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(photo credit: AP)
The Lebanese army on Thursday discovered and defused eight Katyusha rockets that had been placed near the southern town of Nakoura and were about to be fired at Israel.
The 107-millimeter projectiles were fitted with timers and were defused "a short while before the time set for their launching," according to the Lebanese news site Naharnet. Voice of Lebanon radio specified that the rockets were set to be launched between 10 and 10:30 p.m.
Israeli defense officials said it was too early to know who was behind the planned rocket attack.
"It could be anyone, Hizbullah, Palestinian terror groups or al-Qaida," one official said, adding that it was possible that the planned attack was connected to the escalation in the Gaza Strip.
A spokeswoman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) confirmed that eight rockets with rocket launchers pointed southward and located east of Nakoura were found by the Lebanese Armed Forces. UNIFIL sources confirmed that timers were attached to the rockets and that it was possible they were supposed to be launched overnight Thursday.
The rockets were found in a forest along the coast in an area between the cities of Nakoura and Tyre controlled by UNIFIL and the Lebanese army.
The Lebanese army was investigating the incident with the assistance of UNIFIL, spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane told The Jerusalem Post. UNIFIL sappers were sent on location to cooperate with the army, she said.
Israeli military sources said that the IDF Northern Command was updated by UNIFIL on the discovery of the rockets.
The last time rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel was last January, when two Katyushas landed in the northern town of Shlomi. Half a year earlier, two 107mm. rockets struck Kiryat Shmona. Both attacks were attributed to Palestinian terror groups that operate in southern Lebanon and are at odds with Hizbullah.
Hizbullah is believed to have multiplied its rocket arsenal since the Second Lebanon War and now has close to 40,000 rockets south and north of the Litani River. The IDF claims that Hizbullah is storing many of its rockets inside villages in southern Lebanon where UNIFIL does not have independent access.
While UNIFIL has come under Israeli criticism for allegedly not enforcing its mandate to prevent Hizbullah's rearmament, IDF officers said on Thursday that UNIFIL had proved its effectiveness this time.
"Sometimes they are effective, but we expect them to do much more," one officer said.
A Lebanese parliamentarian said that the Lebanese army's actions "are a sign of commitment" on Lebanon's part to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
"Lebanon is doing its bit and it's expected that Israel does its part and stops overflights over Lebanon," he told the Post. "Israel is still in violation of the Security Council resolution. It's important that each one does his own bit... so there is compliance."
Israel has accused Hizbullah of retaking border positions and continuing to amass rockets and other arms banned under the resolution.
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