Tensions are running high on Israel’s northern front after a cell of Hezbollah militants managed to briefly infiltrate Israeli territory before retreating back into Lebanon.
The incident occurred around 3:30 PM yesterday afternoon, when three or four Hezbollah operatives set off from the Shi’ite Muslim border village of Shuba toward Israel through the rocky region of Mount Dov. They were detected by a young female intelligence observer from the IDF’s Division 91, who immediately directed an IDF force to the area. A short time late, Israeli military light infantry and tanks opened fire from a distance of just several dozens of meters at the Iranian-backed cell, which fled back into Lebanon. The IDF also fired numerous smoke shells toward the area of Mount Dov as part of tactical maneuvers to end to a brief exchange of fire between the two sides.
The IDF Spokesperson to Arab world Avichay Adree said no injuries were sustained to the Israeli troops, who “ruined” Hezbollah’s planned attack. He further asserted that the nation’s defense establishment will remain “on high alert and will continue to do its job according to the needs. We won’t not allow the violation of Israel’s sovereignty or it’s people.”
In a quickly-issued statement read on its Al-Manar television affiliate, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah quickly issued a statement blatantly denying there had been failed cross-border incursion into Israel, while insisting the Israeli allegation was an attempt to fabricate false and fictitious victories. The statement also vowed to retaliate for the death of a Hezbollah operative killed in a 20 July aerial strike in Syria that destroyed several Iranian military installations.
“The Islamic resistance confirms that there has been exchange of fire or confrontation on its part in the events of today,” read an Al-Manar news anchor, continuing that “It was all one sided and it was by an enemy that is afraid, terrified and worried. Our response to the martyrdom of our brother Ali Kamel Mohsen who died in the Zionist attack in the Damascus airport region is definitely coming and the Zionists should be waiting for the punishment of their crimes.”
An Israeli intelligence source explained to TV7 that ‘while the IDF did not confirm nor deny involvement, Hezbollah attributed full responsibility to Israel and vowed to perpetrate an act of retribution, which ultimately lead to yesterday failed cross-border incursion.’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a press conference during which they warned Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah against forcing Lebanon into war with Israel because of his patrons in Tehran.
“Israel will continue to take action against Iran’s efforts to entrench militarily in our region. Nasrallah is embroiling Lebanon – because of Iran,” said Netanyahu. He added that Israel views the attempted infiltration “with utmost gravity” and reiterated that “Hezbollah and the State of Lebanon bear full responsibility for this incident and for any attack against the State of Israel emanating from Lebanese territory.”
The Israeli Premier then warned that, “Hezbollah needs to understand that it is playing with fire. Any attack against us will be met with great strength. Nasrallah already made a major mistake (in the past) in underestimating Israel’s determination to defend itself and Lebanon paid a heavy price for this (2006). I suggest that he not repeat this mistake.”
Israel’s top defense official also utilized the opportunity to commend the military for its swift and effective response. “IDF combat soldiers and their commanders responded with professionalism and precision, and prevented what could have been a difficult incident that could have cost lives. Israel is determined as ever to prevent its sovereignty, and its soldiers, from being harmed, and all the more so, its citizens,” said Gantz.
The Israeli Defense Minister, who formerly served as the army’s Chief of Staff, went on to underscore that, “Lebanon and Syria are sovereign nations and they will be held painfully accountable for any terror activity from will emanate from their territories. Anyone daring to test the IDF’s abilities is putting himself, and his host country, in jeopardy. Any action taken against the State of Israel will prompt a powerful, fiercely, and painful response. I would like to state clearly: The IDF is prepared to respond, the IDF is prepared to retaliate. The State of Israel, the security establishment and the IDF will continue to act wherever necessary, however near or far.”
As is the case in all theaters of conflict, civilian communities suffer most. One Israeli smoke shell reportedly caused minor structural damage after striking a private home in the Lebanese village of Habbariyeh. Scores of Israelis are said to have cancelled vacation plans to the north of the country over fear of a possible escalation, although many residents of the area voiced confidence in the IDF’s ability to protect them. Sleliad Strassnan told Reuters that he is going about his daily routine and not taking the situation too seriously at the moment, while Vlada Gilbrut & Igor Sokolove said they feel safe whenever there are flare-ups on the border as the Israeli army has always been there to “save us.”
A heightened state of alert along Israel’s northern border primarily in terms of intelligence gathering and aerial protection is being maintained by the IDF, and likely to continue until the Eid al-Adha Muslim feast on Thursday.
Jerusalem relayed a message to Hezbollah through a third party to emphasize its wish to dispel tensions along the border, although intelligence officials nevertheless caution that Hezbollah does not consider the incident as having ended.