Hezbollah television channel al-Manar on Friday claimed Israeli ammunition was found in the Syrian battle zone border town of Qusair, but the IDF was quick to explain that the “bombs” are non-lethal and date back to before Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in the year 2000.
Al-Manar also claimed that Uzi guns, missiles, gas masks, and communication devices were found in the town, which was seized on Wednesday from rebel groups by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. The report seemed designed to underline Assad and Hezbollah claims that Israel is directly aiding rebel forces, something Israel firmly denies.
The Hezbollah-run channel claimed that the gas masks may have been distributed to the rebels fighting against Assad in order to protect them from noxious gases.
The channel also claimed that many 120mm mortar bombs “bearing Hebrew writing” were found in the former rebel stronghold. However, closer inspection of al-Manar’s footage showed that the “mortar bombs” depicted were actually non-explosive illuminating bombs.
The IDF confirmed later Friday that the bombs in al-Manar’s footage were illuminating bombs, with military sources saying the devices dated from before Israel’s pullout from its self-declared “security zone” in south Lebanon in 2000. Army sources also noted that the al-Manar footage gave no indication of where the bombs were located.
Ynet News quoted a source in the IDF as saying Hezbollah’s claim was “a desperate attempt to divert attention” from the terrorist organization’s own involvement in Syria.
“It’s an unsuccessful and fraudulent attempt,” he said.
The source stated that the “bombs” had probably been left behind in Lebanon after Israel’s withdrawal.
A similar incident occurred in May, when regime-linked Syrian news outlets reported that Assad’s army had captured an IDF jeep from rebels during heavy fighting in a town on the Lebanese border, touting the find as proof that Jerusalem was aiding the rebel forces.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson told The Times of Israel at the time that, based on the identification number seen in footage of the vehicle, the jeep had belonged to the now-defunct South Lebanon Army, and had been out of commission for more than a decade.
The SLA was supported by Jerusalem with weapons and equipment during Israel’s occupation of the so-called “security zone” in southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000.
The force quickly fell apart after Israel pulled out, with Hezbollah filling the power vacuum in the area.
In recent weeks, Hezbollah has joined Syria in its quest to defeat the rebels and end the bloody conflict which has torn the country apart and threatened to spill into neighboring Lebanon. Reports suggest Hezbollah has thousands of fighters alongside Assad’s forces.
On Friday, Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah fighters pressed on with their offensive in the country’s opposition heartland, taking two small villages near Qusair, the strategic town that was captured by the government this week. Buoyed by this week’s victories, Assad’s forces faced little resistance as they took control of the central villages.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.