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After hours-long search, troops nab two migrants who entered Israel from Lebanon

Residents in towns near border temporarily told to stay in their homes after border breach detected; some roads closed as soldiers searched for pair amid rising tensions

Israeli soldiers stand guard after firing flares above the northern town of Metulla, by the border with Lebanon, following a pro-Palestinian protest across the border in the Lebanese Khiam area, on May 14, 2021 (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)
Israeli soldiers stand guard after firing flares above the northern town of Metulla, by the border with Lebanon, following a pro-Palestinian protest across the border in the Lebanese Khiam area, on May 14, 2021 (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

Israeli soldiers arrested two suspects who crossed into northern Israel from Lebanon on Thursday morning, following an hours-long manhunt, the army said, amid rising tensions along the restive northern frontier.

The two men appeared to be migrants from Lebanon who entered Israel with the hope of finding work. They were being questioned by Israeli security forces, the military said.

Troops were sent to the area around the towns of Dovev and Baram near the unofficial border with Lebanon, known as the Blue Line, at around 2 a.m. after two suspicious people were spotted crossing the border fence into Israel, according to the military.

“At this hour, Israeli forces are in pursuit of two suspects and using an array of utilities to stop them,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement just before 6 a.m.

“Troops are isolating the area where the suspects are, which includes deploying forces and blocking roads,” the army said.

Flares and aircraft were being utilized in the search, according to videos from the area that were shared on social media.

The military said the men were eventually arrested near the security fence.

As a precautionary move, the military initially instructed people in Dovev and Baram to remain inside their homes, but the order was quickly lifted as it became clear the suspects were likely to be migrants looking for work rather than armed terrorist operatives.

There was no immediate comment from Lebanese authorities or UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force stationed in southern Lebanon.

The suspected infiltration came less than two days after a rare rocket attack from Lebanon on Israel, which followed closely on the heels of alleged Israeli airstrikes on sites near Aleppo in Syria apparently connected to Iranian-backed militias. A second Israeli sortie was reported early Thursday.

In early June, two Turkish nationals crossed into Israel from Lebanon, apparently looking for work. They were arrested after a 12-hour manhunt.

Lebanon is in the midst of a devastating economic and political crisis that has seen its currency bottom out and sent masses into the streets to protest.

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