Hezbollah members seen stealing Israeli surveillance tech from border tower

Military says suspects posed no threat to residents of nearby town of Metula; incident Wednesday is latest in series of terror group ‘provocations’

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

Hezbollah activists climb an Israeli surveillance tower on the border with Lebanon, July 12, 2023. (Social media: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Hezbollah activists climb an Israeli surveillance tower on the border with Lebanon, July 12, 2023. (Social media: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hezbollah activists climbed an Israeli military tower on the border and stole surveillance equipment, new footage from a Wednesday flareup along the frontier showed.

Images and videos posted to social media on Wednesday and Thursday showed a number of men climbing on a surveillance structure, which Israel maintains is on its side of the border, placing flags, and tearing down military cameras, which they carry off intact.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement Thursday that a number of suspects climbed on the security barrier near the northern town of Metula, “while trying to carry out provocations toward IDF forces and sabotage infrastructure in the area.”

The IDF said the suspects did not cross into Israeli territory and were not a threat to residents of the area.

The IDF said the flags were later removed from the tower by military sappers.

It was unclear if the cameras stolen by the Hezbollah activists contain sensitive spy technology.

A picture posted by a Hezbollah-affiliated correspondent Friday showed the tower emptied of any equipment. It was unclear if the cameras had been removed by Hezbollah or Israel.

The incident came hours after Hezbollah members attempted to damage Israel’s border fence with Lebanon in another area. The IDF detonated a non-lethal explosive charge in the area, lightly wounding three of the Hezbollah members.

Israeli forces also fired warning shots at a group of Hezbollah activists who launched fireworks and set fires near Metula earlier on Wednesday, during a protest to mark 17 years since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the IDF said troops again fired warning shots and used riot dispersal means after a number of Lebanese suspects hurled stones toward the border. The small group eventually left the area, a military spokesperson said.

The incidents appeared to be the latest in a series of Hezbollah actions along the northern border that have raised tensions in recent weeks.

Two tents manned by armed Hezbollah members were discovered in early June on Israeli territory north of the internationally recognized border (the so-called Blue Line) in the contested Mount Dov region, also known as the Shebaa Farms. One tent was removed after Israel reportedly sent a message to Hezbollah threatening an armed confrontation if it did not remove the outpost soon.

Last week, an anti-tank missile was fired from Lebanon at the contested village of Ghajar, causing no injuries.

In another incident last week, dozens of Lebanese soldiers along with some Hezbollah members crossed into Israeli territory without passing the border fence itself, before eventually heading back, Army Radio reported.

And last month, Hezbollah said it shot down an Israeli drone flying over a village in southern Lebanon.

The boundary between Israel and Lebanon, known as the Blue Line, is marked with blue barrels along the border and is several meters from the Israeli fence in some areas, which Israel says is built entirely within Israeli territory.

The Mount Dov area was captured by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War and later effectively annexed along with the Golan Heights. The Lebanese government says the area belongs to Lebanon.

Israel has relayed requests via the UN to have the tents removed, while in response, Lebanon and Hezbollah have demanded that Israel withdraw from Ghajar in response to Israeli demands to move the remaining tent.

The border fence between Lebanon and Israel, as seen from the village of Ghajar, in northern Israel, January 13, 2023. (Issac Harari/Flash90)

Ghajar, the only Alawite-majority settlement in Israel, was part of the territory captured from Syria in 1967 and was effectively annexed by Israel in 1981 together with the Golan Heights.

Following the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and the demarcation of the Blue Line, the village was split in two, with the northern half coming officially under Lebanese control. Israel regained control over the entire village during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and residents have repeatedly objected to the potential division of the village and annexation of its northern half to Lebanon.

The town remained a closed military zone for more than two decades, with special permission required for nonresidents seeking to enter or exit. In September, with the construction of a barrier north of the village to block the entrance from Lebanon, access restrictions were lifted.

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

Agencies contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: