Jerusalem - Israel is bracing for retaliation from neighbouring countries following a series of drone attacks on Lebanon, Syria and Iraq which have been attributed to the Jewish state.
The military is on high alert and troop reinforcements have been sent up north to the Israeli border with Lebanon while the Israeli air force is patrolling the skies.
A series of deadly drone attacks over the weekend targeting Iranian-backed militias, including members of Lebanese group Hezbollah on the Syria-Iraq border, left a number of alleged militants dead, including high-ranking military leaders from Iran’s Quds Force which is part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC).
Two other drones packed with explosives also targeted the Beirut headquarters of Hezbollah, with one explosion causing damage but no casualties.
Israel claimed responsibility for one of the attacks, contrary to its usual policy of not commenting, saying it had preempted a planned drone attack by Syria and Iraq-based Iranian militias on northern Israel after Qassem Solomeini, the commander of the IRGC, promised revenge for numerous Israeli attacks on Iranian interests in Syria – and in particular the most recent ones on Iraq.
The US also put the responsibility for one of the attacks on Israel, fearing that it would jeopardise US forces currently based in Iraq which are working with Iraqi security forces.
Following the targeting of Hezbollah headquarters in Beirut, Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday told Jan Kubis, the United Nations' special coordinator for Lebanon, that the Israeli strikes were a “declaration of war” that justified a military response.
"This allows us to resort to our right to defend our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity," he added in a statement released by his office.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri added that while his government wanted to avoid an escalation with Israel, the international community needed to reject Israel's "blatant violation" of Lebanese sovereignty.
"The Lebanese government sees it best to avoid any sliding of the situation towards a dangerous escalation but this requires the international community affirming its rejection of this blatant violation," Hariri told the ambassadors of the UN Security Council's five permanent members.
Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also condemned the air strikes which took place in Iraq calling them an attack on Iraqi sovereignty while a powerful bloc in Iraq's parliament has called for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
However, the most ominous threat has come from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah who has warned Israelis to expect retaliation, which he said is only a matter of time, after he accused the Israelis of crossing a red-line by carrying out attacks on Lebanese territory. Previously the Israelis had only used Lebanese territory as a launch-pad for numerous attacks over the years on targets in neighbouring Syria.
Nasrallah is regarded by the Israelis as credible when it comes to following through on his threats, especially after they have been made public as his latest threat was when he addressed a crowd in Beirut after the targeting of his organisation's offices.