SHEAR YASHUV, Israel — A missile fired by the Lebanese Hezbollah group struck an Israeli military convoy on Wednesday, an apparent retaliation for a deadly airstrike attributed to Israel that killed six Hezbollah fighters in Syria earlier this month.
Israel reported unspecified casualties from the attack, and its military said it responded with aerial and ground attacks into Lebanon, including at least 50 artillery shells according to Lebanese officials. A Spanish peacekeeper was killed in southern Lebanon, in what the United Nations said was an incident likely related to the border flare-up.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said there were Israeli casualties in the attack, but did not elaborate. The military said it was responding with aerial and ground strikes on Hezbollah positions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond "forcefully."
In a statement, Hezbollah said its fighters destroyed a number of Israeli vehicles that were carrying Israeli officers and soldiers and caused casualties among "enemy ranks."
It said the attack was carried out by a group calling itself the "heroic martyrs of Quneitra," suggesting it was in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on the Golan Heights on Jan. 18 that killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general.
The Israeli military said an anti-tank missile hit an Israeli military vehicle near the Israeli-Lebanese border on Wednesday, and said residents of the area had been ordered to remain in their homes.
An hour later, mortars were fired at several Israeli military locations on Mount Dov and Mount Hermon, the Israeli military said. No injuries were reported in that attack. The military said it responded with fire toward Lebanese positions, and evacuated Israeli visitors from a ski resort in the area.
The flare-up recalled the beginning of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, which was sparked by a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli military vehicle along the border and the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli military said there was no indication of any Israeli soldiers captured in the attack.
But the latest salvos raised the possibility of renewed fighting along the Lebanese-Israel border, which has remained mostly quiet since a monthlong war in the summer of 2006. Since then, Israel has responded with airstrikes and artillery fire following a number of rocket attacks and shootings but the violence remained contained.
Wednesday's attack took place near Mount Dov and Shebaa Farms, a disputed tract of land where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.
Hanna Bikel, a spokeswoman for Ziv Hospital in Safed, said four to six people with light wounds from the strike were on their way to the hospital. She declined to say whether they were soldiers or civilians.
Two Lebanese officials said the Israeli shelling targeted the border villages of Majidiyeh, Abbasiyeh and Kfar Chouba near the Shebaa Farms area.
U.N. spokesman Andrea Tenenti said a peacekeeper was killed in circumstances the U.N. was still investigating, adding it was likely related to the border clash. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajo confirmed in a Tweet that a Spanish soldier had been killed. The Defense Ministry identified him as Cpl. Francisco Javier Soria Toledo, 36.
Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes canceled an official trip to India because of the soldier's death, the ministry said
Families living on the outskirts of the villages fled further within, fearing they'd be hit, said the two Lebanese officials, who are based in south Lebanon. Celebratory gunfire echoed in Shiite-dominated areas of Beirut, while in some areas, nervous parents hurried to pick up their children from school and hunker home.
Netanyahu, speaking at an event in southern Israel, warned that Israel's enemies would face a fate similar to Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza Strip who fought a brutal 50-day war against Israel last summer.
"To anyone who is trying to challenge us on the northern border I suggest looking at what happened here, not far from the city of Sderot, in the Gaza Strip. Hamas was dealt its heaviest blow ever since its founding and the Israel Defense Forces is prepared to act forcefully in all areas," he said.
Karam reported from Beirut. Daniel Estrin and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem, Diaa Hadid in Beirut and Alan Clendenning in Madrid contributed to this report.