BEIRUT (AP) — The militant Hezbollah group fired a barrage of rockets at Israel on Friday, and Israel hit back with artillery in a significant escalation between the two sides.
It was the third day of attacks along the volatile border with Lebanon, a major Middle East flashpoint for tensions between Israel and Hezbollah-backed Iran.
But comments by Israeli officials and Hezbollah’s actions suggested the two were seeking to avoid a major conflict at this time.
Israel said it fired back after 19 rockets were launched from Lebanon, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett swiftly convened a meeting with the country’s top defense officials. No casualties were reported.
“We do not wish to escalate to a full war, yet of course we are very prepared for that,” said Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.
Israel has long considered Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, its most serious and immediate military threat. Friday’s exchanges came a day after Israel’s defense minister warned that his country is prepared to strike Iran following a fatal drone strike on a oil tanker at sea that his country blamed on Tehran.