The IDF began placing concrete barriers along Israel’s border with Lebanon in preparation for an expected Hezbollah attack in retaliation for the assassination — reportedly by Israel — of the terrorist Samir Kuntar in mid-December.
On Tuesday, barriers were placed along a section of Route 899, the mountainous road that follows the border between Israel and Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon.
The latest addition to the border follows months of bolstered fortifications along the border, along with other security measures.
The IDF has ordered farmers in the Metullah area not to approach the border fence, and bolstered the forces deployed to protect Israeli towns and village near the Lebanese border.
The moves accompany an escalating war of words between the Lebanese group and Israel.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Ei
senkot warned on Monday that any Hezbollah attack would bring swift retaliation and “severe consequences.”
“We stand ready for every challenge,” he said, one day after a Sunday night speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who vowed revenge for the alleged IDF airstrike that killed Kuntar in a Damascus suburb.
“The retaliation for Samir’s assassination will inevitably come,” regardless of the “repercussions,” Nasrallah said in a lengthy televised address marking a week since the death of Kuntar, according to a translation by Lebanese news site Naharnet.
In his speech Monday, Eisenkot said Israel faced a “complex defense reality” because of the multi-front Syrian war, but said the IDF was prepared to counter any threat.
“Even across our borders, in the face of the threats heard in the north, we stand ready for every challenge. And as we’ve proven in the past, we know how to find those who wish us ill. Our enemies know that if they try to disturb the security of Israel — they will face severe consequences,” the army chief said during a military ceremony in Gelilot, north of Tel Aviv.
Kuntar shocked the Israeli public in 1979 when he killed 31-year-old Danny Haran in front of his four-year-old daughter Einat, before killing the little girl by bashing her head with the butt of his rifle. The killings took place as part of a terror raid on the northern Israeli town of Nahariya. During the attack, Danny’s wife, Smadar, hid with their second daughter, age 2, in a closet. But as she attempted to keep the little girl quiet by covering her mouth, she accidentally suffocated and killed her.
Kuntar was released in 2008 as part of an exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers being held by Hezbollah.
Eisenkot did not refer to the terrorist group by name, alluding only to a threat from the north. The IDF has not taken credit for the airstrike that killed Kuntar, though Israeli officials have expressed satisfaction at the result, claiming that the terrorist was planning fresh attacks against the Jewish state.
The strike against Kuntar, which also killed some eight other operatives, was the latest in a string of alleged Israeli actions in Lebanon and Syria in recent years.
Although officials rarely acknowledge the scope of Israel’s actions in Syria, or admit to specific strikes, one official on Monday reportedly confirmed that the Israeli Air Force had struck a Syrian shipment of advanced Russian-made missiles bound for Hezbollah.
“We won’t allow such things,” Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold was quoted as saying in an interview with the Saudi newspaper Elaph. “Israel won’t allow [harm] to its sovereignty and won’t allow advanced Russian anti-aircraft weapons, SA-22 missiles, which can threaten our aerial supremacy, to be transferred to Lebanon.”
Shortly after the Elaph report came out, the Foreign Ministry denied that Gold had admitted to the strike. “In the interview with the Saudi newspaper, Dore Gold clarified that Israel won’t allow the transfer of game-changing weapons to Hezbollah and won’t let it be fired upon from Syria,” the ministry said in a statement.