The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen broadcaster aired footage on Saturday showing what appears to be a mannequin of an IDF soldier being operated by a robotic device, along the border fence between Israel and Lebanon.
The video briefly showed the mannequin moving before it is engulfed by smoke from smoke grenades lobbed from the Israeli side of the fence, as a pair of IDF tanks are stationed next to it.
Al-Mayadeen claimed the mannequin was an Israeli ploy to have Hezbollah believe it was a real target and “lure” it into “a trap,” according to the network’s written report.
Hezbollah has repeatedly vowed to avenge the death of one of its fighters, killed in an airstrike outside Damascus on July 20 that was attributed to Israel, heightening tensions along the border.
— قناة الميادين (@AlMayadeenNews) August 29, 2020
On Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces said Hezbollah snipers fired at Israeli troops operating near an Israeli community along the border, prompting Israeli airstrikes on a number of the terror group’s observation posts. The Hezbollah force, according to Israel, was situated right in between two UN posts, barely 110 yards away from the closer one.
The IDF released aerial footage from the border showing the location from which the sniper cell opened fire at the soldiers, between two UN posts belonging to UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
The photo “shows UNIFIL’s powerlessness and the fact that it is not fulfilling its purpose,” Israel’s UN mission said Thursday.
For its part, UNIFIL announced on Wednesday it was launching an investigation into the incident, just as the UN was set to vote on extending its peacekeeping mandate in southern Lebanon. On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution to cut UNIFIL and expand its mandate to address US and Israeli concerns about Hezbollah’s activities.
The French-drafted resolution reduced the troop ceiling for the force from 15,000 to 13,000 under US pressure, while extending its mandate for another year.
The resolution made another concession to the US and Israel — it calls on the Lebanese government to facilitate “prompt and full access” to sites requested by UN peacekeepers for investigation, including tunnels crossing the UN-drawn Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel. It urges freedom of movement and unimpeded access for peacekeepers to all parts of the Blue Line, and condemns “in the strongest terms” all attempts to restrict UN troop movements and attacks on mission personnel.
According to the IDF’s initial investigation of Tuesday’s incident, at 10:40 p.m. that night Hezbollah snipers fired two shots from a small arms weapon at IDF combat intelligence troops operating near the Israeli community of Manara near the Lebanese border. The shots, fired from 200-300 meters (660-990 feet) away, missed their target, hitting a nearby object.
In response to the Hezbollah attack, Israeli artillery fired a number of flares and smoke shells into the air as troops searched the area for potential border breaches. A short while later, Israeli aircraft bombed a number of Hezbollah observation posts near the frontier, the military said.
What appeared to be the first Israeli airstrikes against Hezbollah targets inside Lebanon since the 2006 Second Lebanon War were meant to indicate to the terror group that the IDF would react more forcefully to attacks than it has until now, yet were not so aggressive that Hezbollah would be forced to retaliate and risk all-out war.