2 Israeli soldiers, peacekeeper reported killed in Israel-Hezbollah fighting – CNN International
(CNN)Fighting between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has left two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish peacekeeper dead, officials said Wednesday.
The two soldiers were killed and seven others were injured in a Hezbollah missile attack on an Israeli military vehicle in the Golan Heights, the Israeli military officials said. The attack took place at Har Dov, near the intersection of the Lebanon-Syria border and the Golan Heights.
Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group supported by the Syrian regime, claimed responsibility for the attack. The Israel Defense Forces said several people were injured.
The Spanish service member, Cpl. Francisco Javier Soria, was serving with UNFIL, the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon. He was killed “during the incidents that happened between Hezbollah and the Israeli military,” the Spanish government said.
Spanish President Mariano Rajoy Brey tweeted his condolences.
It was unknown whether Soria, 36, was killed by Israeli or Hezbollah fire. The IDF told CNN it is investigating.
An Israeli military position on Mount Hermon also came under mortar fire, the IDF said.
Israel planned to evacuate civilians Wednesday from the town, which includes a popular ski resort.
A day earlier, a rocket attack struck the Golan Heights, and Israel responded with artillery fire.
Overnight, the military launched airstrikes against several Syrian targets in response to Hezbollah rocket fire from Syrian bases, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told CNN. “We did this to send a message to the Syrian regime that we view it responsible for what occurs on its territory and that there is a price to pay for allowing Hezbollah to use your positions,” Lerner said.
“If the Syrians think they are going to open up a new front on the Golan after 40 years, we are not willing to accept that.”
The Golan Heights were part of Syria until the Six Day War in 1967. The area has since been under Israeli control.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Wednesday that his country is prepared to respond to attacks in the region.
At a ceremony in the southern Israel city of Sderot, Netanyahu said, “At this moment, the IDF is responding to events in the north. To everyone who is trying to challenge us at the northern border, I recommend that they look what happened not far away from the city of Sderot, in Gaza: Hamas took its hardest hit since its formation. And the IDF is prepared to act strongly on all fronts.”
Netanyahu’s office blamed Iran for “this heinous terror attack,” and linked the violence to the ongoing disputes over Iran’s nuclear activities.
Iran supports the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.
“We must not provide terrorism with a nuclear umbrella. We must not let the most dangerous regime in the world have the most dangerous weapon in the world,” Netanyahu’s office said.
Iran insists it seeks only peaceful nuclear energy.
U.N. peacekeepers pulled out of the Golan Heights in September after Islamic militants took some peacekeepers hostage and Syrian rebel fighters took control of the border crossing between Israel and Syria in the Syrian town of Quneitra.
There has been intermittent weapons fire from Syria into the Golan Heights — both targeted and errant, the Israeli military contends — as the Syrian civil war has raged.
More than a week ago, Iranian semiofficial media reported that an Israeli airstrike killed six Hezbollah members and a senior Iranian commander around Quneitra. Iran, like Hezbollah, supports the Syrian regime. The Israeli military refused to comment about the January 18 strike.
Hamas said Wednesday it “reaffirms Hezbollah’s right to respond to the Israeli aggression, especially following the attack in Quneitra.”
Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks. It is blamed for a 1983 bombing that killed 241 U.S. service personnel at a Marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon, the deadliest attack against U.S. Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.