Israel says roadside bomb suspect may have come from Lebanon
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The Israeli army said Wednesday that soldiers killed an armed man suspected of entering the country from Lebanon and blowing up a car, raising the risk of renewed tensions with Hezbollah.
The security situation in Israel prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut in half his planned two-day visit to Germany this week, his office said. The incident unnerved Israelis, who questioned on social media and elsewhere how someone with explosives could travel dozens of kilometers inside Israel and set off a roadside bomb before being detected.
The army said soldiers stopped a car carrying the bombing suspect at a checkpoint Monday shortly after a roadside explosion seriously injured a driver near Megiddo Junction in the country’s north. The suspect was wearing a suicide vest and had a rifle and a gun when he was stopped near the border with Lebanon. The army said it shot and killed the man and is questioning the driver.
The army said the device exploded at a 90-degree angle, which is unusual for the area. That led officials to suspect that the man infiltrated from Lebanon and may have been linked to Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group.
The army said it did not release the details of the incident for two days because it was trying to determine the suspect’s identity, which it did not release.
Netanyahu received a briefing on the incident Wednesday, which his office said led him to shorten his trip to Germany. The trip also was delayed, Israeli media reported, by negotiations over a proposal to overhaul Israel’s judicial system, which has prompted massive protests.
A Hezbollah spokesman in Beirut did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press. But in a speech last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Israel was growing weaker. “There is no security, there is no stability and there are no guarantees of the future,” he said.
Israel and Hezbollah are bitter enemies that fought a monthlong war in the summer of 2006. Israel considers the Iran-backed Shiite militant group its most serious immediate threat, estimating that Hezbollah has some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel.
Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has remained quiet but tense since the 2006 war.
But Israel discovered four years ago what it said was a network of tunnels built by Hezbollah along the border. Israel also frequently attacks targets in Syria, saying they are Iranian weapons deliveries headed to Hezbollah.