Israel says it exchanged fire with Hezbollah in foiled attack near Lebanese border

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The IDF said that a Hezbollah cell comprising between three and five militants armed with assault rifles crossed the demarcation line, known as the Blue Line, between Israel and Lebanon by “a few meters”, then the Israeli army opened fire with small arms and a fire tank.

Hezbollah has denied organizing an operation against Israel. The group said that a civilian house was hit by Israeli airstrikes in the Lebanese town of al-Habaria.

“The Islamic Resistance claims that there have been no clashes or shootings on their part in the events of the day so far. On the contrary, it was one party, which was the fearful, anxious and tense enemy, ”Hezbollah said in a statement.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said on a conference call with reporters: “We spotted them as they approached the Blue Line, the monitored and followed. Shortly after crossing the Blue Line, we engaged. and were able to thwart the attack. We visually confirmed that the terrorists fled to Lebanon. “

The IDF said the operation took place near an area known as Har Dov in Israel and Shebaa Farms in Lebanon, which was captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by Lebanon.

The IDF also used artillery fire to create smoke screens “for defensive purposes,” Conricus said. There were no Israeli military casualties in the exchange, according to the IDF spokesman. He added that he had no information on the condition of the members of the Hezbollah cell.

The incident comes a week after an Israeli airstrike south of the Syrian capital, Damascus, was accused of murdering a Hezbollah fighter. Although it denied carrying out an operation against Israeli forces on Monday, the group said in its statement that retaliation for the murder of one of its activists “is certainly coming”.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah had previously vowed to answer any Israeli killings of the group’s fighters in Syria.

‘Prepared for any scenario’

Moments after the incident began on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli military was ready to deal with any situation.

“We are constantly monitoring what is happening on our northern border. Our policy is clear. First, we will not allow Iran to retreat militarily on our border with Syria, ”Netanyahu said. “Secondly, Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear responsibility for any attack against us from Lebanese territory. Third, the IDF is ready for any scenario. ”

The IDF immediately imposed restrictions on civilians when the shooting started, ordering them to stay indoors and to refrain from all activity in open areas. The restrictions, which applied to some 40 communities along the border, were lifted about an hour later, indicating that the military believed the fighting could have been contained.

The IDF on Friday deployed additional troops to the country’s northern border and restricted movement of military vehicles along it in anticipation of Hezbollah’s response to last week’s airstrike in Syria. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi visited the northern border on Saturday and Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited on Sunday.

The commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which monitors the border, called for restraint. In a statement, Major General Stefano Del Col said he was in contact with the two sides “to assess the situation and reduce tensions”.

This is the first shot at the volatile border since last September, when Hezbollah attacked an IDF base and a nearby military vehicle. This operation came after an Israeli attack in Syria, which killed two Hezbollah fighters.

The IDF responded to the September border attack with 100 artillery shells and limited helicopter fire along the border. There were no casualties.

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