IDF said still on high alert in north amid prospect of further Hezbollah attack

Additional Patriot air defense batteries reportedly deployed to prevent drone strikes; terror group said seeking to avenge Beirut assault blamed on Israel

An Israeli soldier secures the village of Avivim on the Israel-Lebanon border, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
An Israeli soldier secures the village of Avivim on the Israel-Lebanon border, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Israeli military remained on high alert along the northern border Wednesday, bracing for further Hezbollah attacks, according to a television report.

The Air Force and Intelligence Branch in particular were maintaining their readiness, the Channel 13 report said. It noted that a new attack could bear different characteristics from Sunday’s assault, in which anti-tank missiles were fired at Israeli forces but caused no casualties.

Channel 12 news added that the army had deployed several more Patriot air defense batteries in the country’s north. The reason for the deployment was reportedly concern that Iran and Hezbollah will once again attempt to attack Israel with armed drones.

Hezbollah has indicated that the missile attack was in response to an airstrike by the IDF last month in Syria that targeted an Iranian-led plot to bomb northern Israel with armed drones. Several Iranian operatives, including two Hezbollah members, were killed in the strike.

A day after that attack, explosives-laden drones exploded in Beirut, reportedly hitting key components of the terror group’s precision missile program. Hezbollah blamed Israel for that incident, though Israeli officials have not commented, and London-based Asharq Al-Awsat has reported that the group views that attack as deserving of a separate response.

Spanish UN peacekeepers patrol along the Lebanese-Israeli border, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hezbollah’s failure to cause any injuries or deaths in Sunday’s attack — and its apparent embarrassment by an Israeli ruse that caused it to prematurely boast that it had drawn blood — are also seen as providing the organization with motivation to strike again.

Sunday’s attack saw a Hezbollah cell fire anti-tank missiles at an IDF medical vehicle as well as a guard post, the army said. The armored car was carrying five soldiers and narrowly missed being hit. A piece of shrapnel from the explosion of one of the projectiles hit a tire, forcing the vehicle to stop on the side of the road, the military said.

In response the Israeli military said its artillery cannons and attack helicopters fired approximately 100 shells and bombs at Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.

Following the attack, pictures and videos released in Israel showed two apparently injured soldiers being evacuated via helicopter from the scene. However Israeli sources later said this had been a ploy meant to trick Hezbollah into thinking it had caused casualties. Haifa’s Rambam hospital said the two soldiers were released without requiring medical treatment.

Israel apparently hoped that Hezbollah, thinking it had inflicted casualties, would conclude that it had retaliated sufficiently and hold its fire.

On Tuesday Lebanon’s prime minister disavowed any responsibility for Hezbollah’s actions, declaring himself unable to curb the organization’s activities.

Israel has warned that it will not differentiate between Lebanon and Hezbollah in a future conflict. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Israel Katz doubled down on this position.

In an interview with American cable news network CNBC Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Hezbollah was not only “a Lebanese problem” but rather “a regional problem.”

Hariri had tried to calm tensions during the escalation of hostilities earlier this week, urging the United States and France to intervene to prevent further violence.

Prior to Sunday’s exchange of fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had issued a warning to both Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the Lebanese government, cautioning them to “be careful what you say and be more careful what you do.”

Originally solely a military organization, Hezbollah has deepened and expanded its influence in Lebanon and has for years now been a part of the Lebanese government. Lebanese President Michel Aoun is seen as an ally of the terror group.

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