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IDF girds for possible Hezbollah clash during border fence construction

Army reportedly believes Lebanese terror group may try to take advantage of concentration of Israeli forces in area to launch attacks

A soldier at the border fence between Israel and Lebanon (photo credit: Hamad Almakt/Flash 90)
A soldier at the border fence between Israel and Lebanon (photo credit: Hamad Almakt/Flash 90)

The IDF is reportedly preparing for the possibility that Hezbollah may seek to launch an attack against Israeli forces during the construction of a new border fence along the northern front, slated to begin next month.

According to Hebrew media reports Sunday, the army believes that the Lebanese terror group may seek to take advantage of the large concentration of Israeli soldiers along the border to launch an attack.

The IDF’s Northern Command believes that Hezbollah may claim Israel violated the 2000 United Nations approved border as a pretext to strike, the Haaretz daily reported.

The purpose of the fence, which will stretch from Metulla to Misgav Am in the east and Hanita to Rosh Hanikra in the west, is to prevent the infiltration of Hezbollah operatives seeking to carry out terror attacks into Israel.

In recent years, Israel has carried out a series of construction projects along the border — including fences and artificial cliffs — in order to boost its defenses against Hezbollah.

While scheduled for some time, the upcoming work along the border comes amid heightened tensions in Israel’s north.

Last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against attacking Lebanon or Syria, saying “hundreds of thousands” of Arab and Muslim fighters would be ready to strike back.

“The Israeli enemy should know that if it launches an attack on Syria or Lebanon, it’s unknown whether the fighting will stay just between Lebanon and Israel, or Syria and Israel,” Hassan Nasrallah said.

Hezbollah has significantly built up its weapons stockpile since the 2006 war and has upgraded its arsenal to about 150,000 missiles, Israeli officials say. Israel also fears that some advanced surface-to-sea and anti-aircraft weapons systems have reached Hezbollah from Iran.

Israel has reportedly sent messages to Iran via Europe warning it against continuing to expand Hezbollah’s war-fighting capabilities against Israel in southern Lebanon.

Also last week, Israel called on the UN Security Council to take action against Hezbollah, saying the Lebanese terror group is establishing observation posts along the border under cover of a purported environmental NGO.

UN envoy Nikki Haley and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on the Lebanese border, June 8, 2017. (David Azagury/US Embassy Tel Aviv)
UN envoy Nikki Haley and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on the Lebanese border, June 8, 2017. (David Azagury/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

In a letter, Israel’s envoy to the UN, Danny Danon, pointed to an incident in April, in which a patrol of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was denied access to an observation post flying the flag of the NGO “Green Without Borders,” by a group of locals.

Hezbollah’s purported use of such facilities under cover of the NGO is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War in August 2006.

The letter came on the same day that IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Hertzl Halevi released video and photographs the IDF said showed the installations in question.

The United Nations later rejected Israel’s claims.

Israel has long criticized what it considers UNIFIL’s failure to disarm or meaningfully challenge Hezbollah, as required by the force’s mandate.

UNIFIL is an international force created by the Security Council in March 1978, to maintain quiet along the border between Israel and Lebanon. Since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the force has also been charged with monitoring the cessation of hostilities between the two countries, supporting Lebanese troops deployed in the south of the country, and ensuring humanitarian access to civilians in the region.

The 15,000-strong UN force is also charged with ensuring “the immediate cessation” of attacks by Hezbollah, and of ensuring “the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations.”

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