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Hezbollah fire was intended to avenge Syria strike, not Beirut drones — report

Fighting may not be over, in light of terror group chief Nasrallah’s threat on Saturday to also exact payback for alleged Israeli attack in Beirut

A man fixes a Hezbollah flag at the 'Garden of Iran' Park in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras on September 1, 2019, as fires blaze on the Lebanese side along the border following an exchange of fire with Israel. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)
A man fixes a Hezbollah flag at the 'Garden of Iran' Park in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras on September 1, 2019, as fires blaze on the Lebanese side along the border following an exchange of fire with Israel. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

Missile fire from Hezbollah that hit an IDF vehicle in northern Israel on Sunday came in response to an IDF airstrike in Syria a week earlier that killed two of the group’s members, an Arabic daily reported Monday, leaving still unavenged an alleged Israeli drone attack on the terror group’s Beirut stronghold and leading to speculation that the current round of violence may not yet be over.

According to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, citing sources linked to the terror group, the two or three anti-tank missiles that Hezbollah shot at IDF vehicles and a base, causing no casualties, were meant to exact revenge for an Israeli airstrike last Saturday night that targeted an Iranian-led plot to bomb northern Israel with armed drones. That airstrike killed several Iranian operatives, among them two Hezbollah members.

The terror group said the cell that carried out the missile strike on Sunday was named for its two fallen operatives: Hassan Zabeeb and Yasser Daher, who the IDF has said were Lebanese nationals trained by the Iranian military to operate attack drones.

The IDF also said Sunday that it was not yet sure if the missile attack amounted to the full extent of Hezbollah’s retaliation for the killing of the two drone operators.

Hassan Yousef Zabeeb, left, and Yasser Ahmad Daher, two Hezbollah members killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria to thwart a plot to launch armed drones into Israel, seen flying to Iran from Lebanon in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday had also threatened revenge for last month’s incident in which a drone that the group says was Israeli crashed on the roof of Hezbollah’s media office in southern Beirut, while another exploded and crashed nearby. The Iranian-backed group said both drones were armed with explosives and were carrying out an attack mission.

Nasrallah indicated that the response to the drone incident would be the downing of Israeli drones that breach Lebanese airspace.

According to reports, one drone damaged an industrial mixer used by Hezbollah to produce precision missiles. Hezbollah has denied that claim and said a media office was damaged.

A speech by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah is transmitted on a large screen in the Lebanese capital Beirut’s southern suburbs on August 31, 2019. (Photo by ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

Hezbollah had vowed revenge for the killing of Hezbollah members in Syria and the drone attack, though some senior members of the group admitted that the response would be designed so as not to drag the sides into all-out war.

Israel had girded for Hezbollah’s response, pulling troops away from the border and ordered civilians to prepare shelters.

Calm appeared to be restored to the border region late Sunday, but tensions have persisted amid international calls for restraint.

No Israelis were hurt in the attack, though the army apparently staged an evacuation of “wounded” soldiers, leading Hezbollah to claim that it had killed and maimed several troops.

The army said the Wolf armored vehicle, which holds up to eight people, was destroyed and that the army base outside Avivim was damaged.

Smoke rises near the community of Avivim following an anti-tank missile attack from Lebanon on September 1, 2019. (Courtesy)

In response to Sunday’s attack, on a battalion headquarters outside of the northern Israeli community of Avivim and at military vehicles nearby, the Israeli military said its artillery cannons and attack helicopters fired approximately 100 shells and bombs at Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.

An IDF spokesperson said the military considered the “tactical event on the ground” to be over as of Sunday evening, but that the larger strategic threat posed by Hezbollah on the border remained. The IDF remained on high alert Sunday evening, officials said.

Judah Ari Gross and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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