peacekeepers patrol along the Israel-Lebanon border near the northern Israeli town of Metula.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Israel repatriated a Lebanese man who showed signs of mental illness after he crossed the northern border into Israel on Monday.
The man, who was identified by the Lebanese National News Agency as Ali Mrad, said he had been sent by two Hezbollah operatives, brothers Mahdi and Ali Shahror, who threatened him with forced mental hospitalization if he did not comply.
Mrad was under close surveillance as soon as he approached the fence and was caught by IDF soldiers close to where he crossed into Israel.
During his interrogation, Mrad told authorities that Mahdi Shahror brought him to the border on a motorcycle and told him to check the condition of the electric border fence.
“Hezbollah in this operation, as in other operations, continues with their cynical exploitation of the Lebanese population and thus violates Security Council resolutions,” read a statement by the IDF.
The infiltration marked the second time Mrad made his way into Israel. In April, he crossed near Moshav Margaliot and walked to the Kiryat Shmona Central Bus Station, about 10 kilometers from the border fence. He was arrested and interrogated by Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and the following day, was transferred back to Lebanon through the Rosh Hanikra crossing with the cooperation of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
In an interview on Lebanese television, Mrad’s father said his son was mentally ill and had previously claimed he was Jewish, telling his father he wanted to go to Israel. “My son’s mind is not right. He says he was originally Jewish,” his father said. “Can you imagine a normal person doing such a thing?” The border infiltration came one day after an Iranian drone that crossed into Israeli air space and was shot down by the Israel Air Force. The IAF responded by sending eight planes to bomb targets in Syria. One of the planes, an F-16I fighter jet, was shot down on its return to Israel.
The pilot and navigator ejected from their jet before it crashed near Kibbutz Harduf.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006. That came to an end under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for the disarmament of Hezbollah; Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon; deployment of the Lebanese Army; and an enlarged UN force in southern Lebanon.
The IDF has flagged the border with Lebanon as being vulnerable to enemy infiltration, as it has been crossed illegally at least 10 times since 2009.
Israel believes during the next war with Hezbollah, the terrorist group will try to bring the fight to the home front by infiltrating Israeli communities to kill civilians and soldiers.
This has led to significant efforts over the past several years to strengthen defenses along Israel’s border with Lebanon. By creating obstacles such as artificial cliffs and building high concrete barriers, Israel hopes to prevent any such ground attacks by Hezbollah.
In the summer, Israel began building an upgraded border security fence along two stretches of the border, near Rosh Hanikra on the northern Mediterranean coast near Metulla.
Disagreement over Israel’s construction of its new border wall have elevated tensions between Israel and Lebanon, with Hezbollah Secretary- General Hassan Nasrallah warning against the security wall’s continued construction.