Israel will not ignore attacks on its territory and will respond to any such attempts, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said after approving airstrikes on southern Lebanon in retaliation for a series of Katyusha attacks on northern Israel earlier Sunday. “The Lebanese government is responsible for all attacks coming from its land,” Peretz added, and demanded the Lebanese government fulfill its responsibility to prevent terrorist activity.
Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, said Sunday the IDF should strike terrorist targets in Beirut rather than in open fields in eastern Lebanon.
Steinitz said Israel should respond to Katyusha attacks from Lebanon as it does to Qassam fire from the Gaza Strip. “Katyusha attacks on Mount Meron are a dangerous attempt to establish routine fire in the Galilee,” he said.
Regarding the sites targeted by the air force, the IDF said, “The two sites were the headquarters of terror organizations in Lebanon. The IDF sees the Lebanese government as responsible for all terror attacks emanating from Lebanese territory targeting Israeli land.”
Sending clear message to Lebanon
A senior IDF Northern Command officer said that the Katyusha attack on northern Israel from Lebanon on Sunday was intended to hit the IAF base in Mount Meron.
The officer said it remains unclear which side is responsible for the attack, which left a soldier injured.
"There are enough reasons in the Middle East to fire rockets into Israel," he said on condition of anonymity.
The officer downplayed the importance of Hizbullah's involvement in the attack, saying the Lebanese government bears full responsibility for the strike.
"The Lebanese government needs to take action because it allows Hizbullah to deploy in the south of country, giving it full legitimacy to operate from there," he said.
He added the targets hit by the IAF in response to the attack were chosen from a number of targets on the IDF's list and are meant to send a clear message to the Lebanese government.
Some of the Katyushas landed in the Mount Meron air control unit base’s residential area, some 10 km (6.25 miles) from the border. One soldier suffered from shock and was evacuated to the Ziv hospital in Safed in light condition, and one of the base’s buildings was lightly damaged.
The 122-milimeter diameter rockets were apparently fired at about 4:30 a.m. The Northern Command is looking into the attack, which qualifies as unusual, as strikes usually target near-border army posts rather then more distant bases.
Some six to seven explosions were heard in the northern region in the morning hours, but only three landing sites – all in the army base area – have been located so far.
No organization has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which the IDF believes may have been aimed at the security-sensitive base.
Ilan Marciano contributed to the report