The Lebanese army commander has vowed to “confront any Israeli aggression, whatever that costs” amid increasing tensions over a border barrier Israel is building and a dispute over offshore gas.
“I affirm again our categorical rejection of the Israeli enemy infringing on Lebanon’s sovereignty and its sacred right to exploit all its economic resources,” Reuters quoted Lebanese army quoted General Joseph Aoun as saying.
“The army will not spare any method available to confront any Israeli aggression, whatever that costs,” he said.
US acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield has been in the region in recent days trying to mediate between Israel and Lebanon.
The dispute is centered around a border wall the IDF is constructing along the boundary between the two countries, contested rights to offshore natural gas exploration, and Israeli warnings that Iran — through its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah — is turning the country into a forward base to manufacture rockets and attack the Jewish state.
Earlier in the month, Lebanese military officials told their Israeli counterparts during face-to-face talks that the border wall violates Lebanon’s sovereign territory.
Israel has been building the obstacle — made up of a collection of berms, cliffs and concrete barriers — for a long time, but it has only now angered Beirut.
Hezbollah, a powerful terror group considered to have more military clout than the Lebanese army itself, recently threatened to open fire on IDF soldiers building the barrier, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported.
The message was delivered to Jerusalem via UNIFIL, the report said. The UN force, fearing a possible escalation, passed the message on to the US and French ambassadors, who updated the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on the matter.
The Israeli government, unimpressed, responded with a threatening message of its own, the report said. Israel said it was acting in its own sovereign territory in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution adopted after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.
Israel does not intend to halt the construction, Jerusalem said, and Hezbollah will “pay dearly” if it tries to inflame tensions. “Israel’s reaction will be strong and painful,” sources in Israel’s security establishment were quoted as saying.
Israel has also threatened to keep Iran from building factories to manufacture advanced missiles in Lebanon. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the country’s enemies “not to test us,” and said the IDF was prepared for “every scenario.”