Rockets fired into Israel from Lebanon (Lead)

January 8th, 2009 - 6:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Tel Aviv/Beirut, Jan 8 (DPA) Unknown militants fired at least three Katyusha rockets into northern Israel early Thursday morning, prompting the Israeli army to return fire into south Lebanon, Israeli and Lebanese officials said.Hours later, another Katyusha rocket was fired into northern Israel, Lebanese security sources said. The rockets were fired from south-eastern Lebanon, according to the Lebanese police.

An Israeli police spokesman said the early-morning salvo lightly injured two people in the coastal city of Nahariya, 10 km south of the border with Lebanon. Others were treated for shock.

One Katyusha hit the roof of an old-age home in the city, blowing a hole in the roof and shattering windows.

Lebanese officials said the Israeli military fired artillery in retaliation at an area close to the southern Lebanese village of Marwaheen, located near the Lebanese-Israeli border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rockets fired from any Lebanese militant group, and a spokesman for Hamas in Lebanon denied that his group, which is fighting the Israelis in the Gaza Strip, was behind the rocket salvo.

“We do not know who fired the rockets, but it is not Hamas,” Rafaat Morra said.

Anwar Raja, spokesman of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) speaking from the Syrian capital declined to confirm or deny that his faction was responsibility for rocket-launching on northern Israel.

He added that Israel did not have the right to inquire about the source of rockets.

The Lebanese Army, in a statement, said: “An unknown party launched a number of rockets” toward what it called “the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” The statement added: “Israel retaliated and launched artillery shells on the southern (area) of Naqoura.”

The Lebanese army said its units were cooperating with United Nations peacekeeping troops in the region and were taking adequate measures to protect civilians and maintain stability.

Lebanese villagers in Tair Herfa said they heard early Thursday the sound of explosions at the edge of their village.

Schools in south Lebanon were ordered shut in anticipation of Israeli retaliation, while residents in northern Israel were also ordered to open bomb shelters and be on the alert.

A Lebanese government source said that the Lebanese cabinet was working on finding out and naming the group behind the rocket attacks.

The same source ruled out that Hezbollah was behind the attack, because the rockets were not “the type Hezbollah used during the July 2006 but they were old”.

Shortly after the rockets landed, Israeli warplanes intensified flights over the western sector in southern Lebanon. At least six warplanes flew at low altitude over areas from southern Lebanon, reaching the outskirts of the capital.

The Katyushas striking Israel marked the first rockets fired at northern Israel since Israel began an offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip Dec 27.

It was unclear whether Thursday morning’s rocket fire was an isolated incident, or whether it marked the opening of another front in the violence between Israel and Islamist militants.

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