ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Netanyahu to huddle with security chiefs over Hezbollah tensions

Senior IDF officers expected to tell PM the Lebanese terror group is uninterested in open conflict with Israel and is only making minor provocations

Israeli troops guard the border with Lebanon, July 12, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)
Israeli troops guard the border with Lebanon, July 12, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold a meeting with security chiefs Sunday to discuss the recent uptick in tensions on the northern border with the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and senior members of the Israel Defense Forces attend the meeting and present Netanyahu with an intelligence overview, situation assessments and several possible scenarios, Channel 13 reported Saturday.

Tensions on Israel’s border with Lebanon have risen recently after Hezbollah set up tents in Israeli territory and amid a string of other border incidents.

Military chiefs are expected to tell Netanyahu that despite saber-rattling from Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, they assess he is not interested in a major conflict with Israel, that the tents are just a provocation and, and that there is no security threat to the country, the report said.

Nevertheless, the IDF has been bolstering forces in the north and there are still concerns that Nasrallah will see the political upheaval turmoil in Israel — stirred up by the government’s divisive plan to overhaul the judiciary — as an opportunity to launch an attack.

The network said the security meeting was supposed to be held last Sunday but was delayed because Netanyahu was in the hospital recovering from the emergency installation of a pacemaker.

An aerial photo of Hezbollah tents in Israeli territory, June 2023. (Courtesy)

Israel sought since early June to remove the two tents, placed by Hezbollah in the contested Mount Dov region, also known as the Shebaa Farms. One tent was removed after Israel reportedly sent a message to Hezbollah threatening an armed confrontation if it did not dismantle it.

However, earlier this month, Nasrallah said the other tent would remain, and threatened to attack Israel if it tries to remove it.

On Saturday, Nasrallah again warned that Hezbollah would respond to any “stupid act” by Israel.

In addition, last week, IDF troops filmed camouflaged Hezbollah members walking along the border near the northern Israeli town of Dovev. The troops did not engage the terror group patrol. In other incidents in recent months, Lebanese soldiers have entered Israeli territory — without crossing the border fence — and an anti-tank missile was fired from Lebanon at Israel, causing no damage or injury. In April, dozens of rockets were fired from Lebanon at Israel, injuring three and damaging buildings. Though Israel blamed the rocket fire on the Palestinian terror group Hamas, it was seen as having been carried out with the tacit approval of Hezbollah.

Israel and Lebanon do not have a formal border due to territorial disputes; however, they primarily abide by the United Nations-recognized Blue Line between the two countries. The Blue Line is marked with blue barrels along the border and is in some areas several meters from the Israeli fence, which is built entirely within Israeli territory.

Gallant, the defense minister, recently approved a number of possible courses of action for IDF Northern Command Chief Major General Ori Gordin for removing the second tent, including a military response if the situation deteriorates into open conflict, the Walla news site reported Saturday. Gallant has also ordered increased readiness for different scenarios along the length of the border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during a vote on the so-called reasonableness bill at the Knesset, July 24, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A senior security source told Walla that “Nasrallah has been considering taking risks at the border for some time because he incorrectly estimates the degree of operational preparedness of the IDF for all kinds of scenarios.”

The source said that the sustained nationwide protests against the judicial overhaul have become part of Hezbollah’s general assessment of the situation with Israel and it has therefore recently increased its dialogue with Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules the Gaza Strip.

“That’s why we are conducting joint surveillance and situation assessments for the IDF, Shin Bet, and Mossad,” the source said and warned it would be “a mistake” for the two terror groups to try to initiate any action.

According to the report, Gordin recently carried out an exercise to see how quickly the Shimshon Battalion can be scrambled from the northern West Bank to counter a possible penetration by Hezbollah forces into Israeli territory that might include the seizing of Israeli border communities or military positions or the kidnapping of soldiers guarding the frontier. The Shimshon infantry soldiers would act as a first response until the deployment of other land forces and air power.

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