Image: Israeli soldiers examine damage after a rocket fired from Lebanon hit a chicken coop
Yaron Kaminsky  /  AP
Soldiers examine the damage after a rocket fired from Lebanon hit a chicken coop in northern Israel early Tuesday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 11/29/2011 5:38:58 AM ET 2011-11-29T10:38:58

Rockets fired from Lebanon struck northern Israel early Tuesday for the first time in more than two years, drawing a burst of Israeli artillery fire across the tense border, the Israeli military said.

Two buildings in Israel's western Galilee area were damaged, Israeli media said, but there were no reports of casualties. Residents said they heard two explosions and that houses shook.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack. The military said at least two of the rockets landed on Israeli soil, and that Israeli guns shelled the area where the fire had originated.

A Lebanese security official told The Associated Press that one rocket was fired from Lebanon and that Israel hit back with six rockets, which landed in an empty area. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The flare-up comes at a time when the entire region is engulfed in violence and upheaval, with thousands killed in the regime's crackdown on protesters in Syria and after popular uprisings ousted longtime rulers in Libya , Egypt , Tunisia and Yemen .

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Israel said it was trying to establish who fired the rockets from Lebanon, but that it held the Lebanese government responsible and would deliver a complaint.

The Israeli military said it did not expect Tuesday's incident to touch off a wider conflict with Lebanon. In a statement, however, it said it regarded the attack as "severe."

"The Lebanese government is responsible for everything that happens in Lebanon and everything that exits from its border," Home Front Defence Minister Matan Vilnai added.

'Serious incident'
The Israeli-Lebanese border has been largely quiet in recent years, though some have worried about a possible spillover of tensions from a months-old revolt in Syria against President Bashar Assad and from a stiffening of Western sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

UNIFIL, the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, said it had deployed extra troops and patrols in the area and called for restraint. "This is a serious incident in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701 and is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area," UNIFIL said in a statement.

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Army Radio said it was the eighth rocket attack since Israel's monthlong war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas ended in August 2006. Hezbollah has not claimed responsibility for any attacks since the end of the fighting, but smaller militant organizations, some Palestinian and some linked to al-Qaida, have launched rockets on several occasions.

None of the rocket attacks has caused serious casualties.

But in August 2010, two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and an Israeli soldier were killed in a brief border clash touched off by Lebanese army fire toward an Israeli military base.

Overall, however, the border has been largely quiet but tense since the 2006 war, which was sparked by a deadly cross-border attack by Hezbollah on an Israeli military patrol.

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Israel bombed the group's strongholds and Hezbollah barraged northern Israel with nearly 4,000 rockets.

About 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis were killed in the conflict, which ended with a U.N.-brokered truce that sent thousands of Lebanese troops and international peacekeepers to south Lebanon.

Although the cease-fire agreement forbade Hezbollah to rearm, Israel contends the group has since replenished its arsenal with even more powerful weapons.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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