The Israeli army is on high alert after an exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah on Monday afternoon when armed members of the terror group opened fire at Israeli troops and tried to infiltrate through Israel’s northern border, according to the IDF.
Artillery fire was heard booming through the area, lasting almost an hour, on both the Israeli and Lebanese sides of the border. No Israelis were injured.
“Hezbollah needs to know that it is playing with fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference Monday night.
The IDF is bolstering troops and firepower, including “advanced” firepower and intelligence gathering equipment, to the border despite a relative return to calm.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu visited an IDF command post near the northern border and warned Hezbollah, its host nation Lebanon, and Iran — the organization’s main sponsor — not to test Israel.
“All that is happening now is the result of an attempt to establish a military foothold in our area by Iran and its satellites in Lebanon,” Netanyahu said. “I don’t suggest anyone test the IDF or Israel. We are determined to defend ourselves.”
The skirmish came after a week of escalating tensions between Israel and Hezbollah. Over the past few weeks, Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria have been attacked in bombings attributed to Israel. The organization vowed to avenge the death of one of its fighters killed in an attack. Israel has not taken credit or commented on these attacks.
After Monday’s incident, Hezbollah put out a statement that nothing of the sort had taken place. The terror organization said on it’s website, Al-Manar, “Hezbollah denies all Israeli reports about clashes or gunfire exchange with enemy’s occupation forces Monday.”
However, the Lebanese Prime Minister apparently didn’t get the memo. Hassan Diab, who supports Hezbollah, accused Israel of instigating the skirmish, calling it a “dangerous military escalation.”
“I fear that the situation will deteriorate in light of the severe tension on our borders with occupied Palestine (referring to Israel),” Diab said in a statement.
Israeli defense officials said the infiltration attempt was undeniable, caught on film by military cameras and that the operatives who took part in it were armed.
The terror group said a reprisal for its fallen operative in Syria was still to come.
Lebanese media reported intensive Israeli drone flights over southern Lebanon throughout Tuesday morning. The military also maintained its own roadblocks in the area, preventing IDF vehicles from traveling on certain highways along the border that were considered vulnerable to attack from Lebanon.
“Tense and complicated days are before us,” said IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel would continue to operate “wherever necessary — however near or far,” to defend itself.
“Israel is more determined than ever to prevent any harm to its sovereignty, its soldiers, and certainly to its citizens,” Gantz said.