After Lebanon border fire, Israel threatens ‘forceful response’ to any attack
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After Lebanon border fire, Israel threatens ‘forceful response’ to any attack

Gantz says country will not let Hezbollah leader harm troops; PM warns terror group ‘putting Lebanon at risk’ by attacking Israel after IDF bombed posts in response to sniper fire

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF howitzers fire flares and smoke shells near the Lebanese border on August 26, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)
IDF howitzers fire flares and smoke shells near the Lebanese border on August 26, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Israeli leaders threatened a forceful retaliation Wednesday to any further attacks along the Lebanese border after the military said the Hezbollah terror group fired shots at Israeli troops operating along the frontier the night before.

No soldiers were injured in the attack. The Israel Defense Forces retaliated with airstrikes on Hezbollah observation posts along the border — the first such bombings since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

“We will not allow [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah to harm our soldiers or our country. We will respond forcefully to any incidents on our border,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, speaking to new recruits at the military’s induction center.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu similarly threatened harsh retaliation against further attacks by Hezbollah.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz at the military’s recruitment center at the Tel Hashomer base outside of Tel Aviv on August 26, 2020. (Jorge Novminski/GPO)

“Israel views the gunfire against our troops by Hezbollah with great severity. We will not tolerate any aggression against our citizens and will respond powerfully to any attack against us,” Netanyahu said.

“I recommend to Hezbollah not to test the strike force of Israel. Hezbollah is again putting Lebanon at risk because of its aggressiveness,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, Hezbollah had yet to comment on its alleged sniper attack or the IDF’s retaliation to it. Israel lifted security restrictions following its reprisal and told area residents asked to remain indoors overnight that they were free to return to normal activity, indicating the army sees the immediate threat as having passed.

In his comments to the new recruits, Gantz also discussed the military’s strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning in response to ongoing airborne arson attacks from the enclave, which caused dozens of fires in southern Israel on Tuesday.

“Last night, the security challenges have continued, both on the northern and southern fronts. We will continue to work to restore complete quiet to our southern region,” the defense minister said.

An Israeli soldier extinguishes a fire in a field close to the southern kibbutz of Nir Am, near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 25, 2020, after it was set off by incendiary balloons launched from the Palestinian enclave. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

On Tuesday, the Qatari envoy to Gaza visited the enclave in a bid to ease tensions between Israel and terrorist groups in the Strip. Doha has reportedly agreed to provide tens of millions of dollars in relief funds to the beleaguered Gaza Strip as part of a ceasefire agreement between the two sides.

The Lebanon border incident appeared to be yet another attempt by the Hezbollah terror group to exact revenge against Israel for the deaths of one of its fighters who was killed outside Damascus in an airstrike on July 20 attributed to the IDF.

On July 27, the IDF said it thwarted another apparent Hezbollah sniper attack, driving the terrorist operatives back across the border with Lebanon before they could open fire at Israeli troops. In the weeks that followed, the military also said it prevented at least one other infiltration and brought down a Hezbollah drone flown into Israeli territory from Lebanon.

After initially bracing for these retaliation attempts by Hezbollah with additional troops deployed along the border, the IDF began scaling down its reinforcements following the massive explosion at the Beirut Port earlier this month. The military believed that the terror group — a major power broker in Lebanese politics — would focus its intentions on Lebanon’s domestic issues rather than carry out its revenge on Israel, though Hezbollah maintained that its retaliation was still to come.

The Tuesday night incident also came exactly one year after the IDF killed two Hezbollah members in an airstrike on an Iran-controlled facility in Syria that the military said was used to launch attacks on Israel with explosives-laden drones.

According to the IDF, the shots were fired from Lebanon at IDF troops stationed at an outpost near the community of Manara in the upper Galilee at 10:40 p.m.

The Israeli military fires flares into the sky over the Lebanese border on August 25, 2020. (Courtesy)

“In response to the gunfire, IDF attack helicopters and aircraft struck terror targets belonging to the Hezbollah terror group,” the IDF said, adding that among the targets were Hezbollah observation posts along the border.

No IDF soldiers were injured, and there were no immediate reports of casualties in Lebanon.

Though this appeared to be the first time that Israeli aircraft directly targeted Hezbollah sites inside Lebanon since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the IDF has fired artillery and tank shells at the terror group’s positions in the interim 14 years in response to attacks on the border. These were typically done in the immediate aftermath of a Hezbollah attack to prevent potential additional operations rather than punitive measures.

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