IDF says no threat after Hezbollah members seen patrolling on northern border

Army downplays incident, says members of terror group, wearing military gear, were left alone as they did not cross Blue Line, in latest incident to raise tensions along frontier

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

Members of the Hezbollah terror group are seen walking along the Lebanon border, in July 2023. (Courtesy)
Members of the Hezbollah terror group are seen walking along the Lebanon border, in July 2023. (Courtesy)

Members of the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group were filmed carrying out a patrol on Israel’s border while fitted with military gear, in what appeared to be a violation of a United Nations resolution, the Israeli military said Tuesday.

Israel Defense Forces troops filmed the camouflaged Hezbollah members walking along the border near the northern Israeli town of Dovev last week. The troops did not engage the patrol, and on Tuesday footage of the close encounter leaked.

“During routine activity last week, the IDF recorded Hezbollah operatives moving in Lebanese territory near the border fence,” the military said in response to a query on the matter.

The IDF downplayed the incident, saying the operatives did not cross the so-called Blue Line border demarcation and were under surveillance the entire time.

“If they had crossed [the Blue Line], the forces would have acted accordingly,” the IDF said.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a month-long war in 2006, bars armed groups aside from the official Lebanese military and peacekeeping United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon from operating south of Lebanon’s Litani River.

Israel regularly accuses Lebanon and UN Blue Helmets of failing to enforce the resolution by allowing Hezbollah to move armed operatives in the area.

The IDF said there was no threat to Israeli residents on the border, nor to the Israeli forces who were in close proximity to the Hezbollah operatives.

“IDF forces will continue to operate in the border area to maintain the security of the residents of the north,” the military added.

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

On July 15, a group of Lebanese, including a parliamentarian, crossed the border into Israeli sovereign territory, before being chased back to Lebanon by IDF troops who fired warning shots. A day earlier, the IDF said troops fired warning shots and used riot dispersal means after a number of Lebanese suspects hurled stones toward the border.

A Hezbollah flag is seen on the Lebanese side of the Lebanon border, and an Israeli flag seen on the Israeli side, July 19, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

On July 12, 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 that day, 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.

On July 6, an anti-tank missile was fired from Lebanon at the contested village of Ghajar, causing no injuries.

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

Also in 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.

An aerial photo of Hezbollah tents in Israeli territory, June 2023. (Courtesy)

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.

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.

The border fence between Lebanon and Israel, as seen from the village of Ghajar, in northern Israel, January 13, 2023. (Issac Harari/Flash90)

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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