JERUSALEM - Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
Residents of the northern Israel town of Kiryat Shmona awoke to two large explosions. Shortly after, the Israeli military said it responded with artillery fired toward the source of the launch.
Lebanon's state news agency said the border area was shelled after the rockets hit Israel. The agency said more than 20 shells hit the mountainous region around area of Rachaya.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the military for responding "quickly and forcefully" to the rocket attack. He accused the government of Lebanon of "not lifting a finger" to stop the "war crimes" committed in its territory by Hezbollah guerrillas.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel "would not tolerate" such attacks and held the Lebanese government and army responsible for any fire emerging from its territory.
"We will not allow incidents such as those of this morning to pass quietly," he said in a statement.
The Israel-Lebanon border has remained mostly quiet since a monthlong war in the summer of 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. There have been sporadic outbursts of violence, most recently this month when a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier.
In the most serious incident, Lebanese forces killed a high-ranking Israeli officer in 2010 and Israel responded with artillery fire that killed three Lebanese. However, incidences of rocket fire have been infrequent since the countries agreed to a cease-fire that ended the 2006 war. The last such case took place four months ago.
The 2006 war broke out after Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas crossed into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. The ensuing conflict killed about 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis before ending in a United Nations-brokered cease-fire.
The U.N. peacekeeping force UNIFIL said its commander, Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra, made contact with the Israeli and Lebanese armies immediately after Sunday's incident and urged both sides to exercise "maximum restraint." He said UNIFIL had stepped up patrols in southern Lebanon to prevent any further incidents.
"I have been assured by the parties of their full cooperation with UNIFIL in this effort and of their continued commitment to the cessation of hostilities," Serra said in a statement.