Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab this week accused Israel of violating his country’s sovereignty with a “dangerous military escalation” after Hezbollah operatives snuck into Israel and shot at troops.
The Israel Defence Forces said a cell of the Shi’ite militia crossed into Israeli territory and fired on Israeli troops, deliberately not hitting them, before fleeing back into Lebanese territory, where Hezbollah is based.
Israeli leaders have been told to expect a reaction after the group blamed Jerusalem for an attack on its operatives in Syria last week, killing one.
A Hezbollah spokesman said: “Reports in Israel about an infiltration and gunfire at our fighters are Israeli lies. Our response to the death [of the operative] will still arrive.”
Lebanese sources said the IDF fired artillery shells over the border after the cell had fled, leading Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab to accuse Israel of a “dangerous military escalation”, but Christian leaders in Lebanon said the incident showed that the government “doesn’t have sovereignty in the south”.
Analysts said it was notable that Israeli soldiers had watched the infiltration attempt unfold but refused to fire on the operatives, let them back into Lebanese territory, and refused to release video footage, suggesting that the IDF did so to avoid an escalation.
After a briefing from IDF leaders on Israel’s northern border, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We will continue to take action to thwart Iran’s military entrenchment in our region, to do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves. I suggest that Hezbollah consider this simple fact: Israel is ready for any scenario.”