The Israeli military said a there has been a “security incident” on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon on Monday and ordered residents in the area to remain indoors.
Israel’s N12 TV News reported an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and militants and said explosions were heard in the area.
Tension rose along the Israel’s northern frontiers with Lebanon and Syria, including the occupied Golan Heights, after a fighter of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah was killed in an apparent Israeli strike on the edge of Damascus last Monday.
Hezbollah carried out an operation against the Israeli military on Monday near the Lebanese-Israeli frontier, days after a member of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group was killed in an alleged Israeli attack in Syria, Lebanese sources said.
One of the sources said the operation was in response to the attack, but there was no immediate statement from Hezbollah.
An Israeli military spokesman said Israeli troops had “thwarted an infiltration attempt by a Hezbollah terror squad” across a boundary with Israeli-occupied territory, and that there were no Israeli casualties.
“Shortly after they crossed the Blue Line, we engaged,” the spokesman said.
He said the squad, numbering between three and five militants, had crossed back into Lebanon. Lebanese sources said there were no Hezbollah casualties.
One Lebanese source said Hezbollah had fired a guided missile at an Israeli tank. However, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters that he was unaware of any such incident.
The incident occurred in the Shebaa Farms area, which is occupied by Israel and claimed by Lebanon. The United Nations regards the territory as part of Syrian land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
A Reuters witness in Lebanon counted dozens of Israeli shells hitting the area, landing near an Israeli military position. Fires burned and smoke rose from the area.
About an hour after initial Israeli reports of a security incident in the area, the military said it had lifted an order for Israelis living along the northern border to stay indoors.
“Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear the responsibility for any attack from Lebanese territory,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks, shortly before the reports of the incident.
A Lebanese source familiar with Monday’s operation said Hezbollah’s attack was in retaliation for the death of a Hezbollah fighter killed in an apparent Israeli strike on the edge of Damascus last Monday.
Following the killing of two Hezbollah members in Damascus last August, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed to respond if Israel killed any more of its fighters in Syria, although the group’s deputy leader on Sunday said an all-out war with Israel was unlikely.
Hezbollah has deployed fighters in Syria as part of Iranian-backed efforts to support President Bashar al-Assad in a conflict that spiralled out of protests against his rule in 2011.
Israel sees the presence of Hezbollah and its ally Iran in Syria as a strategic threat and has mounted hundreds of raids on Iranian-linked targets there.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli forces thwarted an attempt by Hezbollah to infiltrate across the Lebanon frontier on Monday, which the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group denied.
Earlier, a Reuters witness in Lebanon counted dozens of Israeli shells hitting the disputed Shebaa Farms area along the frontier. Fires burned and smoke rose from the area, but no casualties were reported by Israel or Hezbollah.
Occupied by Israel, the Shebaa Farms is claimed by Lebanon. The United Nations regards it as part of Syrian territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
“A Hezbollah squad infiltrated Israeli territory,” Netanyahu said. Saying that Lebanon had “paid a heavy price” for Hezbollah attacks on Israel in the past, Netanyahu cautioned the group’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, “not to repeat this mistake”.
An Israeli military spokesman said between three and five Hezbollah militants had taken part in the operation and had crossed back into Lebanon.
“There were no clashes or opening of fire from our side in today’s events,” Hezbollah said. “Our response to the martyrdom of Ali Kamel (Mohsen)… will surely come,” it said, referring to the fighter who died in Syria.
A Lebanese source said Hezbollah had fired a guided missile at an Israeli tank. Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters he was unaware of any such incident.
Hezbollah fighters have deployed in Syria as part of Iranian-backed efforts to support President Bashar al-Assad. Israel sees the presence of Hezbollah and Iran in Syria as a strategic threat, and has mounted hundreds of raids on Iranian-linked targets there.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Tuesday Israel had violated his country’s sovereignty with a “dangerous military escalation” along the frontier on Monday and urged caution after a rise in border tensions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would do “everything necessary” to defend itself, a day after saying Israeli forces had thwarted an attempt by Hezbollah to infiltrate across the frontier. The Iranian-backed Shi’ite group denied this.
A Reuters witness in Lebanon counted dozens of Israeli shells hitting the disputed Shebaa Farms area on Monday. No casualties were reported on either side of the frontier.
“I call for caution in coming days because I fear the situation will deteriorate in light of heightened tensions on our border,” Diab said on Twitter.
Israel was trying to “change the rules of engagement,” he said.
Israeli forces have been on alert along the border in anticipation of Hezbollah retaliation for the killing of one of its members a week ago in an alleged Israeli attack on the edge of the Syrian capital Damascus.
Visiting Israel’s northern military headquarters on Tuesday, Netanyahu said Israeli forces would continue to take action “to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in the region”.
His comment suggested that attacks in Syria, where Hezbollah fighters are deployed to support President Bashar al-Assad, would continue.
“We will do everything necessary to defend ourselves and I suggest to Hezbollah that it take that simple fact into account. Israel is prepared for any scenario,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him as saying.
Israel sees the presence of Hezbollah and Iran in Syria as a strategic threat, and has mounted raids on Iranian-linked targets there.
After two Hezbollah members were killed in Damascus last August, the group’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, vowed to respond if Israel killed any of its fighters in Syria. But Hezbollah’s deputy leader said on Sunday all-out war with Israel was unlikely.