The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it exchanged fire with fighters from the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese frontier on Monday.
The Israeli army said troops foiled a Hezbollah attack by 3 or 4 men who infiltrated a few metres over the Blue Line that separates Israel and Lebanon. It added there were no casualties among Israeli forces.
“Hezbollah should know it is playing with fire”, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Both Netanyahu and defence minister Benny Gantz warned the governments of Syria and Lebanon that they would be held responsible for any attacks against Israel coming from their territory.
Hezbollah carried out the operation against Israeli soldiers in the disputed Shebaa Farms area, media quoted a witness as saying. The area is occupied by Israel and claimed by Lebanon. The United Nations regards it as part of Syrian territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israeli forces have been on alert along the border in anticipation of Hezbollah retaliation for the killing of one of its members in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.
In a statement on Monday, Hezbollah denied its forces had tried to infiltrate the Lebanese-Israeli frontier or that it had engaged in clashes in the Shebaa Farms area. The group said that the incident was “one-sided” and that Israeli forces had “moved nervously on the ground” due to a heightened state of alert.
“If Israel decides to go to war with us, then we will confront them, and the 2006 War will be the model for our response”, Hezbollah’s deputy chief Naim Qasim said in response.