Hezbollah erects new watchtowers on Lebanon border as IDF builds defensive wall

18-meter tall observation post rises as UN peacekeeping force breaks up another tense standoff between Israeli and Lebanese soldiers on border

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

An alleged Hezbollah position overlooking the northern Israeli town of Shtula on the Lebanese border, January 23, 2023 (Channel 12 screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
An alleged Hezbollah position overlooking the northern Israeli town of Shtula on the Lebanese border, January 23, 2023 (Channel 12 screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group has established new tall observation posts on Israel’s northern border as the Israel Defense Forces has ramped up the construction of a defensive wall.

Residents of the northern town of Shtula who spoke to the Ynet news site and Channel 12 news said one such 18-meter-high tower, a few dozen meters from the border, had been constructed over the past month, right where the IDF was replacing its aging border fence with a nine-meter-high concrete wall.

The Israeli military has long accused Hezbollah of conducting clandestine activities along the Israel-Lebanon border under the guise of an environmental group known as “Green Without Borders,” and published details of one such new site last year.

Ynet’s northern correspondent reported that at least 20 posts manned 24 hours a day by Hezbollah members in civilian clothing have been built over the past year.

Some of the posts are just meters away from the internationally recognized border between the countries — known as the Blue Line — and IDF positions on the other side of the fence.

According to the IDF, the alleged Hezbollah positions represent a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war.

An alleged Hezbollah position overlooking the northern Israeli town of Shtula on the Lebanese border, January 23, 2023 (Ynet news screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The resolution calls for armed groups besides the official Lebanese military and peacekeeping United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to remain north of the country’s Litani River.

The IDF has made similar claims in recent years, identifying several observation posts owned by the supposed non-governmental organization, which the military said were actually being used to carry out intelligence and reconnaissance work for the Iran-backed terror group.

In 2017, the United Nations rejected Israel’s claim that Hezbollah was using the NGO as a front for its activities.

At the time, UNIFIL said that while Green Without Borders members have planted trees in the area, it “has not observed any unauthorized armed persons at the locations or found any basis to report a violation of resolution 1701.”

Lebanese men, whom the IDF says are members of the Hezbollah terrorist group, peer into Israel from an observation post near the border, as seen in images released by the military on June 8, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The reports Monday came as United Nation peacekeepers were seen breaking up a standoff between Israeli and Lebanese forces along the border, after the latter complained that Israeli engineering work crossed over the demarcation line, for the second time in a week.

Footage from the scene near the northern town of Margaliot showed armed Lebanese soldiers standing guard where Israeli soldiers had placed barbed wire.

UNIFIL forces were seen separating the two sides.

According to Lebanese media reports, UNIFIL had stopped the Israeli engineering works after complaints by the Lebanese army that they had crossed the international border, known as the Blue Line. The Blue Line is marked with blue barrels along the border and is several meters from the Israeli fence in some areas.

The IDF did not immediately provide a comment on the incident.

Israeli soldiers, Lebanese soldiers, and UNIFIL troops inspect IDF engineering work on the border between Israel and Lebanon, January 19, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Last week, engineering work was halted after an IDF excavator possibly crossed the Blue Line by several centimeters. UNIFIL troops have broken up several such standoffs between the IDF and the Lebanese Army in recent years.

The peacekeeping force 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 barrier with Israel, as the two countries technically remain at war.

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.

Work on the border wall with Lebanon began in 2018. By 2020, the military and Defense Ministry Borders and Security Fence Directorate had completed only 15 kilometers (9 miles) of concrete walling along the approximately 130-kilometer (80-mile) border in order to protect the 22 adjacent Israeli villages.

Eventually, the plan is to construct a barrier along the entire border — a project that would cost NIS 1.7 billion ($470 million).

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