|Lebanese soldiers inspect remains of two rockets fired towards Israel but which fell short in south Lebanon, in al-Meri village in southern Lebanon January 14, 2009. REUTERS/Karamallah Daher|
BEIRUT (Reuters) – The commander of a U.N. peacekeeping force urged Lebanon and Israel to exercise restraint after at least three rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon on Wednesday.
The Lebanese government condemned the attack, the second launched from Lebanon against Israel since it began its offensive in the Gaza Strip on December 27. Information Minister Tareq Mitri said it â€œgave Israel an excuse to harm the national interest.â€
The army deployed additional forces in the south to boost its â€œdefensive capabilities,â€ a military source said.
Labor Minister Mohammed Fneish, the Hezbollah minister in government, denied that the Lebanese political and military group had anything to do with the attack.
â€œ… we donâ€™t know who fired these rockets, we have nothing to do with it,â€ Hezbollahâ€™s website quoted him as saying.
â€œFor the Israeli enemy to exploit this accident in order to use its aggression against Lebanon, that is something we condemn, reject and donâ€™t accept,â€ he said, referring to Israelâ€™s response with artillery fire.
The group, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, denied any role in a similar attack last week. Israeli officials blamed smaller, armed Palestinian factions in Lebanon.
The Lebanese army and members of the U.N. peacekeeping force, known as UNIFIL, also deactivated three rockets rigged to launch an hour after they had been found, the army said.
UNIFIL commander Major General Claudio Graziano urged maximum restraint after the early morning rocket salvo.
He was working with both Lebanon and Israel to maintain the cessation of hostilities, UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane said in a statement. There had been no claims of responsibility for the rocket attack, she said.
Israel responded with two barrages of artillery fire. There were no reports of damage or injury caused by the Israeli shells, Bouziane said. The rockets fired from Lebanon landed in open areas and caused no damage or injuries, she added.
â€œAt present, we cannot confirm the exact location of the launch area,â€ she said.
There have been no claims of responsibility for the January 8 rocket attack from Lebanon.
The UNIFIL peacekeeping force was expanded as part of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 which ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. The Lebanese army deployed in the south as part of the same resolution. Israeli forces had occupied south Lebanon until their withdrawal in 2000.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Matthew Jones)