Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Tuesday that Israel had violated his country’s sovereignty with what he called a “dangerous military escalation” after Israeli and Hezbollah forces traded cross-border fire Monday.
“I call for caution in the coming days because I fear that things will get worse in light of severe tension at the border,” Diab tweeted.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Hezbollah was “playing with fire” in comments shortly after Israel’s military said it thwarted an attempt by the militant group to sneak across the border.
“Hezbollah and the state of Lebanon bear full responsibility for this incident and any attack that comes from Lebanese territory against the state of Israel. … Any attack against us will be answered with great force,” Netanyahu said. “(Hezbollah chief Hassan) Nasrallah already made a big mistake in estimating Israel’s determination to protect itself, and the state of Lebanon paid a heavy price for it. I recommend it not repeat that mistake.”
The Israeli army said a small squad of armed men tried to infiltrate Israeli territory from the Shebaa Farms region — an area Israel captured in the 1967 war and that Lebanon claims.
Forces on both sides exchanged fire for about an hour, but no casualties were reported.
Hezbollah denied that any of its fighters were involved in Monday’s incident and accused Israel of trying to “invent illusive victories.”
The Hezbollah statement warned that retaliation for last week’s Israeli airstrike in Syria that killed a Hezbollah fighter “is definitely coming and the Zionists should remain waiting for the punishment for their crimes.”
Israel considers Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Lebanon, to be its most immediate terrorist threat.
A United Nations truce ending a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah has generally held. But Middle East experts say because of the coronavirus pandemic and Lebanon’s economic crisis, neither side is willing to fight another all-out war.