The Israeli military confirmed on Monday that a “security incident” had occurred on the country’s northern border with Lebanon and stated that its forces were engaged in “continuous battles” with Hezbollah militants.
Local media reported that there was an exchange of fire in an area called “Chebaa Farms”, which was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War and alleged by Lebanon. In the fierce hostile fighting over the past year, most Israeli civilians were ordered to stay indoors.
Residents near the border said the fighting lasted about an hour and a series of explosions occurred.
Israel had been on high alert that they could be attacked after an Israeli airstrike in Syria killed a Hezbollah militant last week. However, Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the military was “able to successfully thwart an attempt to infiltrate into Israel’ by a group of armed militants.
“We know for certain that they were armed and that they crossed the Blue Line into Israel,” he said, referring to the line delineating Israel’s frontier with Lebanon.
Confucius said that no Israeli army was injured in the fighting, but he could not comment on the situation of the militants. He said the militants fled the scene.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that he, his defense minister and chief of staff are “constantly monitoring what is happening on the northern border.”
He added: “Our policy is clear. First, we will not allow Iran to entrench militarily on our border with Syria. …Second, Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear the responsibility for any attack against us emanating from Lebanese territory. Third, the IDF is prepared for any scenario. We are active in all arenas for the security of Israel – both close to our borders and far from them.”
Israel and Hezbollah were deadlocked in the 2006 Lebanon war. In recent years, Israel has conducted dozens of air strikes in Syria, targeting Hezbollah weapons sent by Iran to Lebanon.
Hezbollah did not immediately speak.
The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, said its commander, Major General Stefano del Cole, is in contact with both parties to assess the situation and reduce tensions.
“He urges maximum restraint,” the UNIFIL statement said.