Suspected Hezbollah attack occurs in contested Mount Dov area amid peak tensions, with the terror group seeking revenge over killing of its fighter in alleged Israeli strikeBy JUDAH ARI GROSS Today, 4:15 pm 0View of an Israeli military post near the Lebanese border, July 27, 2020 (Channel 12 screenshot)
Fierce fighting broke out along the Israeli-Lebanese border on Monday afternoon as the Hezbollah terror group reportedly launched an attack on Israeli troops on the frontier, apparently in retaliation for the death of one of its fighters in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.
The heavy exchange of fire occurred in the contested area of Mount Dov, a regular site of Hezbollah attacks against Israeli military targets, the Israel Defense Forces said.
Explosions and sounds of gunfire were heard throughout the region and smoke filled the air above Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms, an area that Israel, Lebanon and Syria each claim as its own.
There is “ongoing combat in the Mount Dov area,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, the IDF’s English-language spokesperson, wrote in a tweet Monday.
The fighting was apparently sparked by a Hezbollah attack in the area. The Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen reported that members of the terror group fired a Kornet anti-tank guided missile at an IDF tank, while other Lebanese outlets said the Israeli military had foiled the attempted Hezbollah attack, killing the group’s fighters.
There were no official comments released by Hezbollah.
The IDF said additional details about the incident would be released shortly.
Lebanese media reported that the Israeli military fired a number of artillery shells at targets in southern Lebanon.
The violence along the border appeared to be the Hezbollah terror group’s retaliation for the death of one of its fighters in an airstrike attributed to Israel outside Damascus last Monday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were both informed about the incident and traveled to the military’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the developments with the IDF top brass.
“We are in a difficult security situation,” Netanyahu said, as he left a Likud party meeting in order to meet with defense officials.
The Israeli military ordered residents of communities near Mount Dov and along the Israeli-Lebanese border to remain inside their homes in light of the violence.
The IDF said it closed all roads in the area and ordered all farmers, hikers and tourists to immediately leave all open areas and farm lands.Israel Defense Forces soldiers stationed along the border with Lebanon on July 23, 2020. (Basel Awidat/ FLASH90)
“Please continue to be updated on directives that are being put out by media outlets and listen to all orders by security forces and the IDF which are operating in the area,” the military said.
Additional information was available by calling 104 from any Israeli phone.
Following Hezbollah’s claim last Tuesday that Israel had killed its fighter the day before, the IDF went into high alert on the northern border, deploying infantry reinforcements on the ground, as well as additional Iron Dome missile defense batteries.
The skies above northern Israel were filled on Sunday and Monday with the sound of fighter jets, drones and helicopters, apparently collecting intelligence and preparing to retaliate for any attack.
On Sunday, Gantz issued a clear threat to Hezbollah terror group while visiting the northern border, saying that the Jewish state was prepared to take harsh action against “anyone who tests us.”
Asked about reports that Israel conveyed messages to the Lebanese terror group that it had not meant to kill its fighter — Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad — Gantz appeared to drop Israel’s policy of ambiguity about its activities in Syria.
“We acted against the entrenchment of Iran in Syria. If someone involved in Iran’s activities in Syria — which we will continue to act against — this is liable to happen. We take that into account,” he said.
The defense minister indicated that he did not believe the current situation would lead to a larger conflict or an all-out war, but said the he “recommends to the other side not to drag us into that.”
“We don’t want any unnecessary escalations [of violence], but anyone who tests us will be met by a very high capability to take action, and I hope we won’t need to use it,” Gantz said.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz warned the governments of Syria and Lebanon that they would be held responsible for any attacks against Israel coming from their territory.
“Lebanon and Syria bear responsibility for any attack from their territory against Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “We will not allow anyone to upend our security or threaten our citizens; we won’t tolerate an attack on our forces… The IDF is prepared to respond to any threat.”
On Sunday night Hezbollah’s deputy chief brushed off Israel’s warnings, while keeping quiet on whether the terror group would retaliate against the Jewish state.
“If Israel decides to go to war with us, then we will confront them, and the 2006 [Second Lebanon] War will be the model for our response,” Naim Qasim told pro-Hezbollah al-Mayadeen TV. “We’re used to Israeli threats; they do not offer us a new political vision. This is mere chest-beating.”
On Friday, the IDF began clearing out unnecessary personnel from the frontier and barring military vehicles from traveling on roads that are vulnerable to anti-tank guided missile attack from Lebanon. No such restrictions were placed on civilians at the time, who were then encouraged to go about their daily lives as normal despite the heightened tensions.
In the past, Hezbollah has vowed to retaliate for losses of its soldiers in Syria with attacks on Israel. This was the case in September, when the terror group fired three anti-tank guided missiles at Israeli military targets along the Lebanese border, narrowly missing an IDF armored ambulance with five soldiers inside, after the IDF killed two of its fighters in Syria the month before.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.