BEIRUT: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hezbollah was “playing with fire” after border clashes on Monday. The Lebanese Shiite group denied all involvement.
Netanyahu said that Hezbollah and the Lebanese government “bear responsibility” for the attempt by gunmen to infiltrate Israeli territory, which resulted in an exchange of gunfire but no reported casualties.
“Hezbollah is playing with fire and our response will be very strong,” the Israeli premier said.
His remarks came as the head of the UNIFIL mission, Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Cole, urged both the Lebanese and Israeli sides to exercise maximum restraint after the Hezbollah attack on Monday, which reportedly targeted an Israeli military patrol.
Hezbollah’s operation was in response to the Israeli airstrike south of the Syrian capital, Damascus, on July 20, killing Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad, a member of Hezbollah.
Jawad was the first Hezbollah fighter to die in Syria since the group’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah warned in August 2019 that “the death of any Hezbollah fighter in Syria will cause a response from Lebanon.”
Lebanese reporters stationed along the southern border for days in an anticipation of a response from Hezbollah said that “a Kornet missile attack targeted an Israeli vehicle, while gunfire targeted an Israeli car in the Ruwaysat Al-Alam region in the Shebaa Farms.”
A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Avichay Adraee, said: “The Israeli army thwarted a sabotage operation planned and carried out by a Hezbollah cell of 3 to 4 members who advanced a few meters into a sovereign Israeli area. No casualties were recorded among Israeli soldiers, while the health condition of the infiltrators remains unknown.”
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz had said on Sunday that “Israel does not seek escalation but will firmly respond to any attack targeting it.”
The Israeli artillery responded by shelling Lebanese border areas with the Lebanese National News Agency (NNA) saying that “155 millimeter shells targeted the eastern heights of the town of Kafr Shuba and the Ruwaysat Al-Alam area for an hour, causing fires.”
Ruwaysat Al-Alam has a Lebanese Army base and a UNIFIL base.
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