‘Won’t stay quiet’: Hezbollah chief threatens Israel over tent row on tense border

Hassan Nasrallah urges Lebanon to recapture once-divided town of Ghajar and disputed Shebaa Farms, denies terror group trying to demarcate border along ceasefire line

Children ride their bicycles past by a poster of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah at the Lebanese border village of Marwaheen, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (AP/Mohammed Zaatari)
Children ride their bicycles past by a poster of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah at the Lebanese border village of Marwaheen, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack Israel if it tries to remove a tent set up by his group on the unofficial border with Lebanon, as tensions along the often-restive frontier spiked Wednesday.

The comments from Nasrallah were broadcast hours after Israel Defense Forces troops foiled an attempt by a number of alleged Hezbollah suspects to damage the border fence near the northern town of Zar’it, the latest in a string of security incidents setting the UN-monitored frontier on edge.

Israel has sought since early June to remove 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 remove the outpost soon. But Nasrallah said the other would remain.

“Israel won’t dare to take one step in the territory against the tent because it knows what will happen,” Nasrallah said, marking the 17th anniversary of the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and its northern neighbor. “If there’s any harm to the tent, we won’t stay quiet.”

“The youth of the resistance have orders to act if an Israeli attack takes place on the tent,” he added.

The Mount Dov area where the tents were erected, also known as Shebaa Farms, was captured by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War and later effectively annexed along with the Golan Heights and the village of Ghajar. The Lebanese government says the area belongs to Lebanon.

A Lebanese soldier points a rocket-propelled grenade toward an Israeli tank in the disputed Kfar Chouba hills along the border, south Lebanon, Friday, June 9, 2023.(AP/Mohammad Zaatari)

While Israel and Lebanon recently concluded tough talks to demarcate a maritime frontier, the enemies have never negotiated a land border, leading to occasional skirmishes along the ceasefire line that forms the de facto border.

The boundary, known as the Blue Line, is marked with blue barrels along the border and is several meters from the Israeli fence in some areas, which is built entirely within Israeli territory.

Nasrallah denied that Hezbollah was attempting to demarcate the land border by placing the tents, claiming that they were erected inside Lebanese territory.

Nasrallah said that Lebanon needs to take decisive action to take back Ghajar “without any preconditions.”

He called for cooperation between Hezbollah, the Lebanese state and the people to reach the goal.

UN. peacekeepers patrol on the Lebanese side of the Lebanese-Israeli border in the southern village of Wazzani with border village Ghajar in the background, Thursday, July 6, 2023. (AP/Mohammad Zaatari)

“The land of Ghajar will not be left for Israel, and certainly not Shebaa Farms and Kfar Chouba” Nasrallah said.

“This is a problem that we need to solve.”

Israel has relayed requests via the UN to have the tents removed, while in response, Lebanon and Hezbollah have demanded that Israel withdraw from Ghajar. The town straddles the unofficial border, but a wall erected by Israel includes the entire village on the Israeli side, sparking complaints from Beirut.

Lebanon’s foreign minister has asked the country’s permanent mission to the United Nations to file a complaint on the matter.

Nasrallah accused the UN of refusing to take action against Israel for building the fence, which he said had preceded the tents.

Fighters from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah carry out a training exercise in Aaramta village in the Jezzine District, southern Lebanon, May 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

“The international community remained silent on all Israeli border aggressions, but moved quickly after the resistance set up a tent at the border,” he said.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which acts as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel, said Wednesday it was “aware of disturbing reports about an incident along the Blue Line,” following the flareup.

“The situation is extremely sensitive. We urge everyone to cease any action that may lead to escalation of any kind,” it said in a statement.

IDF officials have branded increased Hezbollah activity along the border in recent weeks as “provocations.”

On Wednesday evening, Israeli military intelligence head Aharon Havila said Hezbollah was “continuing, even today, to create provocations. The intelligence unit is following and paying close attention to its initiatives.”

Earlier in the day, the military said it detonated a stun grenade along the border to scare off a group of Lebanese activists, later identified as Hezbollah members, attempting to damage the fence. Hours later Israeli forces fired warning shots at a group of Hezbollah activists who launched fireworks and set fires near the northern Israeli town of Metula.

Hezbollah members are seen approaching the border between Israel and Lebanon, before the IDF sets off a blast scaring them away, July 12, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Last week, an anti-tank missile was fired from Lebanon at Ghajar, causing no injuries.

In another incident last week, dozens of Lebanese soldiers along with some Hezbollah members crossed into Israeli territory without passing the border fence itself, before eventually heading back, Army Radio reported.

And last month, Hezbollah said it shot down an Israeli drone flying over a village in southern Lebanon.

Nasrallah claimed that Israeli jitters along the border had been sparked by fireworks from a wedding in southern Lebanon, boasting of a “deterrent balance” created by the ceasefire that ended the month-long 2006 war.

Israel considers Hezbollah its most serious immediate threat, and estimates that it has some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at the Jewish state.

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