The Israeli military clashed with Lebanese nationals along the northern border on Friday afternoon, firing tear gas after several men hurled stones and attempted to damage Israel’s security barrier, the Israel Defense Forces said.
Live television footage aired by the Hezbollah mouthpiece Al-Mayadeen showed Lebanese Army soldiers standing near a crowd throwing stones and rushing at the border, as IDF troops launched tear gas in response.
Israel and Lebanon do not have a formal border due to territorial disputes; however, they largely abide by the United Nations-recognized Blue Line between the two countries.
Armed Lebanese soldiers, some with RPGs, were seen standing guard at the scene in the contested Mount Dov region, also known as the Shebaa Farms — claimed by Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
Other images showed members of a UN peacekeeping force separating Israeli soldiers from the Lebanese following the incident.
The Israeli military said in a statement that Lebanese suspects “tried to vandalize the [security] barrier and threw stones at the IDF forces operating in the area.”
“The forces responded with riot dispersal means. The IDF will not allow any attempt to violate the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” the military added.
There were no Lebanese injuries reported.
#لبنان ???????? #استنفار الجيش اللبناني وتصويب السلاح على جنود الاحتلال في #تلال_كفر_شويا
عدة وسائل إعلام #عبرية تصف حدث توجيه الجيش اللبناني الاسلحة اتجاه جنود الجيش الإسرائيلي بحدث غير اعتيادي#اقترب ???? موعد عودة عمليات المقاومه الى تلال كفر شوبا ومزارع شبعا المحتلتين pic.twitter.com/0t2IhnAXaV
— sara hassan???????????????????????? (@liban0987) June 9, 2023
There have been numerous standoffs between the IDF and the Lebanese Army in recent years, after the latter complained that Israeli engineering work crossed over a demarcation line between the countries.
The Blue Line is marked with blue barrels along the border and is several meters from the Israeli fence in some areas. The engineering work typically takes place to the north of Israel’s fence, but within Israeli territory.
IDF says Lebanese suspects hurled stones and attempted to damage the security barrier on the border in the Mount Dov/Shebaa Farms region. Troops responded with riot dispersal means. pic.twitter.com/pZctweFD7w
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) June 9, 2023
Generally, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has stepped in and stopped the works after complaints by the Lebanese Army. There have been several cases of clashes amid such standoffs in recent months.
Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for UNIFIL, said peacekeepers are on the ground working to decrease tension in the area.
“We have urged the parties to utilize our coordination mechanisms effectively to prevent misunderstandings, violations, and contribute to the preservation of stability in the area,” Tenenti said. He added that UNIFIL leadership is in contact with the parties, seeking a solution.
“We call upon both sides to exercise restraint and avoid actions along the blue line that may escalate tensions,” Tenenti told The Associated Press.
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 barrier with Israel, as the two countries technically remain at war.
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.
Work on a new border wall with Lebanon began in 2018 to replace Israel’s aging fence in the area. By 2020, the military and Defense Ministry Borders and Security Fence Directorate had completed only 15 kilometers (9 miles) of concrete walling along the approximately 130-kilometer (80-mile) border in order to protect the 22 adjacent Israeli villages.
Eventually, the plan is to construct a barrier along the entire border — a project that would cost NIS 1.7 billion ($470 million).
AP contributed to this report