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Netanyahu says Lebanese rocket attack constitutes ‘double war crime’

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Netanyahu says Lebanese rocket

attack constitutes ‘double war crime’

By TOVAH LAZAROFFYAAKOV LAPPIN, REUTERS, jpost.com
12/29/2013

IDF responds with artillery fire into south Lebanon; Nissim Malka, mayor of Kiryat Shmona: “We woke up to the sounds of rockets this morning. At the moment residents are going to work as normal.”

Lebanon committed a double war crime in its attack against Israel early Sunday morning by endangering innocent civilians on both sides of the border, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet hours later as he explained that the IDF had strongly retaliated.

He added that he held both the Lebanese and Iranian governments responsible for the attack.

“What is happening in Lebanon is that Hezbollah is stationing thousands of missiles and rockets in apartments, in the heart of the civilian population, and is thus perpetrating two war crimes simultaneously. It is organizing the firing at civilians, just as it did today, and it is hiding behind civilians as human shields,” Netanyahu said.

“This is a double war crime that that is being perpetrated under the aegis of the Lebanese government and army, which are not lifting a finger to prevent this arming and these crimes. We hold the Lebanese government responsible for this development,” Netanyahu said.

It is the IDF’s policy to respond forcibly and quick to such attacks, Netanyahu said.

“We will not allow a drizzle and we will respond strongly, and if need be, will carry out preventive action,” Netanyahu said.

He noted that Iran was a player behind the scenes in that it had armed Hezbollah just as it assisted the Syrian government is killing its own citizens.

Even as Iran continues to negotiate with the West, Netanyahu said, it continues to arm terrorist organizations and to develop its nuclear weapons program.

“It is also the same Iran that is currently developing centrifuges that are capable of enriching uranium six times faster than its regular centrifuges,” Netanyahu said.

“We continue to see preventing the nuclearization of Iran as our main goal vis-à-vis the national security of the State of Israel, as well as the security of the region and the entire world,” Netanyahu said.

The IDF responded with intense artillery fire toward the location from which four rockets were launched in southern Lebanon just minutes after residents of the border town of Kiryat Shmona heard loud explosions.

Army sources say that the source of the fire has been identified but that it was too soon to say which organization is responsible for the attack. 

Two Katyusha rockets exploded near Kiryat Shmona, where residents reported seeing smoke rising from a fire sparked by one of the projectiles which landed on a hill overlooking the city. Two other rockets landed in Lebanese territory. No injuries or damage was reported.

Nissim Malka, Mayor of Kiryat Shmona, told Channel 2 News, “We woke up to the sounds of rockets this morning. At the moment residents are going to work as normal. We will notify them of changes if necessary.”

Schools are functioning as they would on any normal day, and no delays were reported in the busing of children to class.

A Reuters witness in the Lebanon frontier area said more than 33 Israeli shells hit near two southern border towns.

“We will not tolerate fire from Lebanese territory and we will not permit any party who wants to interrupt the daily routine of Israelis,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said.

“We see the Lebanese government and the Lebanese military as responsible for the shooting this morning and for whatever happens in their territory, and we will not permit further incidents like the one that happened this morning.”

“The IDF responded with massive shelling of the area from where the rockets were launched, and if need be it will act with greater force [in the future]. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone try our patience and determination to protect the security of the citizens of Israel.”

The Israeli-Lebanese border has been largely quiet since Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia fought a 34-day war in 2006.

But tension spiked this month when a Lebanese soldier killed an Israeli soldier across the border fence, after which a UN peacekeeping force met both sides to restore calm.

Officials suggested at the time that the shooting had been the isolated action of an individual.

Last August, four rockets fired from southern Lebanon targeted northern Israel, setting off air-raid sirens in Acre, Nahariya and additional areas in the Western Galilee and sending frightened local residents fleeing for cover.

Two of the Katyushas crossed the border and landed in Israel, causing no casualties but some damage. 

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