Hezbollah Officials Say Israel Is Lying, Suffered Casualties in Flare-up

Lebanese media quotes Hezbollah officials as saying the group has footage of the flare-up which disputes Israel's claims, blast IDF for decoy maneuver

A vehicle of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon patrols the southern Lebanese village of Adaisseh on the border with Israel on September 2, 2019.
AFP

Top Hezbollah officials denied on Monday Israel's claim that it suffered no casualties in the fire exchanges with the Shi'ite group on Sunday, Lebanese television channel Al-Mayadeen reported.

Weeks-long tensions along the border reached a peak Sunday when several anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon at an Israeli army base and a military vehicle in Israel's north. The Israeli army said that some damage was sustained by the attack, but that no injuries were caused. 

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However, it later emerged that the Israeli military had carried out a diversionary maneuver that included evacuating bandaged soldiers to a hospital. After a missile hit the armored IDF vehicle, the army called in a helicopter to the scene and two soldiers were filmed being carried out on a stretcher. 

Rambam Medical Center in Haifa had announced the arrival of the two soldiers, and about an hour later, IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis announced that there were no Israeli military casualties. Manelis refused to comment on visuals showing the helicopter evacuating the soldiers to the hospital.

Al-Mayadeen's report said that Hezbollah is in possession of footage of Sunday's flare-up, and is willing to unveil it once its senior leadership approves the move in order to dispute the Israeli statements.

The report also cited senior militants of the Shi'ite group, who called the footage that circulated of Israeli soldiers being evacuated from the north an attempt at deceit.

The report claimed that Israeli helicopters made an emergency landing twice at the scene in order to transfer wounded soldiers to medical care. In the first stop, Israeli forces had transferred three injured soldiers; in the second stop they transferred two, Hezbollah said.

Hezbollah had hit an Israeli army vehicle that was driving down the road some two kilometers from the border, the report said. The vehicle was driving there, Al-Mayadeen reported, under the assumption that the area was not exposed. This, the report quoted Hezbollah officials as saying, proves that the group was successful in operating its advanced intelligence capacities.

Hezbollah used a Kornet missile that is capable of hitting armored vehicles like Israeli tanks, so it cannot be that there were no Israeli casualties after the vehicle suffered a direct hit, the group said.

Israel warns Lebanon, urges Germany to label Hezbollah a terror group

Also Monday, Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz conveyed a message to Lebanon in a telephone conversation with his German counterpart, threatening that if Lebanon doesn't halt Hezbollah's actions against Israel – "All of Lebanon will be hurt and gravely struck."

In his conversation with Heiko Maas, Katz discussed the recent escalation on Israel's northern border.

The minister said that Israel doesn't wish for an escalation, but it is prepared to respond forcefully to any attack emanating from the north, and will hold Lebanon accountable.

If the Lebanese government doesn't retrain the Shi'ite group it will pay a heavy price, Katz added. He called on Germany to sanction Hezbollah and designate it as a terrorist organization, like the U.K. did in February of this year.

Maas, on his party, said that he was concerned over Sunday's flare-up and hopes that it has come to an end; he noted that Germany perceives Hezbollah in the same way that Israel does, and is considering naming it a terror group in the near future.

The two agreed to hold further talks on security-related issues.