Despite the high alert level in the area of the Lebanese border following the latest escalation, the two IDF soldiers killed and the seven who were wounded in the attack on Wednesday were travelling in unarmored Isuzu DMAX vehicles at the time of the incident. Their families were informed of their passing. Three residents from the Arab village of Ghajar suffered anxiety as a result of the attack.
Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said was in retribution for an Israeli assault in Syria that saw a group of its fighters killed. Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to respond "with force" to the attack.
The IDF is looking into the possibility that the terrorists infiltrated the Israeli territory near the western slopes of Mount Dov, nearby the village of Ghajar. IDF officials are also examining whether the terrorists had intended to fire at civilian vehicles en route to Ghajar.
Defense establishment officials have been conducting discussions in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv since the afternoon hours. IDF Chief of Staff Gantz arrived at the Northern Command in order to hold a special security assessment meeting.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry released a statement on Wednesday, condemning IDF retaliation in Lebanese territory after Hezbollah militants operating in southern Lebanon shot an anti-tank missile at a convoy of IDF vehicles.
The statement also included that Lebanon has complied with UN resolution 1701 in order to protect itself from Israeli attacks. Currently there is a tense calm in the area.
The incident occurred at about 11:30 am, when a Hezbollah anti-tank missile hit an IDF convoy near Har Dov and Shebaa Farms, a disputed tract of land where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet. The The IDF ruled out the possibility of a hijacking attempt, despite reports from Lebanon claiming otherwise.
An initial investigation revealed that the soldiers were heading southwards from the Ghajar village. The route is also used by residents of Ghajar. A senior military official said: "The jeep that was hit was unarmored, and we don't think that carries much significance. We will examine the issue and it does not absolve us from what happened."
The military official added that "Saying that they were driving in such vehicles is coming to conclusions too quickly. We have to check the type of missile that hit them – it was most likely a Kornet anti-tank missile."
A total of five anti-tank missiles were launched at the IDF convoy during the Hezbollah – another missile hit a home in Ghajar. A high ranking IDF official said: "The vehicle of one of the officers was hit by one missile, and the other vehicle was hit by two missiles. Additional missiles did not hit them."
Commenting on the vehicle's protection, he added: "We do not yet fully understand what happened there and we need to investigate it…the vehicles that were hit were at least 2 kilometers away from the border." The missiles were apparently fired from a distance of 4-5 kilometers from the location where the vehicles were hit.
The source also spoke about the Israeli response to the incident: "We are responding with artillery fire at close targets...one of the mortar shells hit a UN peace keeper and we have been in contact with the UN since then. We regret the incident and will investigate it. We will draw conclusions – we have no intention to harm UN forces,” the IDF official said.
The incident took place a day after the IAF responded to a rocket attack directed at Israel from Syria, which reports said Hezbollah forces in Syria were behind.
Lebanese security officials said Israel later fired 25 artillery shells into Lebanon after the anti-tank missile attack.
Lebanese officials said that IDF shelling targeted the border villages of Majidiyeh, Abbasiyeh and Kfar Chouba near the Shebaa Farms area.
The troops that were hit were conducting a patrol in the sector as part of the high alert level in the north. The soldiers stationed in the area were supposed to serve as reinforcement troops in the case of escalation.
Five of those wounded, who are listed in light to moderate condition, were evacuated to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed. They suffer shrapnel and blast injuries. The five were treated in the trauma room and will stay for observation. A relative of one of the soldiers wounded in the attack said: "He told me that everything was fine. He is slowly recovering, and that's what's important."
The Hezbollah-affiliated channel Al-Mayadeen in Lebanon reported that the organization hit a convoy of military vehicles in Har Dov. The terrorists reportedly fired mortars in open areas on the outskirts of the village of Ghajar in attempt to draw troops to the area, after which they targeted the military convoy with an anti-tank missile.
At 12:30, additional mortars hit Mt. Hermon in an attack which Hezbollah says is a response to the IDF's attack in Syria, which in turn was also a response to rockets fired by Hezbollah at Israel from Syria on Tuesday. No injuries were reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to the attack: "To everyone who is trying to challenge us at the northern border, I recommend for them to look what happened there, not far from the city of Sderot, in Gaza. Hamas took its hardest hit since its formation and the IDF is prepared to act strongly on all fronts."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon wil also hold a situation assessment meeting in the Kirya military base and is receiving updates on the situation. A meeting will be held later Wednesday between the prime minister, the IDF Chief of Staff and senior officers. Diplomatic sources say that Israel will not move towards military escalation, but at the same time will not tolerate attacks on its sovereignty.
IDF Spokesman, Brigadier-General Moti Almoz, commented on the IDF artillery fire saying: "This is not our last response."
The leaders of the Zionist Camp, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni toured the Golan Heights with the party's candidate for defense minister Amos Yadlin, earlier Wednesday. Herzog said: "Those in Hezbollah who think that we will be threatened or become divided during the elections, will discover that we are strong and united in protecting the security of citizens. The future of the Golan Heights is clear – it will remain in our hands and we will be responsible for the security of its residents."