Rockets launched from southern Lebanon struck northern Israel yesterday, prompting Jerusalem to respond with artillery shells across a border that has been largely quiet since a war in 2006.
The cross-border fire, which caused no injuries, coincided with heightened political tension in Beirut following the assassination on Friday of former Lebanese minister Mohammed Chatah.
It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets.
Israeli authorities said five rockets were launched from Lebanon, but only one or two struck inside Israel, near the border town of Kiryat Shmona.
A UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon urged restraint as it said it was working with the Lebanese Army to obtain further details.
Southern Lebanon is a stronghold of Hezbollah, a Shiite group back by Iran that battled Israel seven years ago and is engaged in Syria’s civil war in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, Palestinian factions also operate in the area.
In public remarks at Israel’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu accused Hezbollah of “organizing fire on civilians, as it tried to do today [yesterday]” — just stopping short of alleging that the group carried out the strike.
The rocket strike, to which Israel said it responded with a barrage of shelling, came two days after a bomb blast in Beirut killed Chatah along with six others.
Chatah was a leading adviser to former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri and an outspoken critic of al-Assad and Hezbollah.
Al-Hariri and Lebanon’s oppoition March 14 Alliance have implied that the group and Damascus were behind the assassination.
The group has condemned Chatah’s killing as a “horrible crime” and Syria has denied the “wrong and arbitrary accusations.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing that made Chatah the ninth high-profile Syrian regime critic slain in Lebanon since al-Hariri’s father, Rafiq al-Hariri, was killed in a huge suicide bombing in Beirut in 2005.
Supporters of the al-Hariris blame Rafiq al-Hariri’s death on Damascus and Hezbollah.
Angry mourners yesterday chanted against Hezbollah in Beirut as the body of Chatah and his bodyguard, Tarek Badr, were transported from to a downtown mosque for burial.
Chatah will be interred at the mausoleum of Raqiq al-Hariri.
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman declared yesterday a national day of mourning as hundreds of Lebanese paid their respects amid heavy security.
VIGILANCE: While two of the cases are family members of a nurse, there is no sign of community spread and the source of infection is identifiable, the CECC said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported four new domestic COVID-19 cases associated with a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital. Since the first case was identified on Tuesday last week, five healthcare workers — two doctors and three nurses — at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taoyuan General Hospital have tested positive for the virus. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that two of the four new cases are the husband and daughter of a nurse (case No. 863) who had earlier been confirmed to have COVID-19. The husband (case No. 864)
INCURSION: After 13 PLA aircraft flew into Taiwan’s ADIZ, the US Department of State said that China should rather ‘engage in meaningful dialogue’ with Taiwan US President Joe Biden’s administration on Saturday urged China to stop placing military pressure on Taiwan, while calling on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to engage in peaceful dialogue. The statement by the US Department of State was issued after 13 Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Saturday, the highest number observed in a single day this year, the Ministry of National Defense said. The air force scrambled fighter jets to monitor the Chinese aircraft, issuing radio warnings and mobilizing air defense assets until the planes left the ADIZ. The US “notes
CHANGE OF GUARD: Hsiao Bi-khim’s attendance at Joe Biden’s inauguration will come as a boost to those in Taiwan who feared that the new US administration would be less friendly than that of Donald Trump to the nation Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) is to attend US President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony at the US Capitol after she was invited by the US Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, a news release issued by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US said last night. The news came as a surprise as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been reticent about the matter, while Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members had accused the Democratic Progressive Party administration of hedging its bets on the Republican Party. Asked about when Hsiao received the invitation, the ministry did not
FAMILY UNIT: The CECC warned that the eldest sister of the latest case, who also has COVID-19, visited Taoyuan’s Chungping evening market on Tuesday and Wednesday The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported a domestic case of COVID-19, associated with a recent cluster infection at Taoyuan General Hospital, and two imported cases. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the latest case (No. 885) is a woman in her 50s, who is the third daughter of case No. 881, a man in his 90s. The woman is the main caregiver of her elderly father, who had been hospitalized earlier this month and was treated by a nurse (case No. 852) from Monday to Thursday last week, he said, adding that