mitri told AFP that Hizbullah, which is represented in the government, had said it was not involved in the rocket barrage.

Unidentified Israeli military sources said that they thought Palestinian militants rather than Hizbullah were involved.

An earlier report of a second salvo of rockets fired into Israel proved to have been premature, with Israeli sources saying a warning siren had malfunctioned.

The Lebanese Army and the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, stepped up their patrols on the border in an effort to bring the situation under control.

But the south of the country is braced for more violence. Schools close to the border were closed on Thursday amid fears of further attacks.

Another war between Israel and Lebanon could have devastating consequences.

Israeli civilian and military leaders have threatened repeatedly that any new conflict would see their forces destroy even more of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure than they did in 2006. They have also vowed to consider any village from which a rocket is fired to be a legitimate military target.

Hizbullah is believed to have more than 40,000 rockets ready to be fired at Israel.

There will be concerns that Israel’s mortar attack on southern Lebanon – the first since a cessation of hostilities ended the 2006 war – could push Hizbullah to respond, even if it did not fire the Katyushas into Israel.

On Wednesday, Hizbullah’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, warned that “all possibilities were open” against Israel.

In his most assertive statement since Israel began its offensive in Gaza, Nasrallah said: “Your jets will not frighten us, and your threats will not frighten us. We are ready for any aggression.”


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