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Hezbollah claims attack on Israeli soldiers

A funeral convoy carrying the bodies of four Islamist militants drives through Sheikh Zuweid, in the north of the Sinai peninsula, August 10, 2013. (STRINGER/REUTERS)

Hezbollah said Wednesday that it planted explosives that hit an Israeli convoy last week and injured four soldiers. It was the Lebanese Shiite movement’s first claim of an operation against its southern neighbor since its 2006 war with Israel.

Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah told Al Mayadeen television that the bombing took place inside Lebanese territory after an incursion by two Israeli military vehicles. Israel has confirmed that four soldiers were injured in a blast last week, but it has not commented on the accusations that its soldiers had crossed the border.

The war in Syria has added a new volatility to relations between Israel and the Islamist Hezbollah, a dominant political and military force in Lebanon. Hezbollah has appeared keen to reassert its opposition to its sworn enemy since suffering criticism at home over its decision to send fighters into Syria to back President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, while Israel has expressed concern about the potential transfer of “game-changing” weapons to Hezbollah from Syria.

Nasrallah said that Hezbollah had prior intelligence that Israeli troops were planning to cross into Lebanese territory and that the explosives were planted to target them.

“We will cut the legs of Israeli soldiers who enter the Lebanese lands,” Nasrallah said, according to a translation by al-Manar, Hezbollah’s official media arm. “We will not accept any land violation by the Israelis, and we will confront that.”

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the four soldiers were injured during “operational activity meant to preserve calm for northern communities,” Ynet News reported. Neither the Israel Defense Forces nor Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office provided immediate comment on the incident Wednesday night.

Lebanese authorities have raised the alleged violation of the country’s border with the United Nations. The Lebanese army said last week that the Israeli vehicles were about a quarter of a mile inside Lebanon when they were hit. The blast was initially reported by the country’s state news agency as a land-mine explosion.

Nasrallah’s interview was timed to mark the anniversary of what Hezbollah touts as a victory against Israel in 2006, and there had been speculation that Nasrallah would use the occasion to divert attention from the group’s controversial foray into Syria. He is due to give a speech Friday.

The border between Lebanon and Israel has been largely quiet since the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006, but Lebanon has complained of numerous Israeli incursions into its territory in the past in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

William Booth in Jerusalem and Ahmed Ramadan in Beirut contributed to this report.

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