Israeli Airstrikes Blast Hezbollah Weapons Cache, Militant Group Denies Attacks Took Place

The Israeli airstrikes reported late Monday blasted what is now being called a "qualitative" weapons shipment headed for a Hezbollah base near the eastern Bekaa Valley town of Janta, an area notorious as an arms-smuggling rout between Lebanon and Syria, according to reports in Lebanese media.

But Hezbollah, a militant group responsible for numerous terror attacks against Israeli and other targets over the past three decades, says that no such airstrikes took place. On its own Lebanon-based satellite television network, al-Manar, a Hezbollah statement said that while there was what it called "a strong presence of enemy planes over the area north of Bekaa," that "no raid on Lebanese territory" occurred.

But witnesses in the area reported smoke clouds rising from the area where the Israeli airstrikes were said to have hit.

Israeli warplanes fired four rockets at a convoy of trucks carrying ballistic missiles from Syria to a Hezbollah base in the airstrike, killing several members of the organization, named by the U.S. as a terrorist group. Accounts of the airstrikes were carried in reports by the Saudi-based news organization Al-Arabiya, as well as by the French Press Agency. But those accounts remain unconfirmed.

The Lebanese military has also so far stopped short of confirming that the Israeli airstrikes took place, saying the reports were still under investigation.

Israel, for its part, remained tight-lipped Tuesday about the reported airstrikes against Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was asked about the reports during a press conference at which he was hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Israeli airstrikes
Israeli airstrikes reportedly blasted a shipment of missiles from Syria to a Hezbollah base in Lebanon Monday.

"Our policy is clear — we will not speak about reports of what we did or didn't do," said Netanyahu. "But we do all that is necessary in order to defend our citizens."

But Netanyahu has earlier warned that Israel would take measures to prevent what he called "game changing" weapons from reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon. While the reports are also unconfirmed by the Israeli government, Israel is said to have carried out airstrikes on arms shipments to Hezbollah three times over the past year.

This week, Israel's military chief Lt. General Benny Gantz said that Iran, which backs both Syria and Hezbollah, was "handing out torches to the pyromaniacs." He added that Israel has developed "advanced abilities" to preempt weapons from reaching Hezbollah.

One former Israeli military official, Eyal Ben-Reuven, told ABC News that he did not expect Hezbollah to retaliate for the Israeli airstrikes reportedly carried out Monday, simply because the militant group is directing most of its resources toward fighting on the side of Syria's government in that country's civil war.