2 Israeli Soldiers Killed by Hizbollah on Lebanese Border

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a missile attack on Wednesday as they drove in a disputed area along the Lebanese border, Israel said, in the most serious flare-up in the area in years. Hizbollah claimed responsibility.

According to New York Times, The attack raised the risk of a further escalation between Israel and Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group that is one of Israel’s most tenacious enemies. Both sides lobbed rockets and artillery shells at each other for hours afterward, though quiet prevailed by mid-afternoon.

Hizbollah, which has vowed to avenge a deadly Israeli strike on its fighters in southern Syria this month, said in a statement that its Kuneitra Martyrs Brigade had carried out the missile strike at 11:35 a.m.

The paper writes, that flare-up shatterd a fragile calm that has mostly held along the frontier since the monthlong war between Israel and Hizbollah in 2006.

“We will not allow terror elements to disrupt the lives of our citizens and threaten their security,” prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Twitter after attack. “We will know how to respond with force to whoever challenges us.”

Israel’s hard-line foreign minister,Avigdor Lieberman, told his Chinese counterpart during a visit to Beijing that Israel should “change its approach” and respond to the missile attack “in a very harsh and disproportionate manner,” according to a statement on Lieberman’s Facebook page.

A Spanish soldier serving with the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebonan was also killed during the fighting on Wednesday, and Spain was expected to demand a full United Nations investigation into the circumstances of the soldier’s death.

The peacekeeper was killed in an explosion at a United Nations base near the Lebanese village of Ghajar, said Andrea Tenent, a spokesman for the force. While all the parties know the locations of the bases, the spokesman said that the United Nations had not determined wheather the fire was Israeli, and that an investigation was continuing.

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Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, said the military had conveyed its condolences over the death of the Spanish soldier and was investigating the circumstances.

Colonel Lerner added that the Israeli soldiers were traveling in an unarmored, unmarked, white vehicles on a road that civilians also use, about a mile from the border, when they were hit by five antitank missiles fired from less than three miles away. The two who were killed were in the first vehicle, which was hit, and those who were wounded had exited their vehicle and taken cover.

About an hour after the attack on the convoy, several mortar shells were fired at Israeli military positions in the border area and on Mount Hermon in thr Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, without causing injury.

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The Israleli military said that it responded to the attacks with air and ground strikes at what is called “Hizbollah operational positions” in Lebanon, and that it might take further action. Israeli goverment and military leaders were meeting for consultations.

Tensions have been building for days in the fraught triangle between Israel, Lebanon and Syria as Israel braced for relation for the airstrike on Jan.18 that killed five fighters from Hizbollah – including the son of the group’s slain military commamdar, Imad Mughniyeh – and an Iranian general.

On Tuesday,at least two rockets fired from Syria struck the Israeli-controlled portion of the Golan Heights, without causing injury.

Israel responded with artillery toward the suspected launching sites in Syria, and overnight it carried out airstrikes in territory under the control of the Syrian army.

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Hizbollah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon, is now fighting in the Syrian civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, further complicating matters and increasing the risk of Israeli entanglement.

Israel has accused Hizbollah of trying to build a new front against it, with Iran’s help,in the Syrian Golan Heights.Israeli analysts said that with its actions, Israel was sending a message to Iran and Hizbollah that it would not tolerate such a change in the status quo.

“Until now our relations with Assad were based on a deal of quiet in the Golan Heights in exchange for Israel refraining from intervening in the civil war,” saidi Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “Now this has changed. We have seen thatAssad is no longer willing or able to prevent Hizbollah activities in the Golan. So all the options are open.”