By George Whitten, BosNewsLife Chief Middle East Correspondent
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (BosNewsLife) — Suspected militants fired several rockets into Israel from neighboring Lebanon Wednesday, January 14, the second such attack in a week, residents and Israeli officials said.
Israel claimed at least three rockets fell near the border town of Kiryat Shmona, but there were no immediate reports of injuries. Witnesses said the Israeli military responded by firing artillery shells into Lebanon towards the location from where the rockets were fired.
The incident came after Israeli officials said at least two people were injured when rockets fired from Lebanon landed in the north of Israel early last week, January 8.
Nobody claimed immediate responsibility for the strike, which was seen as retaliation from Lebanon-based militants for Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip.
After the Gaza conflict began in December, the leader of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, spoke openly about the possibility of a renewed conflict with Israel, saying its fighters were on high alert along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
However correspondent say Hezbollah has so far distanced itself from the attacks.
Israel suspects militants of the Hezbollah group, which has threatened to retaliate for Israel’s ongoing offensive in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian medics claim over 900 people have died in the fighting.
There were concerns that Wednesday’s rocket attack could open a second front Israel’s northern border. However Israel made clear it would not be intimidated and said it will continue its operations throughout the Gaza Strip to destroy what it calls the “terrorist infrastructure” of Hamas.
In the latest Israeli strikes, the military said it struck tunnels used for smuggling and at least twenty rocket launching sites. Some 18 rockets and mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel Tuesday, January 13, but no injuries were reported.
Christian groups in the area said meanwhile they are waging a spiritual battle, with believers praying around the clock for both Israel and fellow Christians living in the Gaza Strip.
“Last night, a mother of an [Israeli Defense Forces] soldier serving in Gaza said, “And I told him that many people are praying for him all around the world. His first response was that he feels the power of the prayers because of the great miracles that he sees every day,” Barry and Batya Segal of humanitarian aid group Vision for Israel told BosNewsLife’s partner news agency, Worthy News.
While Israel has been criticized over the high death toll in the Gaza Strip, an influential Christian broadcaster working in Israel, Earl Cox, told Israeli television that the Jewish state is fighting against an enemy hiding between civilians. “Israel is fighting cowards who embed themselves in densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods hoping for civilian casualties as a play for media attention to make Israel look like the aggressor…” he said.
“Rather than meeting the IDF face to face on the battlefield thus saving innocent lives….[they] launch their Kassam rocket attacks from schools, hospitals and the roof tops of houses and apartments knowing that Israel has the technology to pinpoint rocket launch sites,” Cox added.
Although several Christian aid groups have complained that Israel was using “disproportionate” force, Cox blamed only Hamas for the civilian casualties. “This war with Gaza is a war of Israeli heroes against barbarian cowards who mask their faces and run for cover at the very sight of IDF soldiers,” he said.
However Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip have expressed concerns that they are in the crossfire between both Israeli air strikes and Islamic militant attacks.
The fighting has been complicated by fresh evidence that Hamas does not want to recognize Israel as a sovereign state. In a commercial aired on Hamas Television, and obtained by Worthy News, a militant can be heard saying: “We will not recognize Israel. If you want security or peace you should go back to where you came from,” according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Walid Al-Rashudi, the head of the Department of Islamic Studies at Saud University in Saudi Arabia, said on Hamas TV last week that “You don’t treat the Jews as enemies only because they are human beings who eat and drink. No! We treat them as enemies because they are the enemies of Allah and the prophets, they murdered the prophets, distorted the prophecy, they are traitors and deceivers – therefore we treat them as enemies.”
He also made clear the Western world can expect more terrorist attacks. “We believe in the Almighty Allah and you [Muslim traitors] believe in America and Israel. We believe that Allah, may He be Exalted, sent His soldiers against America in many places in the world.”
“Oh Allah,” he added, ” inflict as many losses as possible on the Jews, kill them one by one and don’t leave even one,” according to a transcript translated by the Palestinian Media Watch research group.
With threats against Israel apparently continuing, Israeli opposition leader and former Prime Minister Likud Benjamin Netanyahu said it has become clear that “Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction and must be removed from Gaza.” He asked reporters to ask themselves: “What would you do? Would you wait eight years? Or 8 months? Or 8 weeks? Or even 8 days before taking action. Israel has waited a very long time,” he said in reference to thousands of rockets fired on Israel from Gaza.
“The only peace that Hamas wants is peace of the grave. Nobody talks about a peace with Al-Qaida.” He said Israel was “fighting a just war, and this is not only a battle against terror, but a battle for the truth.”
Critics claim however Israel’s army is an elephant fighting a mouse, with much more causalities reported in the Gaza Strip than during eight years of rocket attacks against the Jewish state.
However Israel says the lower death toll is only the result of shelters and training of civilians, but adds it is unacceptable that about one million Jewish people are living in “daily fear” of incoming rockets.