Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that his Shi'ite group will retaliate for drone attacks last week in Beirut that he has attributed to Israel "in every possible place along the border."
"Our response for last week's events will be [launched from] within Lebanon against Israeli targets. We usually strike in the area of the Shebba Farms [Mount Dov]," but this time the group will not limit its attacks on one area, he added.
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The Israeli military bolstered troops on the northern border over the weekend over the concern that such a retaliatory attack will take place.
The movement of combat soldiers in the area has been restricted, and extra battalions have been brought in as reinforcement alongside armored corps and artillery corps soldiers already stationed there.
The Israeli defense establishment still believes the Shi'ite group is determined to respond to the attack, but is not interested in sparking a war. Nonetheless, security forces are preparing for the possibility of a violent round of fighting that could lead to another strike in Lebanon. Aerial defense batteries have been deployed in the north to thwart drones and other umanned aerial vehicles that terror organization may try to launch to attack Israel. The Israeli army has also instructed that the airspace near the northern border be closed off. The Israel Navy, meanwhile, is preparing for possible attacks on Israeli vessels.
On Saturday, local residents reported seeing many troops moving around the area of the Golan Heights, and said they saw tanks and armored personnel carriers. Illuminating bombs were fired overnight on Friday near the Druze village of Majdal Shams, and Lebanese media outlets reported that the bombs had caused fires to break out in the area.
The Israeli military began preparing for a retaliatory attack by Hezbollah following an attack Sunday morning, which the group claimed Israel had carried out: Two explosive-laden drones hit a machine designed to improve precision missiles, which was being operated in Dahieh – a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut. The Israeli defense establishment assessed that Hezbollah would try to retaliate but would react moderately; the army minimized patrols along the borders with Lebanon and Syria in order to avoid presenting possible targets for the group to attack.
Earlier this week, Nasrallah called the crashed drones a clear display of aggression by Israel, the first since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He added that the Israel Defense Forces should expect an immediate response. Hezbollah's conflict with Israel is entering a new phase, Nasrallah said, and the group will down any Israeli unmanned aircraft in Lebanese airspace.
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Kassem added afterwards that the group will respond to the drone attack in Beirut unexpectedly, but that they are not interested in war with Israel. Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that the drone strikes amount to a "declaration of war," and that Lebanon has the right to defend its sovereignty in light of the attack. On Wednesday, the Lebanese army announced that it shot at three IDF drones that entered Lebanese territory.
In an exceptional move, the Israeli military revealed Thursday details about Hezbollah's project to increase the accuracy of its missiles, aided by Iran's Quds Force, which has been accelerated in past months. According to the IDF, they publicized the project in order to deny Hezbollah the opportunity to hide the project's site in Lebanon.
The timing of the revelation may be intended to send a message to Hezbollah that if it responds to the last attacks attributed to Israel, the missile accuracy project may take the hit. The IDF believes that revealing the site of the project will give legitimacy to Israel to strike them in the event of tension between Israel and Hezbollah, and hope that Arab countries will act to stop the project.
During the last round of escalations between the two sides, in 2015, Hezbollah launched anti-tank missiles at a hillside of Mount Dov, killing an IDF officer and soldier. The missile attack was a response to strikes attributed to Israel in the Syrian Golan, which killed senior Hezbollah leader Jihad Mughniyeh and an Iranian general.
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