Israel Reinforces Northern Border After Syria Strike Kills Hezbollah Member

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Paratroopers Brigade soldiers carry out an exercise in Israel's north, January 28, 2020.
Paratroopers Brigade soldiers carry out an exercise in Israel's north, January 28, 2020.Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The Israeli army released a statement Thursday saying it was increasing its presence on Israel's northern front after reports from Syria attributed to Israel a Monday strike on Damascus that killed a Hezbollah fighter.  

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel attacked by pro-Iranian militia targets on Monday, and a Syrian military source told Reuters that at least sevent soldiers were wounded and that the strike caused heavy damage.

Hezbollah-aligned media later reported that the strike killed a fighter from the Lebanese Shi'ite militia who hailed from 'Itit in southern Lebanon.

After the strike Monday, Syria's official news agency reported that its air defenses in Damascus were activated against "enemy targets" in the skies over the capitol.

Hezbollah has threatened Israel with a military response over the strike. The Israeli army believes the organization will try to maintain the balance it has in recent years, in which every killing of a militant prompts a riposte. 

Israel has bolstered troops along the Lebanese border and the Golan Heights out of the assumption that Hezbollah may attempt to strike from within Syria.

Earlier this week, Hezbollah posted a video showing members of a combat unit warning Israel against a counter-attack. The group's last response to a strike attributed to Israel in Lebanon was to fire an anti-tank missile at an Israeli army vehicle, and the military is now preparing for a similar scenario alongside other ones.

About three weeks ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israel carried out strikes in Syria's al-Bukamal region, on the Iraqi border, twice in one day. The organization said that at least 15 pro-Iranian militia members were killed in the two strikes, which targeted militia posts east of Deir al-Zor.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah had vowed in the past to retaliate for any fighter that Israel kills in Syria. The group fired a barrage of anti-tank missiles into Israel on September 1 last year after two of its fighters were killed in an Israeli airstrike near Damascus days earlier.

That prompted a reprisal of heavy Israeli artillery fire in a rare burst of fighting between the bitter enemies. Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006 that ended in a draw.

Last month, Syria's official television station said that regime air defenses thwarted an Israeli strike. According to the report, the attack occurred in al-Suweida in the southeast and Deir al-Zor in the east.

The Syrian army said that the al-Suweida attack killed two soldiers and wounded four, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported five members of pro-Iranian militias killed in the Deir al-Zor attack.     

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