Israel accuses Hezbollah of trying to breach northern border

Israel accuses Hezbollah of trying to breach northern border

Foreign minister says Jerusalem will file UN complaint, a day after fence between Israel and Lebanon was damaged in 3 spots

Soldiers inspect damage at the border fence between Israel and Lebanon, April 17, 2020 (Israel Defense Forces)
Soldiers inspect damage at the border fence between Israel and Lebanon, April 17, 2020 (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel on Saturday accused the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah of attempting to violate Israeli sovereignty and said it would complain to the UN Security Council, a day after the army reported damage to the border fence.

“After Hezbollah’s attempts to violate Israeli sovereignty on our Lebanese border, I instructed the Foreign Ministry to file a complaint at the UN Security Council. I condemn these actions and expect the Lebanese government to fulfill its responsibility and prevent threats against Israel and the region,” said Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

Israel has long said it holds the Lebanese government responsible for actions emanating from its territory.

The army on Friday reported damage to the border fence with Lebanon in several locations, but said that no one had crossed into Israel.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz attends a Likud party rally, ahead of the Israeli general elections, in the northern Israeli town of Safed, February 24, 2020. (David Cohen/FLASH90)

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 Hezbollah.

“IDF inspections revealed damage to the fence at three locations. Maintenance crews are currently repairing the damage. The circumstances will be investigated, yet it is clear that no breach of Israeli territory occurred,” the IDF said in a statement.

Earlier Friday, the IDF said troops had detected incidents at the fence, fired flares, combed the area and “thwarted an intrusion into Israeli territory.”

The Wednesday airstrike in Syria targeted a passenger car bearing the son of a senior Hezbollah military commander who had been allegedly assassinated in a joint Israeli-American bombing over a decade ago, the Al-Arabiya news site reported.

The man, Mustafa Mughniyeh, survived the attack, along with the other people in the vehicle. He 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. His father, arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, was killed in a 2008 car bombing attributed to Israel’s Mossad intelligence service and the American CIA.

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.

Due to the fact that a second missile strike on the vehicle took place after the passengers fled, it was assumed 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 Hezbollah, though 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.

Undated video footage released by the Israel Defense Forces reportedly showing a senior Syrian officer, Lua’a Ali Ahmad Asa’ad, visiting Hezbollah sites along the Golan Heights. (Screen capture: Israel Defense Forces)

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.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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