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Hizbullah Claims Destroying Israeli Vehicle in Shebaa Farms with Bomb

Hizbullah targeted an Israeli patrol in the occupied Shebaa Farms with an explosive device on Monday, prompting Israel to shell areas in southern Lebanon.

The party claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

“At 3:10 pm Monday, the Martyr Leader Samir al-Quntar Unit blew up a large bomb against an Israeli armored patrol in the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms, destroying a Humvee vehicle and inflicting casualties on those inside it,” the Hizbullah statement said.

The wording of the statement indicates that the operation is in response to the assassination of Hizbullah top operative Samir al-Quntar, who was killed in an airstrike in Syria blamed on Israel.

Israel retaliated by opening artillery fire on areas in southern Lebanon.

Hizbullah's al-Manar television quoted “security sources” as saying that “one of the targeted vehicles was carrying a senior Israeli officer.”

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had vowed to take revenge for the death of Quntar, who had been jailed by Israel for around 30 years over the killing of three Israelis before he was freed by a 2008 prisoner exchange.

Israel confirmed that its forces had been targeted in the border area after the attack.

"IED detonated against IDF (Israeli army) vehicles in the area of Mt. Dov," wrote Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner in a tweet, referring to the disputed Shebaa Farms.

He said the Israeli army responded with "targeted artillery fire."

An Israeli army spokeswoman said there were no indications so far of injuries on the Israeli side.

Later the Israeli army said it had carried out a "special evaluation of the situation."

"We consider this event gravely serious and we are in a state of high alert," said army spokesman Moti Almoz in a statement.

Lebanese security sources said Israel responded with artillery fire into two villages adjacent to the Shebaa Farms, but had no immediate information on damage or injuries.

Later on Monday, al-Jadeed television's reporter in southern Lebanon said the Israeli shelling did not cause any casualties.

Al-Jadeed also quoted an Israeli army spokesperson as saying that "the bomb explosion on the Lebanese border did not cause any casualties" among Israeli forces.

A UNIFIL statement said the Israeli shelling targeted the southern Lebanese areas of Kafrshouba, al-Abbasiyeh and Bastara, causing no casualties.

UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major-General Luciano Portolano was in “immediate contact with the parties urging both sides to exercise utmost restraint in order to prevent any escalation of the situation,” the U.N. force said.

“The need of the time is to maintain security vigil and to exercise utmost restraint against any provocation,” Portolano said.

“General calm has been restored in the area and the parties have reassured me of their continued commitment to maintain the cessation of hostilities in accordance with (U.N. Security Council) resolution 1701,” he added.

UNIFIL has further reinforced its presence on the ground and intensified patrols across its area of operations in coordination with the Lebanese army, the UNIFIL statement said.

Shortly after his release in 2008, Quntar joined Hizbullah. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said he became "head of the Syrian Resistance for the Liberation of the Golan," a group launched two years ago by Hizbullah in the Syrian region, most of which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Shebaa Farms have been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 Middle East war. Lebanon says the area is Lebanese territory, while the U.N. says it was annexed from Syria.

Hizbullah has an extensive presence in Syria, where it is mostly working to bolster the regime against an uprising that began in March 2011.

Hizbullah and Israel scuffle intermittently in the disputed border area between Lebanon and Israel, and the powerful Lebanese group has in the past targeted Israeli army patrols in response to strikes against its members.

In January last year, it claimed an attack in the Shebaa Farms against an army patrol in apparent revenge for an Israeli strike in Syria that killed six Hizbullah fighters and a member of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.

In 2006, Israel fought a devastating war against Hizbullah that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Y.R.


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