Israel Beefs Up Forces Along Lebanon Border Amid Growing Tension With Hezbollah

Lebanese group denies Israeli account of border incident, but says its response for a fighter's killing in an airstrike attributed to Israel is 'yet to come'

Yaniv Kubovich
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Smoke billows above the edges of southern Lebanon's Kfarchouba village reports of clashes in the Lebanese-Israeli border area, on July 27, 2020.
Smoke billows above the edges of southern Lebanon's Kfarchouba village reports of clashes in the Lebanese-Israeli border area, on July 27, 2020.Credit: AFP
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israeli army said on Tuesday it will reinforce troops on the Lebanese border, a day after it reported an attempted Hezbollah attack and an exchange of fire, preparing for further action by the Lebanese group.

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Military officials say they expect yet another move from Hezbollah after Monday's incident in a disputed border area in the Golan Heights.

Hezbollah denied through Lebanese media on Monday that the organization was involved in the incident on the border and claimed that it was mocked up by Israel to allow Hezbollah to market it to the organization's operatives as its response to the death of one of its members. A proper response from Hezbollah “is yet to come,” they said.

Israel’s defense establishment maintains that the incident involved a Hezbollah cell crossing into Israeli territory to carry out an attack on one of the Israel Defense Forces positions near the fence or to fire at military vehicles in the Har Dov area.

Israeli defense officials say they have enough evidence, namely footage from the incident, to support their account of it. They say the footage shows the Hezbollah unit tried to avoid being seen by Israeli forces.

Israeli soldiers by their vehicles near the northern town of Rihaniya, near the border with Lebanon, July 24, 2020.
Israeli soldiers by their vehicles near the northern town of Rihaniya, near the border with Lebanon, July 24, 2020.Credit: JALAA MAREY / AFP

At this stage, Israel has refrained from publishing the footage, which officials say proves their version of events.

Political and military officials decided to allow the unit to return to Lebanon, but not all those involved agreed with the decision. Some thought Israel should not have let the armed group cross back alive, but such a scenario might have escalated the situation further.

Some Northern Command officials regard Hezbollah's statement as an indication the group takes responsibility for the incident.

Israeli soldiers by their vehicles near the northern town of Rihaniya, near the border with Lebanon, July 24, 2020
Israeli soldiers by their vehicles near the northern town of Rihaniya, near the border with Lebanon, July 24, 2020Credit: AFP

Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Tuesday commented on Israel's operation, saying that Lebanon "Condemns the Israeli attack in southern Lebanon. What happened yesterday is an injury and a threat to stability in southern Lebanon, mainly because it comes against the background of the upcoming Security Council discussion to renew UNIFIL's mandate." Lebanon's government tasked its foreign minister with filing a complaint about the "Israeli assault on the south" to the UN Security Council.

At a press briefing on Monday at the army headquarters in Tel Aviv, alongside Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned  that “Hezbollah is playing with fire,” and that “Any attack against us will be answered with great force.”

“Lebanon and Syria are sovereign states and carry full responsibility for any terrorism activity that may occur in their area,” Gantz said.

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