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Explosives at Lebanon border injure two Israeli soldiers

Explosives at Lebanon border injure two Israeli soldiers
In this Nov. 12, 2010, file photo, Hezbollah fighters in Beirut hold the flag of the militant group as they parade during the opening of a cemetery for colleagues who died in fighting against Israel. (Hussein Malla / Associated Press)

An explosion along the border between Israel and Lebanon injured two Israeli soldiers Tuesday and prompted retaliatory fire into Lebanon, marking the latest trouble in the border area.

According to the Israeli army, the soldiers were airlifted for treatment after being slightly injured by an explosive device. No casualties were reported when a second bomb went off shortly afterward.

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The militant group Hezbollah claimed responsibility, according to Al Manar, the group's news agency. The attacks were reportedly carried out by a cell named for Ali Hassan Haidar, a Hezbollah operative killed when Israel is said to have remotely detonated a device near Tyre last month.

The incident came 48 hours after the Israeli army said it had fired at an armed cell of unclear affiliation that crossed the border into Israeli territory, driving it back into Lebanon and injuring a fighter from there.

Israel's military said it responded to the bombings with heavy artillery shelling toward what it said were two Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon.

"The Lebanese government and Hezbollah are directly liable for this blatant breach of Israel's sovereignty," said a statement from Peter Lerner, a spokesperson for the military, who called the bombings an "unprovoked aggression."

Addressing his Cabinet on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his nation's forces. "We are witnessing the threats around us and have proven we respond forcefully to any attempt to hurt us," he said.

The Israeli military instructed farmers in communities bordering Lebanon to stay away from the boundary. In recent weeks, Israel has been on heightened alert along its borders with Syria and Lebanon, both increasingly troubled by upheaval.

Though largely preoccupied with the fighting in Syria, Hezbollah appears interested in keeping modest but steady pressure on Israel at the border, said Eyal Ben-Reuven, a retired Israeli major general.

"Hezbollah is walking a fine line, pushing it, but not hard enough to trigger comprehensive fighting," he said. He noted that Tuesday's incident could have ballooned if there had been fatalities on either side.

Hezbollah, which has a massive rocket arsenal replenished since its last war with Israel in 2006, also has acquired and demonstrated considerable combat expertise while fighting in Syria.

"Hezbollah possesses very serious capabilities and should be regarded as such," Ben-Reuven said.

Tuesday marked the 14th anniversary of an attack that killed three Israeli soldiers in the same area, only a few months after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah returned the remains in an exchange deal in 2004. A similar incident in 2006 triggered a monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah.

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