After an apparent exchange of fire on the Israel/Lebanon border, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Lebanese Hezbollah fighters not to test the resolve and capabilities of the Israeli military, and Defence Minister Benny Gantz has promised a powerful response to any Hezbollah attack.
Although the other details of the incident remain in doubt, Israeli forces opened fire on the disputed Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanese border on Monday. They claim that they were responding to an infiltration attempt by a Hezbollah “terrorist cell” from Lebanon.
Al Jazeera reports that:
A resident of the town of Khiam, 5km (2 miles) from Lebanon’s southern border, told Al Jazeera she heard about two dozen explosions and witnessed large columns of smoke rising near Mount Hermon on Monday.
An Israeli shell smashed in a civilian home, narrowly missing a family in the house at the time, but nobody was hurt.
“The shelling that took place today on the village of Al-Habbariyeh and damage to a civilian’s house will not be tolerated at all,” Hezbollah said.
Hezbollah officials denied an infiltration attempt, saying in a statement that Israeli forces had taken “nervous action” and that there were no operatives present in the area when the Israeli forces opened fire.
All the enemy media claims about thwarting an infiltration operation from Lebanese territory into occupied Palestine … is absolutely not true,” a Hezbollah statement said.
The armed group attributed the incident to “the state of terror experienced by the Zionist occupation army and its settlers at the Lebanese border” over an expected response to the killing of the Hezbollah fighter. LINK
In a televised address from Tel Aviv on Monday evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu insisted that Hezbollah were lying and the infiltration attempt was genuine.
Netanyahu warned the Shi’ite military group that it is “playing with fire,” and stated that “Hezbollah and Lebanon bear full responsibility for this incident and any attack from Lebanese territory against Israel.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz – appearing alongside the PM – threatened that any operation against Israel will draw a “powerful” military response. LINK
Whether the Lebanese militants actually crossed the border or not on Monday, Israel has been preparing for a confrontation for several days now. Reinforcements were rushed to the frontier last week after Israeli warplanes killed a Hezbollah fighter in Damascus, Syria, an act that the organization has vowed to avenge.
On July 26, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) deployed M109 Doher howitzers near the separation line with Lebanon. Earlier, the 13th “Gideon” Infantry Battalion of the IDF’s 1st “Golani” Brigade reinforced troops near the border. The number of Israeli Hermes 450 drone reconnaissance flights over southern Lebanon has also increased significantly, and additional IDF units have been deployed around the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
Israel and Hezbollah last engaged in open war along the border in 2006, with the month-long conflict killing more than 1,100 Lebanese and 165 Israelis. Since then, sporadic exchanges of fire have broken out, most recently in September 2019, when Hezbollah launched a volley of rockets into an Israeli military base in retaliation for an Israeli drone attack. Israel responded with an artillery barrage, and no casualties on either side were confirmed.
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