Israel shuts border with Lebanon after attacks

JERUSALEM – The Israeli army announced on Wednesday that it had shut its border with Lebanon, fearing an escalation of violence.

An army source said the Israeli military had decided to launch an inquiry into what he described as "two mistakes" that led to the death of two soldiers in an attack by Hezbollah in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms region earlier Wednesday.

Two Israeli troops were killed and seven others wounded in the attack, which was later claimed by Hezbollah.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth quoted an army source as saying that the presence of an unprotected military vehicle in the border area had been "a mistake" in light of local security conditions.

He said the Israeli army was also looking into the possibility that individuals had infiltrated the Shebaa Farms region and carried out the attack using anti-tank rockets.

According to the newspaper, these two "major mistakes" had led to the death of the two soldiers.

The Israeli army chief-of-staff, meanwhile, is reportedly holding a meeting at the Defense Ministry with the army's top brass to mull a response to Wednesday's attack.

Earlier Wednesday, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had been in retaliation for the death of six of its fighters – along with six Iranians – in a recent drone strike in Syria.

The slain fighters had included two Hezbollah commanders and the son of Imad Mughniyah, a Hezbollah leader killed by a car bomb in Syria in 2008.

Israel, for its part, confirmed the death of the two soldiers, saying the attack had taken place on its "border with Lebanon."

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said the attack had occurred on Lebanese soil.

A UN peacekeeper – part of a Spanish contingent – was also killed during Wednesday's violence, according to a Lebanese security official. 

For over two years, Hezbollah has been openly engaged in the conflict in Syria, where it continues to fight alongside Syrian regime forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared earlier Wednesday that any group that sought to challenge Israel should first draw a lesson from the embattled Gaza Strip.

"Everyone who is trying to challenge us on the northern borders, I recommend them to look what happened near here in Gaza," he said.

In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in which more than 1,200 Lebanese – mostly civilians – were killed.

In the same conflict, 160 Israelis – mostly soldiers – lost their lives.

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