The army on Friday reported damage to the border fence with Lebanon in several locations, but said that no one had crossed into Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces did not detail the damage to the fence, but it appeared to be deliberate sabotage.
The disturbance followed an airstrike in Syria on Wednesday that was attributed to Israel and reportedly targeted members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group.
“Following earlier reports of fence indications along the Blue Line, IDF inspections revealed damage to the fence at three locations. Maintenance crews are currently amending the damage. The circumstances will be investigated, yet it is clear that no breach of Israeli territory occurred,” the IDF said in a statement.
“Damaging the security fence is a severe event. The IDF holds the Lebanese government responsible for actions emanating from its territory,” the statement said.
We found 3 locations where our security fence along the Blue Line with #Lebanon was damaged tonight. We can confirm that no infiltration from Lebanon into Israel occurred.
This is a severe event. We hold the Lebanese government responsible for actions from its territory. pic.twitter.com/kC0GZiReE1
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) April 17, 2020
Earlier Friday, the IDF said troops had detected incidents at the fence, fired flares, combed the area and “denied an intrusion into Israeli territory.”
According to Israeli media, a suspected infiltration from southern #Lebanon has occurred between Mount Dov and Metula. IDF fired flares over Mays al Jabal. #Israel @yoavzitun pic.twitter.com/QHII4Q6onh
— Joe Truzman (@Jtruzmah) April 17, 2020
On Wednesday, an airstrike in Syria targeted a passenger car bearing the son of a senior Hezbollah military commander who was allegedly assassinated in a joint Israeli-American bombing over a decade ago, the Al-Arabiya news site reported.
He survived the attack, along with the other people in the vehicle.
According to Arabic media reports, two missiles were fired at the car, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, as it drove through the western Syria town of Jdeidat Yabous toward the border with Lebanon.
The first missile struck the ground near the vehicle. The four men inside the car — identified by Arabic outlets as Hezbollah members — thereupon abandoned the vehicle, which was destroyed by the second missile moments later.
Video surfaced on social media in Lebanon that claimed to show the airstrike.
תיעוד התקיפה שלשום על גבול סוריה-לבנון. טיל ראשון עושה ״הקש בכביש״ ומאותת לארבעת אנשי חיזבאללה לברוח. טיל שני משמיד את הרכב (אבו עלי אקספרס). איתות ברור לחיזבאללה שגם פעילים שעוסקים בהברחות יפגעו pic.twitter.com/IxlhY10oAT
— Alon Ben-David (@alonbd) April 17, 2020
Neither Hezbollah nor the IDF responded to the reports.
On Thursday morning, Al-Arabiya reported that one of the people in the vehicle was Mustafa Mughniyeh, the son of arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a 2008 car bombing attributed to Israel’s Mossad intelligence service and the American CIA.
Mustafa Mughniyeh has been identified as a senior commander in Hezbollah, playing an active role in the terror group’s operations in general and in its efforts to establish a permanent military presence along the Syrian Golan Heights in particular.
It was not immediately clear if the first missile missed the car accidentally or if it was an attempt to force those inside to escape the vehicle — similar to the Israeli method of “knocking on the roof” of a building with a small bomb as a warning ahead of a larger attack to destroy the structure.
While Israel has carried out strikes intending to kill terrorist operatives, in some cases the military has been known to avoid fatalities as a death toll makes it more likely for a terror group or foreign military to retaliate.
Images posted on social media appeared to show a mangled and burnt vehicle.
— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) April 15, 2020
The second strike on the vehicle, after the passengers fled, led to the assumption that the true target of the missile attack was a piece of equipment inside the car, rather than its passengers, potentially a piece of machinery connected to Hezbollah’s precision missile project. Israel has made it a top priority to thwart the effort by the terror group to convert its massive arsenal of simple rockets into precision-guided munitions.
Israel has also long maintained that it would not accept the establishment of a permanent military presence in Syria by Hezbollah or Iran, which backs the Lebanese terror group.
Though Israeli officials generally refrain from taking responsibility for specific strikes in Syria, they have acknowledged conducting hundreds to thousands of raids in the country since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. These have overwhelmingly been directed against Iran and its proxies, notably the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, but the IDF has also carried out strikes on Syrian air defenses when those batteries have fired at Israeli jets.
An agreement with Russia was supposed to push Iranian and Tehran-backed militias, including Hezbollah, dozens of kilometers away from the border.
The Wednesday strike came days after the IDF accused the Syrian army of helping Hezbollah establish a permanent military presence on the Golan Heights, releasing video footage showing a senior Syrian officer visiting the region.
On Tuesday, IDF troops and Lebanese army soldiers faced off near the border in an irregular incident, with photos from the scene showing the two sides raising weapons at each other and UN personnel standing in between.
The incident took place between the southern Lebanese village of Adaisseh and the northern Israeli town of Metulla, UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told The Times of Israel, saying that while it was south of the Blue Line, Lebanon deems the area to be contested.