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Israel military: 4 rockets fired, none hit country

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 12:00 p.m. CDT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Militants in Lebanon fired four rockets toward Israel on Thursday, setting off air raid sirens and startling a nation already on edge over turmoil along its northern and southern fronts.

Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the chief military spokesman, said one rocket was shot down by Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system, while the others did not land in Israeli territory. No one was injured, and Mordechai dismissed the attack as an "isolated incident."

Still, the rocket attack added to the nation's fears at a time it is nervously watching unrest in neighboring Syria, where the government has been accused of using chemical weapons against rebels this week. It's also worried about neighboring Egypt, where Islamic militants have stepped up their activities near the Israeli border in the wake of a military coup.

"We are acting on all fronts, in the north and in the south, to defend the citizens of Israel from such attacks," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "We employ various measures, both defensive and preventive, and we are acting responsibly. Our policy is clear: to protect and to prevent. Whoever tries to harm us should know we will harm them."

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said rockets were fired Thursday from a location south of the Lebanese port city of Tyre. He said light damage to a street and vehicle in northern Israel was likely caused by debris from the rocket interception.

Lerner said the attack was an "unprovoked attack on Israeli citizens" but that Israel did not retaliate.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Lerner blamed "global jihad" elements of being behind the attack, referring to groups either linked to or inspired by al-Qaida. Israel blamed the same elements for a similar rocket attack last week against the southern port city of Eilat. Such groups are also active in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

South Lebanon, the scene of bitter fighting between Israel and Lebanese militant Hezbollah guerrillas in 2006, is considered a Hezbollah stronghold. There are also Palestinian radical groups and Islamic militants that could also provoke a border incident. Several such incidents in the past were claimed by radical Palestinian groups.

A Lebanese security official said the four rockets were fired in two installments from fields in Housh, less than a kilometer (half mile) away from the Rashidiyeh Palestinian refugee camp in Tyre. He said the perpetrators were believed to be Palestinian extremists from the camp, but said an investigation was still under way.

The Lebanese official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The Israel-Lebanon border has remained quiet since the monthlong 2006 war. Sporadic incidents of rocket fire have taken place since. But tensions have remained high, especially as Hezbollah has gotten increasingly involved in the civil war in neighboring Syria. Israel fears that Syria will transfer sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah.

The 2006 summer war broke out after the Iranian-backed militant group's guerrillas crossed into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. The ensuing conflict killed about 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis. The last serious clashes along the frontier took place in 2010 when Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire across the border, killing at least three people.

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Associated Press writer Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.

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