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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Bennett: Israel won’t accept rocket attacks from Lebanon

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Lebanon must reign in the terrorists shooting rockets at Israel, regardless of who they are, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“The State of Lebanon and the Lebanese Army must take responsibility for what is happening in their backyard…It is less important to us whether it’s a Palestinian group of independent rebels,” Bennett said.

The prime minister added a warning: “Israel will not accept shooting into its territory.”

Bennett’s remarks came two days after Hezbollah fired about 20 rockets towards Israel. The Iron Dome intercepted 10 of them and six fell in open areas, while the others fell in Lebanon. This was the sixth such attack on Israel in recent months, and the first time Hezbollah took responsibility.

The IDF responded by shooting 40 artillery shells at open areas in southern Lebanon.

Bennett referred to the economic and political crisis in Lebanon, in which he said Iran and Hezbollah are trying to entangle Israel, and praised the “very important awakening” of Lebanese citizens against Hezbollah and Iranian influence in their country.

On Saturday, marking the 15th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah called the exchange of fire with Israel a “very dangerous development” and the greatest escalation since the war ended. He said that the terrorist group he leads “did not mean to create new rules of engagement.” Nasrallah claimed Israel is scared to further attack in Lebanon.

The EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Nabila Massrali condemned on Saturday “the firing of rockets from southern Lebanon towards northern Israel and occupied Golan Heights” and said the EU is following the developments, including Israel’s response.

“It is crucial for all parties to exercise utmost restraint and work towards a quick resolution of the current tensions,” Massrali added.

US State Department condemned the Hezbollah rocket attack the day it took place and “call[ed] upon the Lebanese government urgently to prevent such attacks and bring the area under its control.”

When asked in a press briefing to comment on the Israeli air raid, State Department Press Secretary Ned Price said: “We have made the point that Israel has the right to defend itself.”

Israeli Ambassador to the US and UN Gilad Erdan wrote a letter to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General condemning the attacks by Hezbollah, which violate UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War.

“The recent attacks and growing tensions in the region, exacerbated by Iran’s activities and arming of its proxies, especially Hezbollah, demonstrate once again the urgent need to actively enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006),” Erdan wrote. “While Israel is not interested in escalation, we will not allow attacks on Israeli civilians to go unanswered. If these attacks continue, Israel will have no choice but to respond and dismantle Hezbollah’s terrorist infrastructure that threatens Israel’s security and the lives of its citizens.”

Bennett remarked on Iranian aggression beyond Lebanon and Hezbollah at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, praising the G7 for condemning the Islamic Republic and saying he was pleased to hear that the US military’s Central Command released a report on the Iranian attack on the Mercer Street ship. The report found, among other things, that components of suicide drones used to attack the ship matched previously-found Iranian UAVs.

“Now the test is in actions, not just declarations,” he said.

Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, who oversaw the executions of thousands in 1988 earning him the nickname “the hangman of Tehran,” is “a cruel and extremist person even by Iranian standards,” Bennett stated. “We see a rise in Iranian aggression throughout the Middle East, on land, in the air and at sea…Iran is a clear danger to regional stability and world peace, and the world cannot accept it. The Iranians must understand they cannot going crazy without paying a price.”

As for Gaza, Bennett said on Sunday that the IDF strikes on the Hamas-controlled enclave was meant to send a message that the terrorist group must stop those who launch incendiary balloons into Israel.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re rebels, or people who are bored, or any other excuses. The responsibility is on Hamas,” he said.

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi argued on Kann’s Arabic radio station that there will not be a military escalation on either front.

“Bennett knows that if he goes to a military conflict, the coalition will fall apart because Meretz and Ra’am won’t agree to it. [Their] presence limits the sharpness of any military decision,” she said. “The moment the government makes a decision about something military, there will be a danger to the coalition.”

Israeli fighter jets struck Hamas targets on Saturday in response to the launching of incendiary balloons a day earlier, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced.

The IDF said it struck a Hamas military camp and a rocket-launching position in the northern Gazan refugee camp of Jabalya, adding that it would “continue to respond with strikes to terror attempts from Gaza.”

At least four fires broke out in the Eshkol regional council on Friday after incendiary balloons were launched from the blockaded coastal enclave. Three of the fires were in the Kissufim forest, while the other broke out near the community of Be’eri, said Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF).

Tzvi Joffre and Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.


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