Hezbollah supporters set Lebanese minefield alight near northern Israeli border town

Explosions heard in north; no injuries reported; IDF soldiers said to disperse crowd marking 17 years since Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon

Smoke rises from a field set on fire by Hezbollah supporters near the Israeli border town of Metulla, May 25, 2017. (Screenshot)
Smoke rises from a field set on fire by Hezbollah supporters near the Israeli border town of Metulla, May 25, 2017. (Screenshot)

Supporters of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah marking the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon 17 years ago set fire to a field along the Israel-Lebanon border near the northern Israeli town of Metulla on Thursday, setting off several mines.

Explosions were heard in the area as Israel Defense Forces responded to the incident, Israel Radio reported.

Soldiers were said to have dispersed the crowd on the other side of the border, apparently by firing shots into the air. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

A video from the scene posted by an Israel Radio reporter showed smoke rising from the field, as a number of IDF soldiers gathered near the fence.

Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon began on May 23, 2000, ending 18 years of presence in the country since the start of the First Lebanon War in 1982. The pullout was completed over two days.

Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, gained strength and power after the withdrawal, engaging in a 38-day war with Israel over the summer of 2006 after a cross-border raid that killed eight IDF soldiers and saw the capture of two reservists, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were critically injured and later died. Their bodies were returned to Israel in 2008 in a prisoner deal with Hezbollah.

Over that summer in 2006, 160 Israelis were killed, a majority of the them soldiers, and over 1,000 Lebanese lost their lives, including hundreds of civilians.

Tensions between Hezbollah and Israel have remained high since then with both sides warning that the next round of violence would be costly to the other party.

Hezbollah has been bogged down in nearby Syria, fighting alongside the Iranians and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has been closely monitoring the group’s defenses and capabilities and a number of airstrikes on weapons convoys over the six-year Syrian civil war have been attributed to Israel, which has vowed to prevent Hezbollah from attaining advanced weaponry from Iran via Syria.

Israel has made efforts to bolster the Israel-Lebanon border area, a project which has been under way for some time. In 2012, a seven-meter (23-foot) high wall separating Israel from Lebanon near Metulla was completed. The 1,200-meter-long (3,937-foot) wall is outfitted with sophisticated cameras and sensory equipment aimed at preventing infiltration. Last year, Israel put up a concrete wall near Kibbutz Misgav Am in the north.

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