Israel Says It Thwarted a Hezbollah Raid at Lebanon Border

The Israeli military says it repelled a raid by Hezbollah in a disputed area along its northern border. Hezbollah denied carrying out an operation. No casualties were reported.

The Israeli military said Monday that it had thwarted a raid by a Hezbollah “terrorist squad” in a disputed area along its northern border with Lebanon, resulting in an exchange of fire that capped days of mounting tension there.

An Israeli military spokesman said that a small squad armed with assault rifles had crossed an unfenced section of the boundary into Israel by a few yards.

Israeli forces responded, firing small arms, tank guns and then artillery, the spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, said. The squad fled back into Lebanon, he said, and then fired back at Israel.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organization, denied that there had been an exchange of fire, saying the only firing had come from the Israeli side.

“Everything that the enemy’s media is claiming in terms of foiling an infiltration operation” is “absolutely not true,” Hezbollah said in a statement. “It is an attempt to invent false and mythical victories.”

No casualties were reported by either side.

Israel had been bracing for retaliation from Hezbollah since the killing of one of its operatives in a strike in Syria last week that was attributed to Israel.

Hezbollah said Monday that retaliation was still coming, as well as retaliation for the shelling on Monday. Lebanese television reported shelling near the Lebanese village of Kafr Shuba.

“The Zionists only need to continue waiting for the punishment for their crimes,” the Hezbollah statement said.

On Monday afternoon, amid preliminary reports of explosions, smoke and cross-border fire, the Israeli military instructed residents of northern Israel to remain indoors and closed roads in the area. But the restrictions were lifted less than two hours later, a sign that calm had been restored and an apparent indication that Israel did not intend to prolong the confrontation.

The events took place in the vicinity of Shebaa Farms — known in Israel as Mount Dov — a strip claimed by Israel, Lebanon and sometimes Syria near the intersection of all three nations and adjacent to the Golan Heights.

Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, had visited the northern border on Sunday as anticipation of a retaliatory attack by Hezbollah grew.

Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, reported that Israeli aircraft had fired rockets toward southern Damascus last Monday night, July 20. Though Israel rarely takes responsibility publicly for specific strikes, it has acknowledged carrying out scores of attacks aimed, it says, at preventing the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran to Hezbollah via Syria.

After last week’s strike on an ammunition depot near the Damascus airport, Hezbollah said that one of its operatives, Ali Kamel Mohsen, was killed in an act of “Zionist aggression.”

The killing appeared to violate informal rules of engagement between Israel and Hezbollah.

In recent years, Hezbollah has refrained from killing Israelis while Israel has largely avoided killing Hezbollah fighters in Syria. Both sides want to press their points while avoiding a war that could devastate Lebanon and Israel.

In a television interview on Sunday, Naim Qassem, the deputy secretary general of Hezbollah, described the Hezbollah fighter killed in Syria as a martyr and said the group would uphold the rules of engagement.

“The deterrence equation with Israel is standing,” he said on the Arabic news channel Al Mayadeen. “Amending or changing the rules of engagement or the deterrence equation are not on our agenda.”

Israel contends that Hezbollah, with Iran’s help, is trying to build a fleet of precision-guided missiles, which Israel considers a red line. Last August, an Israeli drone struck a building near Beirut that Israeli officials said contained machinery for making those missiles.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that officials were closely monitoring the situation in the north.

“Hezbollah needs to know that it’s playing with fire,” he said. “Every attack against us will be answered with great might.”

He said that Israel “will not allow Iran to entrench itself militarily on our border with Syria” and warned that “Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear responsibility for any attack” originating from Lebanese territory.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating, monthlong war in 2006. There have only been sporadic clashes across the Israel-Lebanon border in recent years.

Monday’s events came as many Israelis, largely barred from traveling abroad because of a spike in coronavirus infections, were vacationing in the north.

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