Israel Hits Palestinian Base in Lebanon

BEIRUT (AP) -- The Israeli air force struck a Palestinian base in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria early on Monday amid rising tensions in the Middle East, the Lebanese state-run National News Agency and a Palestinian official said.

The strike came a day after an alleged Israeli drone crashed in a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut while another exploded and crashed nearby.

The agency's report said there were three strikes after midnight on Sunday, minutes apart, that struck a base for a Syrian-backed group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, an ally of the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group.

Abu Wael Issam, an official with the Palestinian group in Lebanon, told The Associated Press that the strike was carried out by Israeli drones and did not inflict any casualties. He accused the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using such attacks to boost his credentials ahead of Israel's parliamentary elections next month.

He said the Palestinian group's "alternatives are open in confronting the Zionist enemy" but didn't specify how or if it would retaliate. A statement issued later by the group "the Zionist aggression" will not stop the group and its allies.

There was no immediate comment from Israel on the strike, which the Lebanese news agency said hit near the village of Qusaya in the eastern Bekaa Valley. Airstrikes by Israel against Palestinian factions in Lebanon, such as this one, have been rare in the past years.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday that his group will confront and shoot down any Israeli drones that enter Lebanese airspace from now on, raising the potential for conflict amid heightened regional tensions.

Nasrallah also vowed to retaliate to an Israeli airstrike inside Syria that took place late Saturday, which he said killed two Hezbollah members.

He said allowing Israel to keep flying drones over Lebanon would lead to a similar situation as in Iraq, where a series of attacks there targeting military bases and weapons depot belonging to Iranian-backed Shiite militias have left the country on edge. U.S. officials say at least one of the airstrikes on the militia in Iraq was carried out by Israel.

In Saturday's strikes near the Syrian capital, Damascus, Israel publicly stated it was thwarting an imminent drone strike against Israel by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The Lebanese news agency also reported that Israeli drones flew over parts of southern Lebanon on Monday.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a monthlong war in 2006. The volatile border between the two countries, which remain technically in a state of war, has been mostly calm since that conflict.

(KR)