Israel Not Planning Preemptive Strike Against Hezbollah, Army Source Tells Al Jazeera

'Israel does not strive for a confrontation with Hezbollah and our top priority is preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria,' army official says amid rising tensions along Lebanese border ■ Israeli army denies claims in report

Jack Khoury
Yaniv Kubovich
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Israeli soldiers along the Lebanese border, July 2020.
Israeli soldiers along the Lebanese border, July 2020.Credit: Ariel Schalit/AP

Israel has no intention of executing a preemptive strike against Lebanon's Shi'ite militant organization Hezbollah amid recent tensions along the border, an Israeli army official told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

The official was quoted as saying that "Israel does not strive for a confrontation with Hezbollah, and our top priority is preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria," and added that Israel would "Forcefully react to any attack by Hezbollah, and its targets would also be infrastructures in Lebanon."

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He added that preparedness along the border would continue "For as long as necessary." However, the Israeli army Spokesperson's Unit denied the comments and said the military was "prepared for every scenario."

Tensions have recently flared up along the Israeli-Lebanese border following the killing of a Hezbollah operative in Syria, whose death was attributed to an Israeli strike near Damascus two weeks ago.

Last week, the Israeli army said it had foiled an attempt by Hezbollah to infiltrate into Israel, adding that all residents of the border area had been ordered indoors for an hour after an exchange of artillery fire between the two sides.

Hezbollah denied in a statement the Israeli account, saying it did not engage in any clashes or open fire. "Everything claimed by the Israeli media and the IDF about a Hezbollah infiltration... is an attempt to invent false Israeli victories," the movement said.

The Israeli military assessments increasingly expect that Hezbollah is preparing to retaliate for its fighter's killing.

The army has been preparing for this possibility, and following a situation assessment by the chief of staff and the head of the military's Central Command has decided to take a number of steps to up preparedness along the border.

Intelligence and Air Force units were also instructed to increase preparedness. In a number of towns in the north, roads that pass through exposed areas were closed and alternate routes made available. The military has also decided to reduce the number of troops and equipment at the front lines and erect more effective defenses in case of a security event.