The Lebanese militant Hezbollah group fired a salvo of missiles at an Israeli military convoy in a disputed border area yesterday, killing two soldiers and triggering deadly clashes that marked the most serious escalation since the sides' 2006 war. The flare-up, which also left a UN peacekeeper dead, added to the regional chaos brought on by neighboring Syria's civil war. Hezbollah indicated the attack was in retaliation for a deadly Israeli strike on its fighters inside Syria earlier this month. Rocket and artillery fire continued on both sides of the border for hours after the initial attack. The clashes 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.
Hezbollah, which has an arsenal of tens of thousands of missiles and rockets, is currently preoccupied with the war in neighboring Syria, where it is aiding Assad's forces. Israeli officials believe the Shiite militant group is not interested in opening a new front with Israel. Still, some analysts warned that Hezbollah would not shy away from engaging Israel in what could become an expanded conflict drawing in Syria and even Iran. "This is the beginning of what could be a major confrontation," says the founder of the Center for American Strategic Studies in Beirut. "My estimate is this is the beginning of redefining the new confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah, Syria and Iran."