Israeli man who snuck into Lebanon in fog is a repeated border crosser, IDF says

Suspect thought to have mental health issues; his first recorded crossing into Lebanon was some 20 years ago

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

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

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday wrapped up an initial investigation into an incident earlier this week in which an Israeli man crossed the border into Lebanon, with the military saying he managed to do so undetected because of the foggy and rainy weather conditions.

The IDF only became aware of the incident after Lebanese media reported the man had been arrested by local security services on Sunday evening, several hours after his crossing.

The reports said the man, identified by his initials A.D., climbed over Israel’s border fence near the northern town of Metulla, adding that he was being questioned by Lebanese military intelligence.

“The investigation reveals that the weather conditions were severe at the time of the crossing. In addition, the suspect was not identified due to human error and a technological malfunction in the operational reporting system,” the IDF said in a statement.

The man, whose full name has not been released, apparently has a history of mental health problems and has repeatedly crossed into Lebanon. According to a military source, the first recorded crossing of the suspect into Lebanon was some 20 years ago.

The IDF said it was holding talks for his release with the Lebanese side via intermediaries, as the two countries technically remain at war.

“The conclusions of the investigation will be drawn and implemented immediately,” the IDF added.

Last Monday, another Israeli civilian, reportedly an Arab Israeli in his 30s, crossed the border into Lebanon. Israel is still working to have him released.

In 2021, an Arab Israeli youth in his 20s from a Bedouin village in the Negev crossed into Lebanon. He was returned about a month later.

The border with Lebanon has been somewhat tense in recent weeks, with the Hezbollah terror group establishing new tall observation posts as the IDF ramps up the construction of a defensive wall.

United Nation peacekeepers have also broken up several standoffs between Israeli and Lebanese forces along the border, after the latter complained that Israeli engineering work crossed over the demarcation line.

The peacekeeping force, UNIFIL, has been in Lebanon since 1978. Composed of nearly 10,000 soldiers, it is deployed in the south of the country — a stronghold of Hezbollah — to maintain a buffer between it and Israel.

The terror group has long been the IDF’s most significant adversary on Israel’s borders, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.

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