The Israeli government announced it traded fire with Hezbollah terrorists at the Lebanese border yesterday and says that its forces are engaged in “ongoing combat” with the terrorists.
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s spiritual leader and military commander, has vowed to avenge the death of a Hezbollah fighter who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria last month. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed the nation’s military on high alert just last weekend.
The terrorists are denying any border incursion into Israel.
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But numerous reports from Israeli civilians and sources in Lebanon confirm the clash took place.
Local media reported an exchange of fire in an area known as Chebaa Farms, which was captured by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war and is claimed by Lebanon. Most of the Israeli civilians were ordered to remain indoors amid the heaving fighting between the bitter rivals in nearly a year.
Residents near the border said the fighting lasted about an hour and that there was a series of explosions.
Even the mother of the dead Hezbollah fighter thanked Nasrallah for avenging her son’s death.
The IDF must have bloodied Hezbollah’s nose in that clash. And Netanyahu made it clear that Hezbollah will not take Israel by surprise.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement he, his defense minister, and chief of staff are “constantly monitoring what is happening on our northern border.”
He added: “Our policy is clear. First, we will not allow Iran to entrench militarily on our border with Syria. …Second, Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear the responsibility for any attack against us emanating from Lebanese territory. Third, the IDF is prepared for any scenario. We are active in all arenas for the security of Israel – both close to our borders and far from them.”
The point of incursion by the terrorists is significant. Shebaa Farms is recognized as Syrian territory by the UN, but Israel claimed it after the 1967 war and Lebanon believes Syria stole the farms from them. Like so much else about the Middle East, it all depends on your point of view.
In truth, Nasrallah’s denial may be honest. Hezbollah’s command structure is haphazard and it’s possible that someone didn’t get the message to stand down. Similar miscommunication led to the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon War as Hezbollah border troops tried to kidnap IDF soldiers as part of a plan to swap four Lebanese being held by Israel. In doing so, they triggered an Israeli response that led to airstrikes and a ground invasion. It was never clear who ordered that incursion, although the Israelis held Nasrallah responsible.
Lebanon is embroiled in its worst political and financial crisis in its history. The pandemic isn’t making things any better. Nasrallah would be a fool to tempt Israel into a massive retaliation. It’s a war he knows he couldn’t win and it may lead to catastrophic political consequences.