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Fighting on Lebanon Border as Tensions Rise Between Israel and Hezbollah

2020-07-27 15:11:00

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Monday that it had thwarted a raid by a Hezbollah “terrorist squad” in a disputed area along its northern border with Lebanon, resulting in an exchange of fire.

An Israeli military spokesman said the squad, armed with assault rifles, had crossed an unfenced section of the boundary into Israel by a few yards when Israeli forces engaged with it, firing small arms, tank guns and then artillery.

The spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, said several members of the squad fled back into Lebanon, and he did not have any information about their condition. He said there were no casualties on the Israeli side.

In Lebanon, local television stations reported shelling at the border near the Lebanese village of Kafr Shuba in the afternoon.

The confrontation came after days of tension along the border. Israel had been bracing for retaliation from Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organization, since the killing of one of its operatives in a strike in Syria last week that was attributed to Israel.

Neither the Lebanese government nor Hezbollah commented immediately on the fighting.

On Monday afternoon, amid the preliminary reports of explosions, smoke and cross-border fire, the Israeli military instructed residents of northern Israel to remain indoors and closed roads in the area. But the restrictions were lifted less than two hours later, a sign that calm had been restored and an apparent indication that Israel did not intend to prolong the confrontation.

The events took place in the vicinity of Shebaa Farms — known in Israel as Mount Dov — a strip claimed by Israel, Lebanon and sometimes Syria near the intersection of all three nations and adjacent to the Golan Heights.

Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, had visited the northern border on Sunday as anticipation of a retaliatory attack by Hezbollah grew.

Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, reported that Israeli aircraft had fired rockets toward southern Damascus last Monday night, July 20. Though Israel rarely takes responsibility publicly for specific strikes, it has acknowledged carrying out scores of attacks aimed, it says, at preventing the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran to Hezbollah via Syria.

After last week’s strike on an ammunition depot near the Damascus airport, Hezbollah said that one of its operatives, Ali Kamel Mohsen, was killed in an act of “Zionist aggression.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday afternoon that he, Mr. Gantz and the army chief of staff were closely monitoring the situation in the north. “Our policy is clear,” he said. “First, we will not allow Iran to entrench itself militarily on our border with Syria.”

“Second,” he added, “Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear responsibility for any attack against us that originates from Lebanese territory. Third, the I.D.F. is prepared for every scenario. We are operating in every arena for Israel’s security, close to our borders and far from our borders.”

Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating, monthlong war in 2006. There have only been sporadic clashes across the Israel-Lebanon border in recent years.

Monday’s clash came as many Israelis were vacationing in the north, largely barred from traveling abroad because of a spike in coronavirus infections.

Adam Rasgon contributed reporting from Tel Aviv, and Vivian Yee from Beirut.


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