Israeli army says bomber suspected of coming from Lebanon killed

Tensions with Hezbollah could rise as army says it killed suspect behind car blast in northern Israel.

Two Israeli soldiers with guns
The incident happened on Monday but was made public on Wednesday [File: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters]

The Israeli army says its soldiers killed an armed man suspected of entering the country from Lebanon and blowing up a car at a junction in northern Israel, raising the risk of renewed tensions with Hezbollah.

The incident happened on Monday but it was made public by the army on Wednesday.

“An explosive device was detonated adjacent to the Megiddo Junction on Monday, severely injuring an Israeli civilian,” the Israeli army said on Twitter. “During searches in northern Israel, security forces neutralized a terrorist armed with an explosive belt & multiple weapons in a vehicle.”

Soldiers stopped a car carrying the bombing suspect at a checkpoint shortly after the roadside explosion, the army said. “Our assumption is that he was aiming to conduct another terrorist attack,” perhaps before committing suicide, it said.

The army said it shot and killed the suspect and is questioning the driver. Their identities have not been made public.

“The possible involvement of the Hezbollah terrorist army is under review,” it said.

There was no immediate comment from the Lebanese group.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said this incident was potentially “very serious” and prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short a trip to Germany.

“It’s a very serious security breach for [Israel],” he said. “We rarely see people crossing from Lebanon into northern Israel.”

Netanyahu was expected to fly back to Tel Aviv on Thursday. “It’s likely that he is going to address the nation,” Khan said.

The Israeli security establishment held several meetings in the past two days under a gag order. “This is how seriously they are taking it,” Khan said. “What is of real concern to them now is the type of explosive that was used.”

The army said the device exploded at a 90-degree angle, which is unusual.

The incident threatens renewed hostility between Israel and Hezbollah, which are bitter enemies that fought a month-long war in 2006.

Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has remained quiet but tense since the conflict. Israel discovered four years ago what it said was a network of tunnels built by Hezbollah along the border.

Israel considers the Iran-backed Shia group its most serious immediate threat, estimating that Hezbollah has 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel.

Israel also frequently attacks targets in Syria, saying they are Iranian weapons deliveries headed to the Lebanese group.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies