Israeli Army Says Thwarted Hezbollah Infiltration Attempt Along Lebanon Border

Lebanese group denies 'false' Israeli account of incident in disputed border area, which follows the death of a fighter last week in an airstrike attributed to Israel

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Smoke rises above a Shaba Farms village in southern Lebanon following an exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah, July 27, 2020.
Smoke rises above a Shaba Farms village in southern Lebanon following an exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah, July 27, 2020.Credit: Gil Eliahu

>> UPDATE: Israel-Lebanon border incident ended with a tie. It may not be enough for Hezbollah

The army said Monday 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.

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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.

Monday's clash comes after the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi'ite group vowed to avenge the death of one of its fighters, who was reportedly killed in an airstrike on pro-Iranian militants in Syria that a war-monitoring group has attributed to Israel.

In its Monday evening statement, Hezbollah said its response to the operative's killing "will definitely come," and warned that "Zionists only have to wait for punishment for their crimes." They added that Hezbollah would also respond to reported damage to a civilian house in the Lebanese village of Habbariyeh.

Lebanese media reported during the exchange of fire that a shell had fallen on a house in the town.

The spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman, said about five Hezbollah operatives had crossed several meters into Israel on Monday but fled back into Lebanon after Israeli forces opened fire.

Zilberman said their condition was unknown and no Israeli soldiers had been hurt. Earlier, he said there had been an incident on the Lebanese border in the Har Dov area, also known as Shaba Farms, in the Golan Heights.

The Hezbollah-linked Al Mayadeen satellite television channel  reported that Hezbollah had targeted an Israeli vehicle with a Kornet guided missile.

Speaking to Reuters, Lebanese sources confirmed that Hezbollah had carried out an operation against the IDF in the disputed Shaba Farms area. One source said this came in response to last week's killing of the Hezbollah fighter near Damascus International Airport.

"We are in the middle of a complicated event," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday before leaving Jerusalem to visit military headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he was joined by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

A reporter for the Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar network later reported that Israel had attacked near Kfarchouba on the Lebanese side of the border, north of Har Dov.

For just over an hour, the IDF ordered all residents of the border area to remain indoors as the army closed major roads. But within two hours the situation had returned to normal, with the Lebanese media  reporting that the mood was also calm in villages in southern Lebanon.

Israeli airstrikes that hit military posts south of Damascus last week killed five foreign fighters and wounded several others, the Syrian war monitor reported. The airstrikes reportedly came in response to an attack on the Golan Heights that the monitor attributed to Syrian forces. 

On Sunday, Hezbollah's deputy secretary general, Naim Qassem, said the organization had no intention of divulging “precise details” of how it would respond to “Israel’s aggression.”

The Israeli military stops traffic near the border with Lebanon following a reported exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah, July 27, 2020.
The Israeli military stops traffic near the border with Lebanon following a reported exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah, July 27, 2020.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Qassem dismissed the prospect of an escalation of violence between the Iran-backed movement and Israel despite increased tensions in the last week.

“There’s no change in the rules of the game and the formula for our response,” he told Al Mayadeen. “A balance of deterrence against Israel exists, and we don’t intend to change this balance.”

Qassem also confirmed that Israel had sent Hezbollah a message via the United Nations. On Saturday, Al Mayadeen reported that Israel told Hezbollah it had not intended to kill the operative in last week’s airstrike, which was aimed at combating Iran’s presence in Syria.

Israeli forces on the border with Lebanon on July 27, 2020
Israeli forces on the border with Lebanon on July 27, 2020Credit: AFP

The IDF has taken a number of steps to increase preparedness after the incident a week ago.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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