JERUSALEM -- Four rockets were fired toward northern Israel from southern Lebanon on Thursday for the first time in nearly two years, according to the Israeli military. The rocket fire set off sirens in the western Galilee and raised tensions in the region against the background of the conflict in Syria.
The Israeli military said its Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one of the rockets between the Israeli coastal towns of Acre and Nahariya. Two fell between buildings in Israeli villages, damaging property but causing no injuries. Another appeared to have fallen in an open area.
Capt. Eytan Buchman, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said Israel suspected that the rockets were launched from the village of Qlayleh near Tyre in southern Lebanon by what he described as "global jihadist elements," meaning radical Islamic militants.
"We see this as an unprovoked attack on the Israeli home front," Captain Buchman said, adding that the Israeli military was "prepared for any eventuality."
The airspace over northern Israel was temporarily closed as a precaution.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement that Israel was "acting responsibly" in the realms of defense and prevention and that Israel's policy was clear. "Anyone who hurts us, anyone who tries to hurt us should know that we will hurt them," he said.
The Lebanese Army said in a statement that an "unknown group" fired the Katyusha rockets from an area south of Tyre. An army unit searched the area and found four wooden launching pads, the statement said, adding that the army was investigating to find the perpetrators.Any indication that Hezbollah, the militant Shiite organization in Lebanon, was involved in the latest rocket fire would signal a more serious risk of an escalation of violence. Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets at Israel during a 34-day war in 2006 that left more than 1,000 Lebanese and several dozen Israelis dead. A fragile cease-fire has since prevailed between Israel and Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and is now helping the Syrian government in its fight against rebel forces.
In April, Israel shot down a drone off the coast of its northern port of Haifa that it suspected had been sent by Hezbollah, most likely either on a surveillance mission or to test Israel's response and embarrass the government.
Rockets fired from southern Lebanon, apparently by a small group, last struck northern Israel in November 2011. The fact that Israel said it suspected jihadist elements this time suggested that the latest rocket fire was also an isolated incident.
Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the chief spokesman for the Israeli military, said on Army Radio that given the location from which the rockets were fired, Israel believed that it was "a one-time event." He added that the jihadists were trying "to drag Israel into the chaos in the Middle East."
Aviv Oreg, a former head of the Qaeda and global jihad desk in Israel's military intelligence, said he believed that the Lebanese branch of a group calling itself the Abdallah Azzam Brigades was responsible for Thursday's rocket fire.
Once every year or two the group's members fire at Israel, Mr. Oreg said, "to show that they exist and to heat up the border."
The border between Israel and Lebanon has been mostly quiet since 2006.
Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.