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Tensions flare in Lebanon

After a sleepy summer slumber, Lebanon wakes up to cold, hard reality: it's still in the Middle East.

For the first time since February, rocket fire has hit Israel from Lebanon. The border area was the scene of intense combat for 33 days in 2006 between the Iranian backed militant group Hezbollah and Israeli forces. Here, an Israeli artillery unit fires a shell towards Lebanon from its position on the Israeli-Lebanese border, Aug. 2, 2006. (Yonathan Weitzman/Reuters)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — After a quiet summer in Lebanon, two back-to-back developments have reminded everyone here of the precariousness of the peace.

Two rockets launched from southern Lebanon landed in northern Israel Friday afternoon, triggering retaliatory fire from the Israeli side into Lebanon. Israeli warplanes roamed the skies as United Nations peacekeepers cordoned off the launch area near Lebanon's southern port city of Tyre.

No casualties were reported on either side.

It's the first time since February that rocket fire has hit Israel from Lebanon. The border area was the scene of intense combat for 33 days in 2006 between the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah and Israeli forces. But since then Hezbollah has denied responsibility for sporadic, isolated rocket fire, and the Israelis have agreed. They attribute the provocations to small Palestinian militant groups.

But the Israelis did make their displeasure clear. On Friday night, a caller identifying himself as the "Israeli government" warned in a recorded phone call on Lebanese home landlines not to "support any Islamic groups that attack Israel." The rocket fire comes as both Hezbollah and Israel have ratcheted up rhetoric in the past few weeks.

"The IDF considers the Lebanese government and Lebanese military as accountable to prevent such attacks," said the Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson in a statement after the rockets attacks.

The only problem with that statement is there isn't much of a government to speak of in Lebanon.

After a summer of backroom negotiations over the formation of a cabinet, Lebanon appears to be headed for yet another political crisis.

Saad Hariri, the designated prime minister, stepped down Thursday from his appointment as premier, saying he was unable to form a unity cabinet because of the opposition’s demands. Hariri was selected to form a cabinet by his U.S.- and Saudi Arabian-backed coalition, which won in June parliamentary elections against the Hezbollah-led and Syrian and Iranian-backed opposition.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/lebanon/090912/tensions-flare-lebanon