Lebanon Calls Latest Israeli Attacks a ‘Declaration of War’
“The Lebanese government sees it best to avoid any sliding of the situation towards a dangerous escalation but this requires the international community affirming its rejection of this blatant violation.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced that he regards the latest Israeli attacks on Beirut and Lebanon’s eastern mountain region as a ‘declaration of war’ against his country. Aoun’s remarks came less than 24 hours after an Israeli drone exploded over Beirut, hitting another drone that was reportedly hovering over the Lebanese capital and after three Israeli strikes targeting a Palestinian group in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported that “three hostile strikes” hit Lebanon’s eastern mountains near Qusaya after midnight “where the PFLP-GC has military posts,” adding that “they responded with a barrage of anti-aircraft fire.”
The PFLP-GC is known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a militant pro-Palestinian group headquartered in Damascus.
In a statement released by the president’s office, Aoun said he believed that the attack gave his country the right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Echoing that reaction, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was quoted as saying that the international community has a responsibility by rejecting what he termed “Israeli blatant violation” of Lebanon’s sovereignty.
However, Hariri said that his government would avoid any escalation with Israel.
“The Lebanese government sees it best to avoid any sliding of the situation towards a dangerous escalation but this requires the international community affirming its rejection of this blatant violation,” Hariri’s office said in a statement.
Earlier on Sunday, two Israeli drones reportedly collided over a southern suburb of Beirut. Arabic-speaking media outlets suggested that a drone loaded with explosives hit another drone that was also hovering over the area.
Hours after the incident, Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Islamist Hezbollah party that is seen as a dominant militant Lebanese group and had previously engaged in fights with Israel, was quoted as calling the drone attack a “suicide mission.”
“Hezbollah will not allow such an aggression and the time that Israeli aircrafts come and bombard parts of Lebanon, is over,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech, vowing to retaliate in the wake of the drone’s crash.
A Drone Over Iraq
Also on Sunday, another alleged Israeli drone attack targeted a leading and powerful Iraqi group, the Hashd al-Shaabi force or the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The attack occurred in the Nineveh province, near the border with Syria, members of the PMF told media outlets.
In reaction, Iraqi President Barham Salih, met with senior members of the PMF, his prime minister and speaker of the Iraqi parliament to discuss the incident.
“These attacks are a blatant, hostile act that target Iraq,” the Iraqi president said in a statement, adding: “Iraqi sovereignty and the wellbeing of its people are a red line.”
Salih added that the government of Iraq would take all necessary steps to defend the soil of Iraq and “deter such an aggression.”
According to the PMF, a drone had hovered over some parts of the Nineveh province before it was spotted and dealt with by anti-aircraft weaponry, forcing it to flee the airspace.
Arabic-language Palestinian Maan News Agency reported Tuesday that the United Nations Security Council would be convening on Iraq to discuss the country’s instability.
Israeli PM Responds
Responding to Lebanese warnings and Nasrallah’s threats, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downplayed the Hezbollah party’s ability and military strength to deal a blow to Israel’s military.
“We are not being impressed by Nasrallah’s threats,” Netanyahu said, as the Times of Israel reported.
Netanyahu also warned Lebanon against any attacks from the Lebanese territories.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was reported by the Lebanese Daily Al-Akhbar as informing the Lebanese government that Israel did not change the rules of the game in the region and that the strike in Syria was necessary, with the aim of preventing a planned Iranian assault on Israel. The high-ranking American official further noted that the strike did not intend to cause casualties among Hezbollah.
Last month, Nasrallah commented on the U.S.-Iran tension, warning that Israel could be ‘”wiped out” in the event that a conflict breaks out.
Israel has recently repeatedly attacked Hezbollah and Iranian posts across Syria for what Israel calls threats from both Hezbollah and Iran. Both sides are said to be Shiite Muslims, and Hezbollah has been considered an offshoot of Iran in the region. Many have been reportedly killed and injured during such Israeli air raids.
Israel’s most recent air raid on Syria, in which a base for the Palestinian Popular Front (General Command) was hit, targeted elements of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Alquds Force as well as Shiite members.
According to an Israeli military spokesman, as quoted by the Times of Israel, the latest Israeli air raid foiled an Iranian attempt from Syria to carry out attacks on northern Israel using killer drones.