Netanyahu says Hezbollah ‘is playing with fire’ but group deny involvement in border clash
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hezbollah carried out an infiltration attempt on the Lebanese-Israeli border on Monday, disputing the Iranian-backed Shiite group’s denial of being involved in the clash.
Netanyahu said: “We take a grave view of this attempt to infiltrate our territory, Hezbollah and Lebanon bear full responsibility for this incident and any attack from Lebanese territory against Israel. Hezbollah should know that it is playing with fire.”
Netanyahu was sitting alongside Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz during the televised address hour after the incident. Gantz had warned that any operation against Israel would draw a powerful response.
Hezbollah has denied it carried out a raid over Lebanon’s border, saying the incidence was “from one side only, from the anxious enemy” and that the Israel claim was “absolutely not true.”
Earlier Monday, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said a group of three to five men armed with rifles crossed the Blue Line that divides the country in the disputed Mount Dov area, claimed by Lebanon, Syria and Israel as their own.
The Israeli army spokesman said the group had been tracked as they approached the border.
“Once they crossed the border, we engaged,” he said. “We confirmed visually that the terrorists fled back to Lebanon,” he added.
Adding there were no reported casualties among Israeli forces.
Monday’s clash followed Israeli media reports of a looming possible retaliation attack from Hezbollah after one of its fighters were killed in an air-strike in Syria that was blamed on Israel.
A Hezbollah-loyal Lebanese TV station said Israel had been shelling targets across the border.
The UN urges “maximum restraint”
The UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL called for “maximum restraint” adding that the firing had been stopped.
Israel has in recent days placed its northern border on high alert and extra troops have been sent to the area.
Lebanon-based Hezbollah has a substantial presence in Syria, where it is fighting in support of the Damascus government in the country’s civil war.
Israel hit Syrian army targets late Friday after munitions were fired across the Syrian border into Israel.
Hezbollah’s No 2, NaimQasim said: “If the Israelis decided to launch a war, we will confront it and we will respond.”
“What happened in Syria in an aggression that led to the death of Ali Kamil Mohsen,” he said about the strike in Syria.
The missile attack on July 20 hit weapons depots and military positions belonging to Syrian regime forces and Iran-backed militia fighters south of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
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