IDF troops did not kill Hezbollah operatives in order to reduce tensions

Military has footage of failed attack ‘from numerous angles,’ will likely release in coming days

The IDF soldiers who engaged with the Hezbollah cell that infiltrated into Israel on Monday had been ordered not to kill them, in an attempt to reduce tensions with the Lebanese terror group, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Sources with knowledge of the incident said that the military did not want the terrorists killed in Israeli territory where the IDF would hold onto them, leading to the terror group firing rockets towards the Galilee in retaliation.

“If Hezbollah would fire rockets, targeting civilians along with IDF soldiers, we would have no choice but to respond and we would find ourselves in a war,” the source said.

According to the IDF, the Hezbollah cell, numbered between three and five armed men, crossed a few hundred meters into Israeli territory before IDF troops opened fire at the operatives, who were seen sprinting back into Lebanese territory.

“The terrorists, who are seen armed in the video, crossed the border. They knew where they were,” the source said, adding that they were meters from the IDF’s Gladiola outpost when they were engaged by troops.
The Post’s sister publication Maariv reported that the cell had been spotted moving slowly toward Israel and had been under surveillance for several hours before its members crossed into Israel and were engaged by IDF , who fired in their direction to drive them back into Lebanon where they were picked up by a waiting car.

The military has footage of the failed attack from several angles, including showing the cell climbing up Har Dov in the contested Sheeba Farms area. The IDF will likely release the footage in the coming days.

Hezbollah denied that such an attack had taken place and vowed to avenge the death of one of the group’s members, who was killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.

Nevertheless, the army does expect the Shia terror group to carry out an attack against it along the border with Lebanon and so remains on high alert, anticipating an attack before or around the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha which begins on Thursday.

On Tuesday evening, residents in several communities along the border in the Western Galilee were instructed to remain in their homes, after several suspects were seen near the security fence close to the community of Shtula.

The all-clear was given around an hour and a half later, after troops determined that there had been no breach in the fence.

Earlier in the day, following a situational assessment, the military reinforced the northern command with advanced weapons systems along with powerful intelligence-gathering systems and specialized units. According to sources, the reinforcements include precision-fire systems, combat intelligence-gathering units and specialized infantry units.

The reinforcements join an infantry battalion and additional Iron Dome missile defense batteries that had been deployed earlier.

While all restrictions have been lifted for civilians, military vehicles are still prohibited from traveling on certain highways and roads along the border that are considered vulnerable to attack from the terror group.

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Commander Maj.-Gen. Stefano del Col said Wednesday that he is doing his best to prevent an escalation between Israel and Hezbollah. He met earlier in the day with the Lebanese Army’s chief of staff as well as the head of the Lebanese Intelligence Services in an attempt to prevent another attack by Hezbollah.

UNIFIL spokeswoman Andrea Tenenti told the Post on Tuesday that an investigation has been opened into the incident, and force commanders have been “in touch with both sides to decrease tension and prevent a misunderstanding.”

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