Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enters cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In a significant escalation in the already tense North, Hezbollah planted and detonated two bombs in the Mount Dov region along the border with Lebanon on Tuesday, with one device wounding two IDF soldiers.
A second blast tore through the same area about 30 minutes later, but failed to cause injuries or damage.
The wounded soldiers belonged to the Combat Engineering Corps bomb squad unit, which was accompanying Golani Brigade soldiers on patrol in the area.
Both bombs were planted on the Israeli side of the border.
The IDF responded by shelling two Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.
The army suspects that the incident is directly related to Sunday’s attempted infiltration from Lebanon, which occurred in the same region.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened up the cabinet meeting Tuesday on the budget by addressing the incident along the northern border, and thanking the soldiers there for foiling an attack.
“We proved that we respond with force against any attempt to attack us, whether it is from the South, the North, or any other sector,” Netanyahu said.
“We are witness to threats accumulating around us, threats of which the whole world is now aware, and is even dealing with some of them.”
These threats, he said, necessitate investing massively in security, as well as investing heavily in communities along the confrontation borders.
The dominant assessment in the defense establishment at this time is that this was a pinpoint incident that will not escalate into a wider conflict. At the same time, the IDF took a severe view of the attack by the Shi’ite terrorist organization.
“The IDF sees this incident as a gross and violent violation of Israeli sovereignty, and sees the Lebanese government and Hezbollah as responsible for any attempt to harm Israeli soldiers or civilians,” the military said.
“The IDF reserves the right to act in any way, and at any time, to defend the citizens of the State of Israel.”
Hours after the incident, Hezbollah took the unusual step of officially claiming responsibility for the border bombings.
In a statement read out on Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV station and released on the Internet, the organization said the Hassan Haider Brigade had planted the bombs – apparently a reference to the name of a Hezbollah member who was reportedly killed in September while seeking to dismantle an Israeli listening device in southern Lebanon’s Sidon region.
The wounded soldiers received initial emergency medical treatment on the spot, before being evacuated to the hospital by helicopter for further treatment. Magen David Adom officials said they suffered from light wounds to their limbs.
In Sunday’s incident, IDF soldiers opened fire on a cell trying to infiltrate the country from Lebanon. An IDF unit dealing with operational security identified the men crossing the border into Israel, and the soldiers opened fire with small arms, apparently hitting one of the infiltrators.
“The cell fled back into Lebanese territory,” the army said afterward.
Lebanese media reported that Israeli cross-border fire had wounded a Lebanese soldier near Kafr Shuba on Sunday.
Last month, senior IDF officials said they were preparing for future hostilities with Hezbollah, and that the Lebanese organization had developed new offensive cross-border capabilities alongside its massive arsenal of rockets and missiles.
According to one of the officials, Hezbollah is planning to send dozens or hundreds of terrorists over the border into Israel in any future war, while targeting the Israeli home front with large numbers of projectiles.
That conflict, the officer said, could last as long as four months.
“Hezbollah’s confidence is growing, along with its combat experience in Syria. The battlegrounds of Syria have enabled Hezbollah to upgrade its capabilities.
Hezbollah plans to send many combatants into Israeli territory near the border and seize it,” the officer said, adding that this had prompted Israel to make “dramatic changes” to its border-defense plans.
The army has noted an increase in Hezbollah’s overt presence on the Israeli border in recent months, including the deployment of openly armed and uniformed operatives.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.