The Israeli Defense Forces report that three rockets were fired from Syria on Friday evening. Out of the three fired, two impacted in open areas in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, while one rocket fell short and landed inside Syria. No casualties were incurred, although a warning was issued to avoid open areas in the Heights.
The rocket launches come hours after Hezbollah confirmed that one of its members had been killed after a protest on the Lebanese-Israeli border turned into an attempt to breach the Israeli border. The Israeli Defense Forces says that around 20 people protested on the Lebanese side of the border near the town of Metula in Israel’s north, waving the flags of Palestine and Hezbollah. Three of the protesters breached the border fence and crossed into Israel, and were soon joined by four others who started a fire, with the IDF opening fire in response. The protesters fled back across the border, but Mouhammed Tahen, a 21 year-old member of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, had been fatally injured and died of his injuries in hospital. While Hezbollah described him as a “martyr”, a spokeswoman said to L’Orient Today that they had not ordered the protest. Another protester is reported to be injured as well, but is expected to survive their injuries.
Firefighters are said to have put out the fire on the Israeli side of the border, but it has since spread over to the Lebanese side. The remaining protesters were later dispersed by the Lebanese Army, with members of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon present. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has since condemned the IDF move to open fire, describing it as a “crime committed by Israeli forces”.
The death of a Hezbollah member itself comes shortly after sources close to the organization denied that it had any role in the launch of three rockets from southern Lebanon on Thursday. The three rockets were launched near the Rashidiyeh Palestinian refugee camp, with the IDF saying that the rockets landed in the sea.
Hezbollah has not taken any overt actions to date in the fighting between Hamas and Israel, outside sending a delegation to meet with the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Lebanon. While it says that it had nothing to do with the rocket launches from Southern Lebanon or the protest that turned fatal, the death of the Hezbollah member could change their decision making.
A Iraqi group in Syria known as Shabab al Islam has since claimed responsibility for the rocket launches. However, the claims are suspect given the group’s lack of previously documented actions, as well as their issuance of two contradictory statements saying that they launched either five or three rockets. Claims by new groups with seemingly no history aren’t unusual for Iranian-backed groups seeking plausible deniability, but given Israel’s years long aerial campaign against Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed group assets in Syria, one unlikely to help avoid any Israeli retaliation.