Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded an additional seven in a missile strike in disputed territory along the Lebanese-Israeli border Wednesday. A Spanish U.N. peacekeeper serving in the border zone was also killed, though by a retaliatory mortar strike from the Israeli Defense Forces.
The attack comes 10 days after an Israeli airstrike that killed an Iranian general and six Hezbollah soldiers in southern Syria. (RELATED: WE ARE THE WORLD: Israeli Helicopter Kills Iranian General With Lebanese Fighters In Syrian Territory)
The Israeli soldiers were posted to the strip of land called Shebaa Farms by Lebanon, and Har Dov by Israel. Hezbollah, and Islamist Shiite militia, claimed the strike was a response to an overnight Israeli air raid on the Golan Heights, the disputed territory between Israel and Syria.
The latest attacks constitute the most serious escalation of tensions between Israel and Hezbollah since 2006. The air war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of that year lasted 34 days, killing hundreds of soldiers and at least a thousand civilians.
Hezbollah, which is financed by Iran, has found itself fighting against al-Qaida and other jihadi elements in Syria alongside U.S.-backed rebel groups. Iran is also the most materially committed foreign power fighting against the Islamic State terror group in Iraq.
The Syrian civil war on its border has been a source of anxiety for the Israeli military. With the latest clashes, Hezbollah may be attempting to draw Israel more deeply into the Syrian conflict.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces elections in March, reportedly said in a Hebrew statement, “To those who challenge us on the northern border [with Lebanon], I recommend taking a look at Gaza.”
President Barack Obama has criticized Netanyahu’s scheduled appearance before Congress in February as “inappropriate” so soon before an Israeli election. (RELATED: Boehner Invites Netanyahu To Congress After Obama’s Iran Gambit)
It is uncertain whether Israel and Hezbollah will escalate clashes further. Netanyahu is likely to benefit among Israeli voters from a strong show of force, but Hezbollah is already facing enough challenges within Lebanon and Syria without a renewal of violence against Israel.
Editor’s Note: TheDCNF originally reported that the U.N. peacekeeper was killed by the Hezbollah missile strike. This has been corrected to show that the soldier was killed by an IDF mortar.
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