JERUSALEM – Israeli attack helicopters struck observation posts of the militant Hezbollah group along the Lebanon border overnight after shots were fired at Israeli troops operating in the area, the military said Wednesday.
Israel has been bracing for a possible attack by the Iran-backed Lebanese militants since an Israeli airstrike killed a Hezbollah fighter in neighboring Syria last month. Israeli troops have also traded fire in recent weeks with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.
The military said no Israeli forces were wounded, and there were no reports of casualties in Lebanon. Earlier, Israeli troops fired flares and smoke shells along the heavily guarded border. Hezbollah-run Al-Manar TV reported that two homes were damaged by the shelling.
The military also ordered civilians in nearby communities to shelter in place and blocked roads near the border. Those restrictions were lifted early Wednesday. The incident took place near the northern Israeli town of Manara.
In a briefing with reporters on Wednesday evening, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the fighting began when Hezbollah snipers, located between two U.N. peacekeeping positions, opened fire. He accused the militant group of using the U.N. positions for cover, and of deliberately locating its militiamen to draw fire that could have harmed the peacekeepers.
“The choice of the location by Hezbollah is not accidental,” he said.
The flareup occurred just days before the U.N. Security Council is to decide on whether to renew the mandate of the peacekeeping force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL.
Israel has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of violating a 2006 U.N. cease-fire resolution barring it from military activity in southern Lebanon, and complained that UNIFIL has been ineffective at enforcing the resolution. Ahead of the Security Council vote, Israel and its ally, the United States, are seeking changes in UNIFIL's operations to give the force more authority to conduct weapons searches.