Shelling sounded out along Israel’s volatile northern border with Lebanon for a third consecutive day Tuesday, stoking fears on both sides of a repeat of 2006, when Israel fought a bloody monthlong war with Hezbollah, the Shiite group committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.
Although paling in comparison to the fighting that has taken place around Gaza, in the country’s southwest, the continued clashes on Israel’s northern border have deepened unease over the possibility that the conflict — already the broadest invasion in 50 years — could spread to multiple fronts.
There were signs late Tuesday that could happen: The Israeli Army said it had identified a number of launches from Syria into Israeli territory, the first time that fire had been exchanged across that border since fighting erupted on Saturday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The Israeli military said the projectiles apparently fell in an open area and that it had been firing artillery and mortar shells in return.
Along the Israel-Lebanon border, the day had begun with residents assessing the aftermath of clashes Monday, when Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an armed group based in Gaza, sent fighters into Israel, two of whom died. Funeral processions were held in southern Lebanon for three Hezbollah fighters also killed amid the skirmish by Israeli shelling.
But the relative calm was shattered Tuesday evening when 15 rockets were fired over the border from just outside the Lebanese city of Tyre, on the Mediterranean coast, the Israeli military said. Four of the rockets were intercepted, the military said.
Although it was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, the Israelis said they had responded by striking two Hezbollah observation posts with tank fire. Hezbollah responded in turn with an anti-tank guided missile attack on an Israeli armored personnel carrier in the northern Israeli town of Avivim, according to a statement from Al Manar, the Hezbollah-owned Lebanese broadcaster.
Hezbollah published footage it said was of the attack, which showed two strikes on an idle military vehicle, leaving it with considerable damage. The Israeli Army said no soldiers were injured. It added that Israeli forces had struck another Hezbollah observation post in response.
As the exchange of fire continued late into the night, two senior Lebanese army officials claimed that Israel had used munitions loaded with white phosphorus, the use of which can be a violation of international law when civilian areas are targeted. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the news media.
Footage posted online showed white puffs trailing white smoke before falling to the ground. A spokesperson for the Israeli Army denied the use of white phosphorus, saying soldiers had deployed only illumination flares.