Lebanese lawmaker leads group across Israeli border; IDF fires warning shots

Group is chased back, does not cross barrier; Hezbollah-affiliated reporter says the 18 people, many of them journalists, joined parliamentarian for tour of border

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

Lebanese journalists are seen facing Israeli troops after crossing into sovereign Israeli territory on the border, July 15, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Lebanese journalists are seen facing Israeli troops after crossing into sovereign Israeli territory on the border, July 15, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)

A group of Lebanese, including a parliamentarian, crossed the border into Israeli sovereign territory on Saturday morning, before being chased back to Lebanon by the Israel Defense Forces who fired warning shots.

In a statement, the IDF said troops fired warning shots and used riot dispersal means after the group of some 18 people crossed the so-called Blue Line in the contested Mount Dov region. The group walked some 80 meters into Israeli territory but not did not breach Israel’s border barrier.

According to Ali Shoeib, a Hezbollah-affiliated correspondent, a group of journalists had joined MP Qassem Hashem, a member of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party in Lebanon, for a tour of the border area.

The IDF said that it only fired warning shots and used riot dispersal means after the group refused to leave the area. Eventually, they returned to Lebanon.

The incident appeared to be the latest in a series of actions along the northern border, most of them instigated by the Hezbollah terror group, that have raised tensions in recent months.

On Friday, the IDF said troops 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.

On Wednesday, the IDF detonated a non-lethal explosive charge after Hezbollah members attempted to damage Israel’s border fence. In another area, Hezbollah activists climbed an Israeli military tower on the border and stole surveillance equipment. And in a third incident Wednesday, IDF troops fired warning shots at a group of Hezbollah activists who launched fireworks and set fires near Metula, during a protest to mark 17 years since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

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

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

And in early June, two tents manned by armed Hezbollah members were discovered on Israeli territory in the contested Mount Dov region. One tent was removed after Israel sent a message to Hezbollah threatening an armed confrontation if it did not remove the outpost soon.

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 but the Lebanese government and Hezbollah say 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.

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.

In April, 34 rockets were fired from southern Lebanon at Israel, in an attack Israel blamed on a wing of the Palestinian Hamas terror group in the area, rather than Hezbollah.

Separately, in March, the IDF blamed Hezbollah for sending a terrorist to infiltrate Israel from Lebanon and plant a bomb at a junction in northern Israel. The blast seriously wounded one Israeli man.

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