Jihadists try to drag Israel into Syria war
A Lebanese soldier at the site of last Friday’s car bomb explosion in Tripoli (Photo: AP)
As Lebanon rapidly becomes engulfed by the fighting in neighbouring Syria, various factions in the country are trying to pull Israel into the conflict.
On Friday morning, Israeli planes bombed a base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) near Beirut, retaliating after the launch of four Katyusha rockets the previous day from Lebanon.
The rockets caused some damage to buildings but no casualties; one of them was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system.
The Abdallah Azzam Battalions, a jihadist organisation aligned with al-Qaeda, took responsibility for the attack and Israeli security sources said they believed this was an attempt by the Islamist rebels currently fighting the regime in Syria to get Israel involved. The Israeli sources added that such attempts will continue as the civil war intensifies.
Over the past two years, the IDF has responded to a number of Golan attacks, this is the first time that the Galilee has been targeted in this way.
According to the IDF spokesman, the Israeli response targeted the PFLP — which has operated from Lebanon for decades and is still supported by Syria — to send “a clear message to the Lebanese decision-makers that we see them as responsible for the fire”.
Lebanon itself is already the second battlefield of the Syrian conflict, with sectarian atrocities being carried out regularly by both Sunnis and Shia.
On Friday, two massive car bombs went off in the northern city of Tripoli, killing at least 42 people and wounding hundreds who were gathered outside two Sunni mosques following Friday prayers.
One of the blasts was thought to have been targeted at Shiekh Salem Rafei, a Salafi cleric who is an outspoken critic of Hizbollah.
The previous week, a similar explosion rocked south Beirut, this time targeting a Hizbollah stronghold, killing at least 27 people.