Israeli aircraft bombed several Hezbollah observation posts along Israel’s northern border early Wednesday after shots were fired from Lebanon toward Israel Defense Force soldiers, the army said.
The bombing appeared to be the first Israeli airstrike on Hezbollah targets inside Lebanon since 2006, amid escalating tensions along the restive frontier.
The announcement from the IDF came several hours after it reported a “security incident” along the Lebanese border on Tuesday night and ordered residents of surrounding area to shelter in their homes.
Residents were told following the reprisal raid Wednesday morning that they could leave their homes and resume routine activities as authorities lifted security restrictions.
“Regarding the security incident that took place last night at 10:40 p.m. in the area of [the Manara community], during operational activity, IDF troops were fired upon from Lebanese territory,” the army said in a statement.
No injuries were reported to IDF soldiers, and there were no immediate reports of casualties in Lebanon. There was no immediate reaction from Hezbollah.
“In response to the gunfire, IDF attack helicopters and aircraft struck terror targets belonging to the Hezbollah terror group,” the IDF said, adding that among the targets were Hezbollah observation posts along the border.
Though this appeared to be the first time that Israeli aircraft directly targeted Hezbollah sites inside Lebanon since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the IDF has fired artillery and tank shells at the terror group’s positions in the interim 14 years in response to attacks on the border. These were typically done in the immediate aftermath of a Hezbollah attack to prevent potential additional operations rather than punitive measures.
The IDF said it saw the government of Lebanon as being “responsible for what is done in its territory.”
“We see this as a very severe event. The IDF will continue to maintain a high level of alertness and ensure the sovereignty of Israel and the security of residents as much as necessary,” the military said.
— Hezbollah Watch® (@HezbollahWatch) August 25, 2020
Earlier, the IDF fired dozens of flares into the sky around the northern Galilee, as the military searched the area to ensure that no one had breached the border after troops heard gunshots fired at them next to the community of Manara.
Lebanese media reported that large amounts of Israeli aircraft were flying over the border area.
Residents of the communities of Manara, Yiftach, Margaliot, Misgav Am and Malkia were all ordered to stay inside and to be prepared to enter a bomb shelter or other protected area at a moment’s notice and to remain there for 10 minutes.
The military had also set up roadblocks on a number of highways in the area.
“Please continue to receive updates on the instructions that are being released to the media and to listen to the orders of security forces and the IDF troops operating in the area,” the military told residents.
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Lebanese media reported that a number of flares fired by the Israeli military sparked small fires near the border. Several unexploded pyrotechnic shells also landed inside Lebanese communities along the border. No injuries were reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on vacation with his family in nearby Safed, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz received security briefings from the military about the incident, their offices said.
The incident came amid lingering tensions along the Lebanese border, after the Hezbollah terror group vowed to avenge one of its fighters who was killed outside Damascus in an airstrike on July 20 attributed to Israel.
On July 27, the IDF said it thwarted another apparent Hezbollah sniper attack, driving the terrorist operatives back across the border before they could open fire at Israeli troops. In the weeks that followed, the military also said it prevented at least one other infiltration and brought down a Hezbollah drone flown into Israeli territory from Lebanon.
After initially bracing for this retaliation by Hezbollah with additional troops deployed along the border, the IDF began scaling down its reinforcements following the massive explosion at the Beirut Port earlier this month. The military believed that the terror group — a major power broker in Lebanese politics — would focus its intentions on Lebanon’s domestic issues rather than carry out its revenge on Israel, though Hezbollah maintained that its retaliation was still to come.
Tuesday night’s “security incident” also came exactly one year after the IDF killed two Hezbollah members in an airstrike on an Iran-controlled facility in Syria that the military said was used to launch attacks on Israel with explosives-laden drones.
In response to the deaths of the two Hezbollah operatives, the terror group conducted an anti-tank guided missile attack on Israeli military targets a week later. One missile narrowly missed an IDF armored ambulance with five soldiers inside.