The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vowed on Sunday to locate the site where two Katyusha rockets were launch from Lebanon into Israel earlier in the day.
After the projectiles landed in Israel near the norther city of Kiryat Shmona and the ensuing IDF response of massive artillery fire, UNIFIL head, Commander Major-General Paolo Serra immediately contacted the Lebanese Armed Forces and the IDF.
Serra said, “This is a very serious incident in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701 and is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area. UNIFIL’s first imperative is to ensure that there is no further escalation of the situation and I have been assured by the parties of their full cooperation with UNIFIL in this effort and of their continued commitment to the cessation of hostilities.”
He added, “Our troops on the ground are working with the Lebanese Armed Forces to reinforce security and locate the rocket launching site. UNIFIL has intensified its patrols across our area of operations to prevent any further incidents.”
“It is of paramount importance to identify and apprehend the
perpetrators of this attack and we will spare no efforts to this end
working in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces.”
Sunday’s cross-border fire coincided with heightened political tension in Beirut following the assassination on Friday of a former Lebanese government minister.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Lebanon’s attack against Israel early in the morning was a double war crime because it endangered innocent civilians on both sides of the border.
He spoke to the cabinet as he explained that the IDF had strongly retaliated shortly after a terrorist organization in Lebanon fired five Katusha rockets at Israel, of which two crossed the border and landed in northern Israel. Army sources said it was not immediately clear who fired the rockets.
Kiryat Shmona residents reported seeing smoke rising from a fire sparked by one of the projectiles which landed on a hill overlooking the city.
A Reuters witness in the Lebanon frontier area said 33 Israeli shells hit near two southern border towns.
No injuries were reported on either side of the border.
Nissim Malka, Mayor of Kiryat Shmona, told Channel 2 News, "We woke up to the sounds of rockets this morning. At the moment residents are going to work as normal. We will notify them of changes if necessary."
City schools opened as usual. No delays were reported in the busing of children to class.
The United Nations, which monitors the border, has urged both sides to remain calm.
But Israeli leaders said they had a responsibly to respond when attacked.
"Today, the IDF responded quickly and forcefully to the rocket fire from Lebanon,” Netanyahu said as he explained that he held both the Lebanese and Iranian governments responsible for the attack.
“We will not allow a drizzle and we will respond strongly, and if need be, will carry out preventive action,” Netanyahu said.
“What is happening in Lebanon is that Hezbollah is stationing thousands of missiles and rockets in apartments, in the heart of the civilian population, and is thus perpetrating two war crimes simultaneously. It is organizing the firing at civilians, just as it did today, and it is hiding behind civilians as human shields,” Netanyahu said.
The Lebanese government and army has not lifted “a finger to prevent this arming and these crimes. We hold the Lebanese government responsible for this development,” Netanyahu said.
He noted that Iran was a player behind the scenes in that it had armed Hezbollah just as it assisted the Syrian government is killing its own citizens.
Even as Iran continues to negotiate with the West, Netanyahu said, it continues to arm terrorist organizations and to develop its nuclear weapons program.
“It is also the same Iran that is currently developing centrifuges that are capable of enriching uranium six times faster than its regular centrifuges,” Netanyahu said.
“We continue to see preventing the nuclearization of Iran as our main goal vis-à-vis the national security of the State of Israel, as well as the security of the region and the entire world,” Netanyahu said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, "We will not tolerate fire from Lebanese territory and we will not permit any party who wants to interrupt the daily routine of Israelis.”
"We see the Lebanese government and the Lebanese military as responsible for the shooting this morning and for whatever happens in their territory, and we will not permit further incidents like the one that happened this morning."
"The IDF responded with massive shelling of the area from where the rockets were launched, and if need be it will act with greater force [in the future]. I wouldn't recommend that anyone try our patience and determination to protect the security of the citizens of Israel."
The Israeli-Lebanese border has been largely quiet since Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia fought a 34-day war in 2006.
But tension spiked this month when a Lebanese soldier killed an Israeli soldier
across the border fence, after which a UN peacekeeping force met both sides to restore calm.
Officials suggested at the time that the shooting had been the isolated action of an individual.
Last August, four rockets fired from southern Lebanon
targeted northern Israel, setting off air-raid sirens in Acre, Nahariya and additional areas in the Western Galilee and sending frightened local residents fleeing for cover.
JPost.com Staff contributed to this report.