Hezbollah, Israel trade fire for the third day running in dangerous Middle East escalation (photos)

Hezbollah, Israel trade fire for the third day running in dangerous Middle East escalation (photos)

The militant Hezbollah group fired a barrage of rockets toward Israel and Israel hit back with artillery in a significant escalation between the two sides on Friday, August 6.

The Friday attacks along the volatile border with Lebanon, is a dangerous escalation of the conflict and makes it the third day of attacks . Ten out of the 19 rockets fires were intercepted by the defense system known as the Iron Dome.

Friday’s exchanges comes a day after Israel’s defense minister warned that his country is prepared to strike Iran following a fatal drone strike on a oil tanker at sea that his country blamed on Tehran.

Israel has long considered Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, its most serious and immediate military threat claiming the country has over 100,000 rockets it can use to fire anywhere in Israel.

Israel said it fired back after 19 rockets were launched from Lebanon, and new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett swiftly convened a meeting with the country’s top defense officials. No casualties were reported.

“We do not wish to escalate to a full war, yet of course we are very prepared for that,” said Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.

The tensions come at a politically sensitive time in Israel and Lebanon.

In Israel, a new eight-party governing coalition is already trying to keep the peace in a fragile cease-fire that ended an 11-day war with Hamas’ militant rulers in Gaza.

While Lebanon is facing multiple crises including a devastating economic and financial meltdown and political deadlock that has left the country without a functional government for a full year.

During the attack, Sirens blared across the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee near the Lebanon border Friday morning. Hezbollah said in a statement that it hit “open fields” in the disputed Shebaa farms area.

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The group said it fired 10 rockets, calling it retaliation for Israeli airstrikes the day before. Israel said those strikes were in response to rocket fire from southern Lebanon in recent days.

Shebaa Farms is an enclave where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet. Israel says it is part of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in 1967. Lebanon and Syria say Shebaa Farms belong to Lebanon, while the United Nations says the area is part of Syria.

Military analysts say Hezbollah’s decision to strike open fields in a disputed area rather than populated areas in Israel was a sign the group didn't want to escalate the conflict.

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