Four rockets fired into Israel from Lebanon

MIRI TZAHI/EPA - Israelis in a northern community near the border with Lebanon look at damage to a car after a rocket attack that reportedly came from southern Lebanon, in northern Israel, 22 August 2013.

JERUSALEM — Al-Qaeda-linked militants asserted responsibility for firing four rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel on Thursday afternoon. Israeli missile defenses intercepted one of the missiles and the remaining three caused little damage, according to Israeli military officials.

No one was reported hurt in the attack, which the Israel Defense Forces blamed on “global jihad operatives” and not on longtime antagonist Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite political and militant organization.

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Later Thursday, the Lebanese branch of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Islamist group with links to al-Qaeda, said it had carried out the attack. The group, known as the Ziad al-Jarrah Battalion, is named after a Lebanese Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker.

“Praise and thanks be to Allah,” read a post on a Twitter account known as an outlet for the group, which has asserted responsibility for firing rockets into Israel in the past.

Israeli military officials said that one of the missiles, which appeared to be short-range ­Katyusha rockets, had been downed by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which is partly funded by the United States.

Israel’s Channel 2 reported that another of the rockets narrowly missed landing on a retirement home near the city of Acre for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, “Anyone who attacks us, or tries to attack us, should know that we will get him.” The Israeli leader said the military and home defense unit were deploying “defensive and preventative” measures.

Dina Badawy, a deputy spokeswoman for the State Department, condemned the attack, telling the Jerusalem Post, “This was a provocative act that undermines the stability of Lebanon and the security of Israel.” She urged Lebanon to exercise full sovereignty over its territory and called for restraint by all parties.

Rockets were fired at Israel last year but fell short. In 2011, rockets reached Israel and damaged two buildings.

With air raid sirens blaring and civilian air traffic halted, the attack Thursday rekindled memories of the 34-day Israel-Lebanon war in 2006, when Hezbollah fired as many as 4,000 rockets into northern Israel. In response, Israel developed its Iron Dome missile interceptors, deploying the mobile units in 2011.

“Israel’s defense system is better than during the Second Lebanon War, and the Iron Dome has proved itself,” said Arieh Herzog, former head of Israel’s missile defense program.

“However, Israel does not have enough batteries to protect every one of its cities. Israel is working to produce more Iron Domes with the help of the United States,” he said.

The rockets were fired from the vicinity of the Rashidieh Palestinian refugee camp near the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported.

Some Israeli politicians called for Israel to launch a retaliatory strike. “The response must be very strong so that the other side has no desire to continue the escalation,” said Motti Yogev, a lawmaker from the Jewish Home party, according to the Jerusalem Post.

This month, four Israeli soldiers were injured in an explosion along the border with Lebanon. The Lebanese army said the soldiers were hurt inside Lebanon. Israel military officials have been vague about the soldiers’ exact location.

Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem and Loveday Morris and Suzan Haidamous in Beirut contributed to this report.

 
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