LUCI, Lebanon (Reuters) – Israeli planes attacked two bases run by a Syrian-backed Palestinian faction in Lebanon on Sunday, killing one Palestinian fighter, hours after rockets fired into northern Israel wounded an Israeli soldier.
Witnesses saw black smoke rising from a military base just outside Beirut and another in the eastern Bekaa Valley, both run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) which is based in Damascus.
A PFLP-GC official in Lebanon said one fighter was killed and several were wounded at a base consisting of tunnels dug into a hillside near the eastern town of Luci, close to the Syrian border. Two Palestinian militants were slightly wounded in the attack on the group’s Naameh bunker near Beirut, he said.
Palestinian militants at Luci fired automatic rifles and anti-aircraft guns at the planes, while the Lebanese army said its anti-aircraft units responded to the Naameh attack.
Israel confirmed the air raids and said one of the bunkers was used as an arms store.
“Following the (rocket) attack today, we responded with air strikes against two terrorist targets in Lebanon. One of the targets was used to store weapons and ammunition,” an Israeli army spokesman said.
The exchange took place two days after a senior Islamic Jihad official and his brother were killed in southern Lebanon when their car blew up in a blast blamed by the Palestinian group on Israel.
Lebanon’s Hizbollah guerrilla group, which controls the Lebanese side of the border, also blamed Israel for the car blast in the port of Sidon, and Islamic Jihad vowed revenge.
It was not clear who fired the rockets into northern Israel on Sunday. Hizbollah, which has attacked Israeli posts in a disputed border zone since Israel ended its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, had no immediate comment.
The group, backed by Iran and Syria, said this week that it had thousands of rockets able to hit any target in northern Israel should the Jewish state attack Lebanese territory again.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel planned to lodge a complaint with the U.N. Security Council over the rocket attack, which hit the town of Safed.
“This attack demonstrates clearly the need to move expeditiously in implementing U.N. Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1680 that call for the disarming of all the armed militia in Lebanon,” Regev said. “As long as these extremist groups remain armed, they will be a threat to stability.”
Lebanese politicians agreed at national talks this year to disarm Syrian-backed Palestinian groups that run a series of military bases outside the country’s 12 squalid refugee camps.
The Lebanese government has initiated talks with the Palestinian groups but they have yet to make tangible progress.
The top PFLP-GC official in Lebanon, Anwar Raja, said Palestinian commandos were based in the Luci bunker, which has existed for about 30 years, and the attacks showed that Lebanon and the Palestinians remained threatened by Israel.
“Israel used the rockets that were fired into northern Israel as a pretext to assault Lebanese sovereignty. This reveals the dangers that the Lebanese and Palestinians face from Israel,” he told Reuters.