In an attack that ended months of relative quiet on the border between Lebanon and Israel, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant group, said it set off an explosive device on the Israeli-controlled side of the border on Tuesday, wounding two Israeli soldiers.
Hezbollah and Israel, which fought a monthlong war in 2006, have largely sought to keep the border calm amid chaos elsewhere in the region, and the quick claim of responsibility, less than four hours after the blast, came as a surprise. Hezbollah has denied responsibility for several rocket attacks into Israel in recent years; those attacks were probably carried out by Palestinian militant groups.
Israel responded with artillery fire toward two Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon, according to the Israeli military. The military said that two blasts had occurred, but that the second had caused no injuries.
Hezbollah’s Al Manar channel said the group had detonated an explosive device in Shebaa Farms, a disputed area that Lebanon considers occupied by Israel and that Syria also claims. Israel captured the area, along with the adjacent Golan Heights, in the 1967 war and later annexed both regions in a move not recognized by the United Nations. Israel said the bombs that exploded Tuesday had been placed on the Israeli-controlled side of the border.
The new violence raised concerns in Israel, but analysts viewed Hezbollah’s attack as more of a message meant to deter Israel than a harbinger of a wider confrontation. “This was a pinpoint attack, and Israel responded in a pinpoint fashion,” said Prof. Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University. “This is not the opening of a new front.”
Hezbollah did not cite a reason for the attack, but noted that it had been carried out by a unit named after “the martyr Hassan Ali Haidar.” Mr. Haidar was a Hezbollah military operative who was killed in September by the Israeli military, according to Lebanese news media.
The attack also occurred on the 14th anniversary of Hezbollah’s abduction of three Israeli soldiers from the same area in 2000. The three were killed either during the attack or in captivity; their bodies were returned to Israel as part of a prisoner exchange in 2004.
Hezbollah’s popularity in the wider Arab world, which soared after Israel failed to achieve its goals in the 2006 war, has fallen sharply. Many Sunni Arabs view the group as siding with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria against a Sunni-led insurgency.
The group is already fighting on two fronts: It is battling insurgents in Syria alongside Syrian security forces and fending off spillover attacks from the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, which attacked Hezbollah positions on the Syrian-Lebanese border over the weekend.
Hezbollah is keeping a wary eye on advances by the Nusra Front along the border with the Golan Heights. It has portrayed groups like the Nusra Front as serving the goals of Israel and the West, to weaken the Syrian government and its alliance with Hezbollah and Iran.