After two weeks, Israeli man who crossed into Lebanon is returned to Israel

Civilian, said to be Arab Israeli man in his 30s, to be questioned by Shin Bet over incident; unclear why he crossed border

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

A United Nations tower is seen on border between Lebanon and Israel, near the village of Ghajar, in northern Israel, September 7, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
A United Nations tower is seen on border between Lebanon and Israel, near the village of Ghajar, in northern Israel, September 7, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

An Israeli citizen who crossed the border into Lebanon on January 30 has been returned to Israel by United Nations peacekeeping forces and the Red Cross, the military said Monday.

The civilian, reportedly an Arab Israeli man in his 30s, was returned by UNIFIL and the International Committee of the Red Cross through the rarely-used Rosh Hanikra Crossing, one of the few crossing points between Israel and Lebanon.

It was not immediately clear why he traveled to Lebanon. Upon his return to Israel, he was handed over to the Shin Bet security agency for questioning.

The Lebanon 24 news site at the time of the incident that the man climbed over Israel’s border fence near the Lebanese village of Zhayra, across the border from the Bedouin Israeli village of Aramsha.

The report said the man was questioned by the Lebanese Military Intelligence.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces was working to release another Israeli civilian who crossed into Lebanon on February 7.

Like the man returned Monday, hewas also thought to be held by the Lebanese army.

The IDF said the second man managed to cross the border undetected because of foggy and rainy weather conditions. The IDF only became aware of the incident after Lebanese media reported the man had been arrested by local security services.

The man, whose full name has not been released, apparently has a history of mental health problems and has repeatedly crossed into Lebanon. According to a military source, the first recorded crossing of the suspect into Lebanon was some 20 years ago.

The IDF said it was holding talks for his release with the Lebanese side via intermediaries, as the two countries technically remain at war.

The border fence between Lebanon and Israel, as seen from the village of Ghajar, in northern Israel, September 7, 2022. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

In 2021, an Arab Israeli youth in his 20s from a Bedouin village in the Negev crossed into Lebanon. He was returned about a month later.

The border with Lebanon has been somewhat tense in recent weeks, with the Hezbollah terror group establishing new tall observation posts as the IDF ramps up the construction of a defensive wall.

United Nation peacekeepers have also broken up several standoffs between Israeli and Lebanese forces along the border, after the latter complained that Israeli engineering work crossed over the demarcation line.

The peacekeeping force, UNIFIL, has been in Lebanon since 1978. Composed of nearly 10,000 soldiers, it is deployed in the south of the country — a stronghold of Hezbollah — to maintain a buffer between it and Israel.

The terror group has long been the IDF’s most significant adversary on Israel’s borders, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.

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