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Rockets Fired from Lebanon Hit Israel Ahead of Diplomatic Push

  • Robert Berger

A Lebanese army personnel inspects the remains of a shell that was launched from Lebanon to Israel, which according to activists landed 500m from the Lebanese-Israeli border, in the southern Lebanese village of Sarada, Dec. 29, 2013.
There was a rare clash Sunday on the Israel-Lebanon border. The incident occurred ahead of a week of diplomacy on the Israel-Palestinian track.

Several rockets fired from Lebanon set off loud explosions in northern Israel but caused no injuries or damage. The army says Israel retaliated with "massive" artillery fire into Lebanon.

The border has been mostly quiet for years, but fighting from the Syrian civil war has spilled over into neighboring Lebanon, and the clash raised fears that tensions could spread to Israel.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will not allow cross-border attacks to pass quietly, and the government and army of Lebanon will be held responsible.

Netanyahu accused Lebanon of failing to “lift a finger” to prevent militant groups like Hezbollah from launching attacks on Israel from its territory.

The clash came a day before Israel plans to free 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners in the third stage of a U.S.-brokered deal that restarted peace talks last summer after years of deadlock. Israel released 52 prisoners in the first and second stages, and with the 26 to be freed in the final stage, the total will be 104.

Most of the detainees were involved in deadly attacks against Israelis more than 20 years ago.

Although Palestinians are preparing a heroes’ welcome for the prisoners, the deal is unpopular in Israel. The families of terror victims have set up a protest tent outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

Elchai Ben Ishai says his sister, her husband and three of their children were killed in a Palestinian terror attack in 2011.

“Their innocent blood is crying out from the ground,” he said.

To appease hawks in his own government, Prime Minister Netanyahu will announce a plan to build 1,400 homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The Palestinians and international community say the settlements are an obstacle to peace. And Palestinian officials like Jibril Rajoub are furious.

“This is a provocation,” he said. He said the settlements could destroy the peace process and lead to another cycle of violence and bloodshed.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Jerusalem and the West Bank this week to try to keep the peace process on track.

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