Hezbollah on Monday denied carrying out any attack or exchanging fire with Israeli forces along the Israel-Lebanon border, hours after the Israel Defense Forces announced it thwarted an infiltration by members of the terror group, which set off border clashes but injured no Israelis.
The Iran-backed terror organization also said it would respond at a future date to the killing of one of its fighters in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.
Israeli defense officials scoffed at the terror group’s denial, saying the infiltration attempt was filmed by military security cameras and that the operatives who took part in it were armed. The Israel Defense Forces said it was considering releasing the footage from the incident.
In a statement read aloud on its al-Manar television network, Hezbollah said: “All that the enemy claims in the media about thwarting an infiltration operation from Lebanese territory into occupied Palestine, as well as talk of the fall of martyrs and wounded Hezbollah members in bombing operations that took place in the vicinity of the occupation sites in the Shebaa Farms — is absolutely false.”
It asserted that “these announcements are absolutely false attempts to generate illusory and fake victories.”
“The Islamic Resistance affirms that there has been no attack or shooting on its part. Rather, it was only one party, which was the fearful, anxious and tense enemy,” it said, adding that “the enemy is running scared both on the ground and in the media, scared of its own shadow.”
Appearing to indicate the matter is not over, the Lebanese terror group said its response to the death of its fighter — Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad — in an alleged Israeli raid in Syria “is definitely coming. The Zionists have only to wait for their crimes to be punished.”
It also said that it will respond to Israel’s artillery fire that took place during Monday’s border clashes in which a home in southern Lebanon was damaged.
The statement came shortly after the IDF announced it foiled a Hezbollah attack in the Mount Dov area on Monday afternoon, opening fire at a number of fighters from the terror group that entered Israeli territory.
No Israeli soldiers were injured, and the IDF denied Lebanese media reports that a Kornet anti-tank guided missile was fired at an Israeli tank on Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms, an area that Israel, Lebanon, and Syria each claim as its own.
IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said at least some members of the Hezbollah cell fled back to Lebanon, but added: “We don’t know their conditions for sure at this point.”
The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news outlet reports that no Hezbollah fighters were killed during the failed attack.
Though a tense calm returned to both sides of the border following the incident and all security restrictions on Israeli civilians were quickly lifted, Zilberman said the military considered the event to be ongoing, with the possibility of additional attacks. The military maintained its own roadblocks in the area, preventing IDF vehicles from traveling on certain highways along the border that were considered vulnerable to attack from Lebanon.
Despite the Hezbollah official statement, the Reuters news agency cited a member of the terror group who said that the attempted Hezbollah assault was in retaliation for the death of its fighter in Syria.
Zilberman said the military did not yet know if Hezbollah would consider this failed attack to be a sufficient form of revenge, but that the IDF would remain on high alert for the time being.
“Tense and complicated days are before us,” he said.
Zilberman said it was not yet clear how many fighters were in the Hezbollah cell, but said it appeared to be three or four.
According to Zilberman, the Hezbollah cell entered a few meters into Israeli territory before troops opened fire with machine guns, tanks and artillery cannons, driving them back into Lebanese territory.
Zilberman said the Hezbollah members were spotted shortly before they crossed the border and were tracked the entire time they were inside Israeli territory.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were both informed about the incident and traveled to the military’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the developments with the IDF top brass. Meanwhile, IDF Chief Aviv Kohavi oversaw the incident from the Northern Command’s headquarters in Safed.
“We are in a difficult security situation,” Netanyahu said, as he left a Likud party meeting as the incident began.
Netanyahu and Gantz were set to give a press statement on the incident on Monday evening.
The Israeli military initially ordered residents of communities near Mount Dov and along the Israeli-Lebanese border to remain inside their home, closed all roads in the area, and ordered all farmers, hikers and tourists to immediately leave all open areas and farm lands. After an hour, the IDF removed these restrictions, permitting civilians in northern Israel to move about the area freely.
Following Hezbollah’s claim last Tuesday that Israel had killed its fighter the day before, the IDF went into high alert on the northern border, deploying infantry reinforcements on the ground, as well as additional Iron Dome missile defense batteries.
The skies above northern Israel were filled on Sunday and Monday with the sound of fighter jets, drones and helicopters, apparently collecting intelligence and preparing to retaliate for any attack.