Lebanese Hezbollah and Israel are trading cross-border fire amid tensions in Iran

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  • Third day of volleys in the long-standing conflict scene
  • Projectiles hit open ground, suggesting that no war is desired
  • Tensions simmered after the attack on oil tankers in the Gulf
  • Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war 15 years ago

TEL AVIV / BEIRUT, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah fired rockets at Israeli forces on Friday and, on a third day of cross-border volleys, pulled retaliatory fire from Israel into southern Lebanon with Iran on a third day of cross-border volleys amid broader regional tensions.

Hezbollah suggested its attack was calibrated to avoid further escalation and said it had targeted open terrain near the Israeli forces in retaliation for Israeli air strikes that had also hit open areas.

Israel said it did not want to escalate into a full war even though it was ready to do so.

“Our understanding is that Hezbollah was deliberately targeting open areas so as not to escalate the situation,” Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler told reporters.

The no-casualty flare up followed an alleged Iranian attack on an Israel-managed oil tanker in the Gulf last week that killed two crew members, a British and a Romanian. Tehran denied participation. Continue reading

As the Islamic Republic faces the possibility of Israeli or international action in response to the Gulf incident, violence has flared up across a border that has long been the site of conflict between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel.

The volleys began on Wednesday with a rocket attack on Israel from Lebanon, for which no group claimed responsibility. This attack, on which Hezbollah has not commented, resulted in Israeli artillery and air strikes.

Hezbollah, one of Iran’s key allies in a conflict-ridden Middle East, said it fired dozens of rockets into open land near Israeli positions in the controversial Shebaa Farms border area on Friday in response to Thursday’s Israeli airstrikes. Continue reading

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said the situation was very serious and called on all parties to stop firing.

The Israeli military said its Iron Dome system intercepted 10 of 19 missiles on Friday, six of which landed in open areas and three in southern Lebanon.

There have been no reports of casualties or serious damage in the three days of the air strike, which has upset an extended period of relative calm since the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said he is consulting with his defense and military chiefs about the violence. The military said it hit “rocket launch sites in Lebanon” on Friday in response to Hezbollah volleys.

Security analysts have long pointed to the risk of Israeli involvement in a multi-front war with Iran, which also supports Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, with whom Israel had an 11-day conflict in May.

Israel says it is cracking down on Iran around the world for the attack on a tanker off the coast of Oman last week, but stands ready to act alone if necessary. The United States and Britain say they will work with their allies to respond to the attack.

Tehran has played every role in the July 29 attack on Mercer Street – a Liberian-flagged Japanese-owned oil tanker operated by Israel’s Zodiac Maritime.

Britain will address the tanker attack off the coast of Oman during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council later on Friday, diplomats said, but the 15-member panel is unlikely to take action. Continue reading

Reporting by Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv and Tom Perry in Beirut; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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