Lebanon: Israeli warplanes strike near Beirut in retaliation for rocket attack

Move comes a day after militants fired four rockets into northern Israel

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The Independent Online

The Israeli airforce today struck a militant base south of Beirut in a warning to the Lebanese government following the first cross border rocket attacks against Israel in two years.

There were no casualties in the strike on the base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command at Naameh, ten miles south of Beirut. The PFLP-GC, headed by Ahmed Jibril, a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, was not held by Israel to be responsible for Thursday's firing of four rockets. But Israeli commentators said the PFLP-GC base presented an attractive target for a symbolic strike because of its proximity to the Lebanese capital and the absence of non-combatants in the area.

Reports from Lebanon quoted a Lebanese army statement as saying that an Israeli jet fired a missile after 4am ''in the direction of tunnels in Naameh where a base belonging to a Palestinian organisation is located.'' It said the missile ''left a five metre deep crevice without any loss of life or material damage.''

There were no casualties either from the rocket fire into Israel Thursday, which was claimed by the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, an al-Qa'ida inspired group. But two of the rockets fell in inhabited areas, damaging seven houses and three cars, while one was intercepted by the army's Iron Dome anti-rocket system.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharanovich today visited the border kibbutz Gesher Haziv, where one of the rockets struck. ''The Israeli government will not allow shooting and harming of innocent people,'' he said, according to Israel's Y-net news service. ''This time it was lucky no one was hurt.''

Mr Aharonovich said the message of the air strike is ''that those who try to harm civilians will be harmed. If they continue there will be a much more severe reaction.'' Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon called the airstrike a ''response'' to the rocket fire and said he''holds the Lebanese government responsible for what happens in its midst.''

The Israeli army said Thursday's rockets were fired from a locale south of the Lebanese port city of Tyre by ''global jihad'' elements.

A spokesman for the PFLP-GC, Ramez Mustafa, said today there were no Abdullah Azzam Brigades fighters at the site struck by Israel and that his group will respond ''at the appropriate place and the appropriate time'', reports from Lebanon said.

South Lebanon was the scene of a war in 2006 between Israel and the Shiite fundamentalist Hezbollah organisation that killed about 1200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis. Hezbollah has refrained since then from rocketing Israel and the border has been largely quiet, although the Abdallah Azzam Brigades claimed rocket fire in 2009 and 2011.