An exchange of fire across the borders between Hezbollah and Israeli troops took place near Sheba Farms on Friday afternoon, the third incident in less than 48 hours.
Army source reported that Hezbollah fighters fired around nine mortar shells across the borders, no casualties were reported.
Lebanese and Israeli sources said that the army fired artillery shells at a Hezbollah position in southern Lebanon, and fighter jets bombed three Hezbollah outposts in southern Lebanon.
Both Hezbollah and Israel are likely to be interested in escalation. Amid calls to disarm Lebanese militias, Hezbollah might be interested in reminding the Lebanese government that the southern region is still in need for protection. Israel might be interested in escalation in order to support the calls to disarm Hezbollah, and prove that the Lebanese based group continues to be a source of instability in the region.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television reported Friday that Hezbollah shelled Israeli army positions at Sheba farms in retaliation to the army shelling of sites inside Lebanon.
‘In response to the Israeli assault that targeted the border town of Kfar Shouba and struck civilian houses, the Islamic Resistance attacked the Israeli enemy position in Rweisat al-Alam … with the appropriate arms and struck it directly,’ a Hezbollah statement said.
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry said Israel was responsible for the escalation ‘using its planes, artillery and war machinery to strike civilians in Lebanese territories’
The United States blamed Hezbollah for the escalation, calling both sides to immediately end the fighting.
‘This opportunity for reaffirming democracy in Lebanon must not be undermined by militias pursuing their own agendas,’ State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
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Israel Radio reported Friday afternoon that shells fell at a military outpost in the occupied Sheba farms region.
No immediate reports on casualties were released.Ã‚Â The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV said the group attacked the military position along the border in response to earlier Israeli attacks.
The Radio said Israeli soldiers returned fire at the Hezbollah fighters.
Hezbollah denied responsibility for two explosions in the Sheba farms on Thursday evening.
Two explosions heard in Sheba farms
Israel defense minister Shaul Mofaz held Friday the Lebanese government responsible for the latest explosions in the Sheba Farms, but said Israel ‘will not be dragged into an escalation’, Israel radio reported.
Two explosions were heard Thursday night on the Israel-Lebanon border in the Sheba farms area, the Israeli military said.
The military said it was not clear what caused the latest blast – a roadside bomb, a mortar shell or a rocket. No casualties were reported.
The incident is expected to add fuel to the already tense environment at Israeli-Lebanon borders. On Wednesday night, a Katyusha rocket, presumably fired from southern Lebanon, fell on the Israeli town of Shlomi, causing damage to a building but no causalities.
Sheba farm were left under Israeli control following the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. The Farms, claimed to be Lebanese territories was left on the Israeli side of the UN-drawn borders over Israeli claims that it belonged to Syria not Lebanon.
A Hezbollah spokesman in Beirut declined to comment, and there was no immediate reaction from the Lebanese government.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a statement issued Thursday, condemned the Wednesday Katyusha rocket attack.
Annan said the Lebanese government must impose order within its territory and called on both sides to respect the Blue Line boundary drawn by the UN between Israel and Lebanon.
Israel’s mission to the United Nations will submit a complaint with the Security Council and Secretary General Kofi Annan over the firing of a Katyusha rocket at an Israeli town Wednesday night.
Israeli military believes that the rocket was fired by a Palestinian group, not by Hezbollah.
As a result of the attack, which damaged a local bakery, all Independence Day celebrations in the area were cancelled on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Israel fired an artillery shell into Lebanon, but said it was fired by mistake. The shell fell in an open area, causing no damage or casualties.