Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid the blame on Iran for Wednesday’s multipronged attack by Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border that killed two IDF soldiers and wounded seven others.
“For some time, Iran – via Hezbollah – has been trying to establish an additional terrorist front against us from the Golan Heights,” said Netanyahu. “We are taking strong and responsible action against this attempt.”
The governments of Lebanon and Syria also bear responsibility for attacks against Israel in the North that emanated from their territory, he added. “Those behind today’s attack will pay the full price.”
Netanyahu spoke Wednesday evening, just before he held security consultations with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yoram Cohen and other defense officials.
“In all of these events, our mission is to defend the State of Israel,” said Netanyahu.
“Our only consideration is the security of the State of Israel and its citizens. Thus we have acted and thus we will continue to act.”
On Tuesday, Iran warned the US that it planned to respond to an alleged Israeli attack on a Hezbollah convoy near the Golan Heights on January 18, in which Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Muhammad Allahdadi was killed, according to the IRNA news agency.
“We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said.
Hezbollah took responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on two IDF vehicles on Israel’s northern border. But a source in the Prime Minister’s Office bluntly accused Iran of helping Hezbollah behind the scenes.
“Iran is behind this heinous terrorist attack – the same Iran that the world powers are forming an agreement with, that would allow it to maintain its ability to acquire nuclear weapons capacity,” the source said.
This is the same Iran that tried to build a terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights, similar to what it has in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, and Yemen. This is the same Iran that supports terrorism around the globe, the source added.
“We must not give such terrorism a nuclear umbrella,” the official said. “We must not let the most dangerous regime in the world arm itself with the most dangerous weapons in the world.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said: “The United States strongly condemns Hezbollah’s attack today on Israeli Defense Forces near the border between Lebanon and Israel.”
He added that it was a “blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”
“We don’t have information on what munitions were used by Hezbollah,” Vasquez added, when asked for comment on the alleged use of sophisticated Russian- made, Kornet anti-tank missiles.
On Tuesday, the State Department warned against “escalation” on Israel’s northern border, after Syrian positions fired into the Golan Heights. The IAF returned fire on Syrian Army positions overnight.
UN Resolution 1701 codified a cease-fire over the blue line between Israel and Lebanon after Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah in 2006.
“We support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday, as she urged both parties to “respect the blue line between Israel and Lebanon.”
“We also of course condemn the act of violence, and will be watching the situation closely,” Psaki said.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor sent a letter to the Security Council and to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in which he said Israel would not stand idly by “as Hezbollah targets Israelis.”
“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.
“Events in the North continue to unfold and Israel extends its condolences to UNIFIL and the Spanish government over the death of one of its soldiers earlier today.” A Spanish peacekeeper from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon was killed when Israel responded to the attack, a UN spokesman and Spanish officials said.
“I urge the Security Council to unequivocally and publicly condemn Hezbollah,” Prosor added. “The terrorist organization must be disarmed and the government of Lebanon must abide by its international commitments and fully implement Security Council resolution 1701.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman phoned his Spanish counterpart, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia- Margallo, to express his condolences over the death of the UNIFIL peacekeeper.
Liberman has instructed Israeli ambassadors around the world to tell their respective governments that Israel holds the Syrian and Lebanese governments responsible for Hezbollah attacks against Israel from their territory.
Liberman, who is on a visit to China, spoke of the attack with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a meeting in Beijing.
“Israel has to change the policy by which it responds to missile attacks against its sovereign territory,” said Liberman, and “it must do so harshly, and not proportionately.”
China or the US would react in such a disproportionate manner if it were their sovereign territory that was being attacked, Liberman said, and Israel expects its allies to support a harsh response.
He added that countries around the world have to adopt a harsh and severe policy with regard to terrorism that does not allow for this kind of provocation. Terrorist organizations throughout the globe operate under different names, Liberman said, but their objectives are the same when it comes to attacks in the Middle East and against Western targets.”
In New York, President Reuven Rivlin cut short his stay and flew home so he could be back in Israel in light of the situation.
Reuters contributed to this report.