As Lebanese government condemns Israel's border wall

On northern border, Netanyahu warns enemies: ‘Don’t test us’

Flanked by high-level security cabinet ministers, PM says Israel seeks peace, ‘but we are prepared for every scenario’

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a security cabinet tour of the IDF's installations on the Golan Heights, February 6, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a security cabinet tour of the IDF's installations on the Golan Heights, February 6, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/File)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday toured the Golan Heights, warning Israel’s enemies over the northern border “not to test us” and saying the IDF was prepared for “every scenario.”

“I am impressed by the great work the IDF is doing here in order to defend our borders and country,” Netanyahu said after a briefing by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.

“We want peace, but we are prepared for every scenario, and I suggest that no one test us,” he said.

Netanyahu was joined by members of the powerful 10-member security cabinet for a briefing on Mount Avital that outlined IDF readiness to tackle the ongoing threat posed by Hezbollah and other Iran-backed forces along the northern border.

The briefing came amid escalating tensions with Lebanon over Israel’s construction of a border wall and Israeli warnings that Iran — through its Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah — is turning the country into a forward base to manufacture rockets in order to attack the Jewish state.

Lebanese military officials on Monday told their Israeli counterparts during face-to-face talks that the border wall violates its sovereign territory.

Israeli army jeep patrols along the northern Israeli border with Lebanon on July 14, 2014. (Ayal Margolin/FLASH90)

Also Tuesday, Lebanon’s top three political leaders met to discuss ways to counter Israel’s alleged encroachment into their territory.

The three — President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabil Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri — discussed Israel’s “insistence on building a concrete wall across the southern border, and at points along the blue line,” the recognized international border between the two countries, local media reported.

They also discussed overlapping claims to waters off the coast of both countries where natural gas reserves are believed to be located.

Aoun, Berri and Hariri concluded the meeting with a decision to pursue action against Israel’s border fence in international forums.

Last Monday, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported that Hezbollah had threatened to attack Israeli army units working on the border.

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.

Last month, Eisenkot warned that Hezbollah was beefing up its military capabilities.

“The Hezbollah terror group is breaking the UN Security Council resolutions, it maintains a military presence in the area, is holding military systems, and is improving its military capabilities,” Eisenkot said. “The IDF is working day and night against these threats to ensure readiness and deterrence.”

The Iranian proxy has held on to its weapons and made efforts to obtain advanced weaponry, a development Israel has vowed to prevent. Dozens of airstrikes on weapons convoys bound for Lebanon have been attributed to Israel by foreign media reports. It has also deployed units south of the Litani River.

“We will do everything necessary to keep Israel’s northern border quiet and safe,” Eisenkot continued on January 30. “Our challenge is to maintain the readiness, to deepen our knowledge of the enemy, to reduce its capability, and to extend as much as possible the security and civilian reality that has continued for 11 years and serves the populations on both sides of the fence.”

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