IDF still girding for Hezbollah attack, but some troops get a breather

High alert kept in north despite speculation that Lebanese terror group may hold off on its revenge for the death of one of its fighters last month in light of deadly Beirut blasts

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

An Israeli soldier stands next to a mobile artillery unit during an exercise in the Golan Heights on August 4, 2020. (Ariel Schalit/AP)
An Israeli soldier stands next to a mobile artillery unit during an exercise in the Golan Heights on August 4, 2020. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Thursday night decided to keep the Israel Defense Forces on high alert along the country’s northern borders, out of concerns that the Hezbollah terror group may still carry out an attack in the area, the military said.

The decision came amid speculation that the Lebanese terror organization may call off, or at least postpone, its revenge for the death of one of its fighters in an airstrike on the Damascus International Airport last month that was widely attributed to Israel in light of the deadly explosions that rocked Beirut on Tuesday evening, killing over 130 people, injuring thousands, and leaving nearly a third of a million people homeless.

While keeping the IDF Northern Command at elevated readiness for attack, as it’s been for the past two weeks, Lt. Gen. Kohavi decided to permit some soldiers to go on leave, which they’ve been denied during that period.

The military said the decision was made “to allow the troops a breath of relief.”

A drone picture shows the scene of the explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, on August 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

On Thursday morning, a Lebanese journalist considered close with Hezbollah, Ibrahim al-Amin, wrote in the al-Akhbar newspaper that the terror group still planned to carry out an attack on Israel despite the explosion, which killed at least 137 people and left some 5,000 more injured.

“Those who are betting that the port explosion will lead Hezbollah to cancel its decision to respond to the crime in Syria are once again thinking in the wrong manner,” al-Amin wrote.

“They will realize that the response of the resistance is an inevitable reality, and it will be a bloody one against the occupation forces. Its goal is both punitive and deterrent,” he said.

Israel has been bracing for a possible attack from Hezbollah in retaliation for a July 20 airstrike in Syria attributed to the IDF, in which a member of the Iran-backed terror group was killed.

Israeli army forces seen stationed near the border between Israel and Lebanon in the Golan Heights, on July 27, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Defensively, the IDF moved troops away from areas vulnerable to attack and stepped up surveillance along the frontiers, and to prepare for the need to retaliate forcefully, the IDF also deployed infantry, special forces and artillery reinforcements to the area.

The IDF credits its heightened state of alertness with foiling an attempted attack by Hezbollah on July 26, in which a group of at least three armed terrorist operatives entered the Israeli-controlled area of Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms, along the border.

Hezbollah denied carrying out the attack, saying the IDF’s claims were “absolutely false.” The group also said that it still plans to retaliate for the killing of its member.

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, is set to give a televised speech on Friday, after postponing a planned Wednesday address due to the explosion.

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