JERUSALEM – (Agencies: 8/1/2009): Lebanese militants fired at least three rockets into northern Israel early Thursday, threatening to open a second front for the Jewish state as it pushed forward with its offensive in the Gaza Strip. Gaza militants fired a rocket barrage into southern Israel almost simultaneously.
There were no serious injuries in either attack. But the rockets on Israel’s north raised the specter of renewed hostilities with Hezbollah, just 2 1/2 years after Israel battled the guerrilla group to a 34-day stalemate. Hezbollah started the 2006 war as Israel was battling Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Israel has repeatedly said it was prepared for a possible attack on the north since it launched its bruising campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza on Dec. 27. Israel has mobilized thousands of reserve troops for such a scenario, and leaders have warned Hezbollah of dire consequences if it enters the fighting.
Shortly after the rockets fell around the town of Nahariya, five miles south of the Lebanese border, Lebanese TV stations reported Israeli mortar fire on open areas in southern Lebanon.
The Israeli military confirmed it carried out "pinpoint fire" in response without elaborating.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket barrage from Lebanon. Israeli defense commentators said they believed Hezbollah was behind the salvo, but expected the incident to be a one-time show of solidarity with the Palestinians, not a declaration of war.
Earlier, Palestinians reported more than 20 airstrikes around Gaza City before dawn Thursday. One person was killed and 10 wounded. Also, there were clashes between Israeli armored forces and Hamas militants in southern Gaza.
Israel had resumed its Gaza offensive Wednesday after a three-hour lull to allow in humanitarian aid, bombing heavily around suspected smuggling tunnels near the border with Egypt after Hamas responded with a rocket barrage.
Despite the heavy fighting, strides appeared to being made on the diplomatic front with the U.S. throwing its weight behind a deal being brokered by France and Egypt.
While the U.N. Security Council failed to reach agreement on a cease-fire resolution, Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said representatives of Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority agreed to meet separately with Egyptian officials in Cairo.