Two blasts hit IDF outpost on Israel-Lebanon border; 2 soldiers wounded
Two soldiers lightly wounded after blast goes off near Israel's border with Lebanon; Hezbollah claims responsibility for attack; IDF returns fire at Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon; Netanyahu: 'We've proven that we react with force to any attempt to harm us, whether it's in the south or another front.'
Two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded when a blast went off near an IDF outpost on Mount Dov in the Golan Heights. A second explosion occurred half an hour later at the same outpost, but no one was wounded.
Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the bombings. The IDF has returned fire, firing 40 artillery shells and hitting two Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.
The wounded soldiers, bomb-disposal experts from the Engineering Corps, were evacuated by helicopter to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa after receiving initial medical care at the scene. They were both suffering shrapnel wounds to their limbs, and were in light condition. One of them is expected to undergo surgery to remove the shrapnel.
The soldiers were wounded while working to locate, identify and neutralize explosive devices in the area, following the exchange fire incident in the area on Sunday.
An initial army investigation into the attacks found the explosives were planted in advance and were waiting for the troops. Following the attacks, IDF troops were searching the area for additional explosives.
There are conflicting reports about the incident, but an initial assessment indicates that a blast hit a group of soldiers traveling near the border area on Mount Dov; it is possible they were traveling in an armored vehicle. An IDF source also said that there was a possibility additional blasts were in the area.
"Hezbollah is responsible to the planting of these explosive devices and setting them off today, which is why it was attacked back," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said.
"There's a phenomenon here of a state within a state, and we also consider the Lebanese government responsible for this incident," he added.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the incident violated a UN Security Council resolution that was adopted to end the 2006 Second Lebanon War. He said the UN force in Lebanon, which has been in place for decades, has launched an investigation and contacted both sides to urge restraint.
"Such actions are in contravention of efforts to reduce tensions and establish a stable and secure environment in southern Lebanon," Dujarric said.
According to Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV station, the attack was in response to the death of Hezbollah militant Hassan Ali Haidar last month in a reported explosion in Aadloun in Lebanon that the organization links to an Israeli intelligence device or UAV attack.
Following the explosion in Aadloun in September, the Lebanese Army released a statement saying that, "At 3:45pm a Lebanese Army intelligence patrol found an unidentified object near the village of Aadloun. When the patrol tried to reveal the nature of the object, Israel remotely detonated it, causing the death of a citizen who was nearby. The blast area was closed off for security and an investigation has been launched into the event."
According to reports in Lebanese media, Haider, 25, was a bomb expert who was killed while he and his colleagues were trying to disarm four explosives.
This was not the first time Hezbollah has taken responsibility for attacks in Mount Dov. Defense establishment officials believe that much like the previous incident in the area last year, Hezbollah took advantage of the tricky terrain and the fact there is no border fence at the mountain's extensions to plant the explosives and detonate them from afar.
Situation assessments held in the Northern Command in recent weeks led to the decision to increase army presence in the area because of the holidays and instability on the Syrian border.
Al Jazeera reported that there were fears of a terror attack against Israel, possibly by Hezbollah. While Lebanon's Al-Manar television, which is aligned with Hezbollah, said explosions had been heard in the area. Officials in Beirut had no immediate comment.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed his gratitude to the soldiers "who thwarted a terrorist attack in the north" and sent his well wishes to the wounded.
"We've proven that we react with force to any attempt to harm us, whether it's in the south or another front," he said.
"We're witnessing the threats accumulating around us, these threats the whole world already knows about and is already dealing with some of them," Netanyahu went on to say, adding that these threats obligated Israel "to invest considerable amounts in security, and invest in communities near the border alongside that."
Mount Dov - or the Shebaa Farms - is a small strip of disputed land at the cross section between the borders of Lebanese-Syrian border and the Golan Heights, and has been scene to numerous incidents involving Hezbollah and Palestinian groups active in the region.
Israel and Lebanon are technically at war but their 80 km (49 mile) border has been largely quiet since a month-long war between Israeli forces and Hezbollah in 2006.
Just Sunday the IDF said that troops opened fire at a number of suspects who crossed into Israeli-controlled territory from neighboring Lebanon, while reports in Lebanon said the group was Lebanese soldiers. One Lebanese soldier was wounded during the altercation with the IDF.
There were conflicting reports about the shooting in the Shebaa Farms area, a disputed zone along the frontier between Lebanon and Israel. The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, said it was aware of the reports and was investigating.
Ahiya Raved and Noam (Dabul) Dvir contriubted to this report