Lebanon: army and UN troops intensify patrols after rocket launch towards Israel

Rockets have been fired twice this week from Lebanon towards Israel, seemingly causing little damages

ADAISSEH, LEBANON - MAY 16: A United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldier monitors a demonstration to show solidarity with Palestinians as near the Lebanon-Israel border on May 16, 2021 in Adaisseh, Lebanon. Gun shots were heard from the Israeli side, but not injuries were reported. (Photo by Daniel Carde/Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

UN peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon (Unifil) and the Lebanese army stepped up patrols along the Lebanon-Israel border on Tuesday after rockets were fired towards Israel on two occasions in the past week, a UN spokesman told The National.

"We have increased and intensified patrols to prevent further incidents and ensure the safety of local populations," Andrea Tenenti said.

“It’s foot patrols, night patrols, air patrols with helicopters both day and night.

"We are working with the Lebanese armed forces to enhance control of areas along the Blue Line," he said, referring to Israel's line of withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 after 22 years of occupation.

The army said there was not enough information on the incidents to comment.

Lebanon's state-run national news agency said Israeli shelling had damaged water irrigation pipes near the village of Markaba.

Conflicting reports have emerged about a rocket launch on Monday evening, to which Israel responded with artillery fire.

The Israeli army said that it had identified “six failed launch attempts” from Lebanon “that did not cross into Israeli territory.”

A Lebanese military source told AFP three rockets had been fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel.

Unifil said that an undetermined number of rockets was fired at about 11.30pm on Monday from the region of Rashaya Al Foukhar, north of the village of Kfar Chouba.

But on Tuesday, Lebanon's Army Command said that six empty rocket launchers and a seventh loaded one were discovered during searches close to the border with Israel.

The incident took place four days after rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel from near a Palestinian camp in south Lebanon.

It remained unclear who fired the rockets. They fell into the sea, the Israeli army said.

Unifil is assisting the Lebanese army in its search operations to locate the rockets launched on Monday to understand where they came from and where they landed, Mr Tenenti said.

Lebanon and Israel are technically in a state of war since the creation of Israel in 1948. The border area is monitored by Unifil, with more than 10,000 peacekeeping troops, since 2006.

Occasional skirmishes erupt along the frontier between Iran-backed Hezbollah, which dominates south Lebanon, and Israel.

The last full-blown war between the two parties was in 2006.

The latest violence between Israel and militant group Hamas has been closely watched in Lebanon, which houses a sizable population of Palestinian refugees.

In the past days, dozens of Lebanese and Palestinians have protested at the border to express their solidarity with Palestine. Some attempted to cross into Israel. Israeli soldiers shot and killed a protester with links to Hezbollah on Friday.

It was unclear if the rocket launches will cause tensions between Lebanon and Israel to escalate.

Contacted by The National, Hezbollah declined to comment.

The powerful Shiite political party operates one of the Middle East’s strongest private militias.

A Lebanese political source said that "the lack of experience of people launching the rockets show that it's not organised by a military group," in an apparent reference to Hezbollah.

“I believe that until now the situation is under control,” the source said.

Unifil's recent attempt to install cameras along the Blue Line to better monitor the area and investigate incidents has been criticized by pro-Hezbollah media outlets. The decision was taken in June 2020 in co-ordination with the Lebanese army, Unifil said.

It occasionally comes under attack from the local population. Peacekeepers were threatened with weapons and vehicles were set on fire in August 2018. The investigation is ongoing.