Lebanese foreign minister Adnan Mansour condemned “Israel’s infiltration of Lebanese territory” early yesterday morning, describing it as a “blatant violation of Lebanese sovereignty and of UN resolution 1701”, which ended the second Lebanese war in 2006.
Israeli security sources confirmed that four soldiers had been wounded. Israeli media reported that the troops belonged to an elite unit and that large forces deployed in the area following the blast.
Lebanese residents reported hearing large explosions, after which Israeli flares lit up the border area.
Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon said the injured soldiers were engaged in operational activity needed to preserve the quiet in the north.
“During the operation, the forces hit an explosive device. We are studying the event to understand whether this was a new or old device. Obviously we’ll learn the lesson that needs to be learned here, but the activity will continue,” he said.
The wounded troops were taken to western Galilee hospital in Nahariya where three underwent surgery to remove shrapnel and the fourth was admitted to intensive care.
A statement by the Lebanese army said the soldiers were injured after penetrating 400m across the border.
A Lebanese military official said the soldiers stepped on a landmine after crossing the ceasefire line on foot.
Hizbullah-affiliated media outlets reported that the explosion occurred in the Lebanese border village of Labbouneh.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said soldiers worked 24 hours a day to protect the country’s borders.
“That’s what happened last night,” he added. “We’ll continue to act responsibly to protect Israel’s borders.”
Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has been quiet since the end of the second Lebanese war in 2006 but the civil war in Syria prompted Israel to beef up forces along the border.
Photo: Scientific investigators, part of the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, inspect the site near an explosion as Lebanese army soldiers watch near the Lebanese-Israeli border in the village of Labbouneh, southern Lebanon, yesterday. Photograph: Reuters