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Israeli PM Blames Iran for Flareup Along Israel-Lebanon Border

by VOA News January 29, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Iran for Wednesday's deadly flareup along the Lebanese border, the biggest escalation of fighting there since the 2006 war between Israel and the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah.

Netanyanu said on Thursday Israel will continue to defend itself against all threats, 'near and far alike.'

The border between Israel and Lebanon was calm Thursday, a day after clashes between Israel and Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers and a U.N. peacekeeper.

Wednesday's fighting began with Hezbollah using rockets to attack an Israeli military convoy along the border. Israel responded with airstrikes and shelling.

Hezbollah said its rocket attack, which killed the two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven others, was in retaliation for an airstrike, believed to have been carried out by Israel, that killed six Hezbollah members and an Iranian general earlier this month in Syria.

A Spanish peacekeeper with the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon was also killed in Wednesday's exchange.

The U.N. Security Council condemned the killing of the peacekeeper. Spain's Ambassador to the U.N., Roman Oyarzun, called for a full investigation and blamed Israel for the peacekeeper's death.

'Well I think I made it clear, it was because of this escalation of violence and it came from the Israeli side,' he said.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about both Wednesday's fighting and rockets fired from Syria into the nearby Golan Heights on Tuesday, which also prompted Israeli airstrikes in return.

The area features a set of tense borders, with the history of a 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Hezbollah's backing by both Syria and Israeli rival Iran, and Hezbollah militants fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops in that country's civil war. The U.N. has peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon and in the Golan Heights as part of separate Security Council resolutions.

'The Secretary-General condemns all violence and calls on all concerned to exercise maximum calm and restraint, to refrain from any action that could undermine the stability of the area, and to act responsibly to prevent any escalation in an already tense regional environment,' read a statement from Mr. Ban's spokesman.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged that those behind the missile attack against his forces will 'pay the full price.' He told a Cabinet meeting that Iran has been using Hezbollah to set up a 'terrorist front' in the Syrian portion of the Golan Heights.

'The Lebanese government and the Assad regime share responsibility for the consequences of the attacks emanating from their territories against the State of Israel,' Mr. Netanyahu said.

The United States condemned the Hezbollah attack, calling it a violation of the cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon.

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