Israel has exchanged fire with the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, raising the prospect of a broader regional conflict on Sunday, a day after an unprecedented surprise attack on southern Israel by Hamas that killed at least 250 Israelis.
More than 300 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli bombardments of the besieged Gaza enclave in the wake of the large-scale Hamas attack that took Israel by surprise. The Palestinian enclave has effectively been under an Israeli land, sea and air blockade since 2007.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions have been calling for the blockade to end and have organised protests at the fence that separates the territory from Israel.
Hezbollah, a powerful armed group backed by Iran, said it had launched guided rockets and artillery onto three posts in Shebaa Farms “in solidarity” with the Palestinian people. Shebaa Farms, which is claimed by Lebanon, was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
“On the path to liberate the remaining part of our occupied Lebanese land and in solidarity with the victorious Palestinian resistance and the steadfast Palestinian people, the groups of the martyr commander Hajj Imad Moghniyeh in the Islamic Resistance carried out an attack this Sunday, October 08, 2023, targeting 3 Zionist occupation sites in the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms region,” Hezbollah said in a statement.
The Israeli military said on Sunday it fired artillery into an area of Lebanon from where cross-border mortar fire was launched. Israel’s military said one of its drones struck a Hezbollah post in the area of Har Dov, an area in Shebaa Farms.
Israel said its forces “are now attacking with artillery fire the area in Lebanon from where shooting was carried out a few minutes ago into Israeli territory”. The Israeli forces said they were “prepared for all scenarios, and will continue to protect the security of the residents of the State of Israel”.
Tel Aviv has held the Shebaa Farms, a 39-square-km (15-square-mile) patch of land, since 1967. Both Syria and Lebanon claim the Shebaa Farms are Lebanese.
There was no comment from the Lebanese authorities on the incident.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news agency.
On Saturday, it said it had enhanced its presence in southern Lebanon following developments in Israel and Gaza.
Hezbollah, which effectively controls southern Lebanon, said on Saturday it was in “direct contact” with leaders of Palestinian “resistance” groups. The group said it saw Palestinian attacks on Israel as a “decisive response to Israel’s continued occupation and a message to those seeking normalisation with Israel”.