Three rockets were launched from Lebanon toward northern Israel on Thursday but landed in the Mediterranean Sea, causing no damage or casualties, the Israeli military said. The rocket firing threatened to open a new front in the escalating fighting between Israel and the militant Palestinian Hamas group in Gaza.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in a Twitter post confirmed that three rockets were fired from Lebanon into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of northern Israel.
The IDF gave no details of who fired them. But two sources close to Israel’s arch-enemy Hezbollah told the AFP the Lebanese Shiite group had no link to the incident.
“A short while ago, three rockets were fired from Lebanon into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the Galilee,” Israel’s army said in a statement. “According to protocol no sirens were sounded”.
There was no immediate comment from Beirut about the incident.
Israel fought a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who have sway in southern Lebanon and advanced rockets. The border has been mostly quiet since then.
Small Palestinian factions in Lebanon have fired sporadically on Israel in the past.
A witness in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa said she heard three explosions shortly before the rocket salvo was reported.
No sirens warned of the launch, something the military said was “according to protocol” — an allusion to Israeli air defences that ignore rockets set to hit unpopulated areas.
Israeli tank shells slam Gaza
The rockets from Lebanon came amid an escalation of fighting between Israel and Hamas despite international calls on both sides to scale back the conflict. Earlier Thursday, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets into Israel. Hours later, Israel struck Gaza with artillery and tank shells, forcing families to flee their homes, Palestinian witnesses said. The use of artillery fire in Israel’s four-day-old offensive raised the likelihood of civilian casualties.
Israel massed thousands troops along the Gaza border and reservists were called in as IDF officials said all options were on the table, including a ground offensive into the besieged Palestinian enclave.
The developments came as an Egyptian delegation arrived in Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli officials as a part of efforts to negotiate a cease-fire, according to Egyptian intelligence officials.
Gaza’s health ministry said the death toll has climbed to 83 Palestinians, including 17 children and seven women, with more than 480 people wounded since fighting broke out Monday. Seven Israelis, including a soldier, have been killed in the attacks.
Netanyahu: ‘We will achieve our goal’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday visited batteries of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which the military says has intercepted 90 percent of the 1,200 rockets that have reached Israel from Gaza so far.
“It will take more time, but with great firmness … we will achieve our goal — to restore peace to the State of Israel,” he said.
The previous evening, Israeli TV reported Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet authorised a widening of the offensive that the military says has already hit 600 targets in Gaza.
The current eruption of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem, where the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers ignited protests and clashes with police. A focal point of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police was Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, built on a hilltop compound that is revered by Jews and Muslims.