Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group has established over a dozen new observation posts all the way along Israel’s northern border in recent weeks, according to a Saturday television report.
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 earlier this month.
Channel 12 news’s northern correspondent reported that at least 15 posts, which are manned by Hezbollah members 24 hours a day, have been built in recent weeks. They each include an observation post or tower and two or three residential and logistics buildings.
Some of the posts are just meters away from the internationally recognized border between the countries — known as the Blue Line — and the Israel Defense Forces positions on the other side of the fence. One such post was recently built close to the site of the deadly Hezbollah border attack on Israeli soldiers that sparked the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
“Hezbollah is basing itself on the confrontation line. They are trying to camouflage it as activities of a ‘green’ organization, but it is clear to us who is behind these [sites] and the people who operate in the area,” Lt. Col. Avshalom Dadon, commander of the IDF’s 601st engineering battalion. told Channel 12.
Another senior officer said that some of the Hezbollah members — dressed in civilian clothing — man the sites while armed.
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) June 25, 2022
The network said two more sites — dozens of meters from the border — were being built in recent days. Earlier this month, the head of the IDF’s Northern Command said Hezbollah had recently stepped up construction of military infrastructure near the border.
“We can see the operatives approaching the border area. We know them: their names, where they come from and where they are working. When the time comes, they will pay the price,” Maj. Gen. Amir Baram said.
Baram vowed that the IDF will “destroy all the infrastructure” in question and “will reduce it to nothing.”
In some recent incidents, Lebanese men hurled stones at soldiers patrolling the border and damaged infrastructure related to the fence, the Channel 12 report said.
According to the IDF, the alleged Hezbollah positions represent a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war.
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 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.”
Tensions with Lebanon have recently escalated, after Hezbollah’s leader threatened Israel over plans to extract gas from a contested offshore reserve, saying that his organization is capable of preventing such action, including by force.
Israel and Lebanon are currently at odds over rights to the Karish gas field, which the Israeli government claims is in its UN-recognized exclusive economic zone, while Lebanon asserts that the waters are disputed.
Talks over the field have been frozen since last year, after Lebanon tried to move its claim further into the zone Israel claims as its own. But Beirut requested the return of US energy envoy Amos Hochstein earlier this month after Israel moved a natural gas rig into its Karish offshore field.
The arrival of the vessel, operated by London-based Energean, provoked anger from Lebanon.
Israel has said it is “prepared to defend” the facility. The IDF has also deployed naval forces to the area, including a sea-borne Iron Dome anti-missile battery, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
Earlier this month, the IDF held a major military exercise in Cyprus, simulating a ground offensive deep inside Lebanon in a potential war against Hezbollah.
The terror group has long been the IDF’s most significant adversary, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.
The exercise’s main goal was to simulate halting Hezbollah rocket fire on Israel amid a major escalation, through a ground offensive in Lebanon. According to military officials, the only way to achieve such a goal was to be “significantly present” in the areas where attacks are being launched from, keeping the enemy far from the border.
A week before that, the IDF’s Home Front Command practiced a simulation in which Israeli cities could be bombarded with 1,500 rockets a day, resulting in 80 sites being heavily damaged with some 300 casualties, during a several-day flare-up with Hezbollah.