Netanyahu to Hezbollah's Nasrallah: Calm down

IDF restricts movement along Lebanese border; four mortars fired from Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony laying the cornerstone for the new Mobileye global development center in Jerusalem, August 27 2019 (photo credit: AMIT SHABI/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony laying the cornerstone for the new Mobileye global development center in Jerusalem, August 27 2019
(photo credit: AMIT SHABI/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah yesterday to “calm down,” after Nasrallah said his group would retaliate for Israeli attacks in Syria and Beirut.
“I heard what Nasrallah said,” Netanyahu said in a speech. “I suggest to Nasrallah to calm down. He knows well that Israel knows how to defend itself and to pay back its enemies. I say the same to Qasem Soleimani: be careful with your words and even more so with your actions.”
The IDF began limiting traffic on roads along the Lebanese border on Tuesday morning over fears of retaliation by Hezbollah, as tensions remain high following the Israeli attacks.
“In light of an operational status assessment, it was decided that the movement of certain military vehicles on several roads would be possible only on the basis of individual approval and in accordance with the situational assessment of the situation,” the IDF said.
The order was given by the military to all units in the area on Tuesday morning restricting travel up to five kilometers from the border, and ordering all troops to carry weapons and wear protective equipment should their request to drive on the border roads be approved.
According to two sources close to Hezbollah quoted by Reuters, Hezbollah is preparing a “calculated strike” against Israel.
That attack “is being arranged in a way that wouldn’t lead to a war, which neither Hezbollah nor Israel wants,” one of the sources said. “The direction now is for a calculated strike, but how matters develop, that’s another thing.”
The army’s Northern Command has been on high alert since Saturday night, after the Israel Air Force carried out strikes against a cell belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force in Syria that was on its way to launch armed drones to attack targets in northern Israel.
According to the IDF, the cell – which was under the direct order of IRGC commander Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani – was commanded by the IRGC’s main commander in Syria, Javad Ghaffari.
Tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia troops are said to be operating under Ghaffari, who is responsible for recruiting, training and supervising them.
Nevertheless, “the home front is in a state of routine, and we are working to preserve that,” said the commander of the IDF’s Bashan Division in the Northern Command, Brig.-Gen. Amit Fisher. “The IDF has increased its level of preparedness, both in terms of defense and attack.”
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, called on the two sides to restrain themselves.
“The UN reiterates its appeal to all concerned to cease violations of Resolution 1701 (2006) and to fully implement its provisions,” he said at the Security Council on Tuesday. “The United Nations calls on the parties to exercise maximum restraint both in action and rhetoric.”
On Monday night, IDF troops fired several flares over the Mount Dov and the contested Sheba Farms area after reports of suspicious individuals seen near the border. According to Hezbollah’s al-Manar news website, the flares sparked a fire in the al-Bayader area south of Sheba.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said the flares were fired over Tallet Seddaneh, Birkat al-Naqqar and al-Bayader on the outskirts of Sheba after several blasts were heard.
The military has placed the Iron Dome missile defense system in the North, changed the deployment of troops, and placed all bases on high alert. No new safety instructions have been given to residents of the North, and bomb shelters have not been opened.
Similar to past confrontations with the Shi’ite Lebanese terror group, it is believed that Hezbollah will target military sites in the Galilee in retaliation and not civilians, to limit the chance of an all-out war between the two sides.
Since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, hostilities between the two foes have been limited to occasional firing across the border.
In 2015, two IDF soldiers were killed and seven wounded after Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles toward an unarmored military vehicle in the Mount Dov area near the Lebanese border. The five Kornet anti-tank missiles were fired by Hezbollah in retaliation for an airstrike in Syria that killed seven Hezbollah operatives a week earlier.
Israel has been warning Lebanon for months that it will hold it responsible for Hezbollah attacks from Lebanese territory, and it will target its infrastructure if Hezbollah launches rockets from Lebanon. The prime minister alluded to this in comments he made on a tour to the North on Sunday.
Israel, he said, would not “tolerate aggression against Israel from any country in the region. Any country that allows its territory to be used for aggression against Israel will face the consequences, and I repeat: the country will face the consequences.”
Meanwhile on Tuesday afternoon, four mortars were fired toward southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. According to the military, one fell in open territory next to the border fence while the other three fell inside the Strip. There were no casualties or injuries.
The Palestinian terror groups in Gaza will join any confrontation between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group, the Lebanese satellite television station Al-Mayadeen reported on Tuesday.
The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen quoted an unnamed source in the “Palestinian resistance” in Gaza as saying: “If war breaks out with Hezbollah, we will be at the front line.”
The source, who was described as a leader of the “Palestinian resistance,” said that Israel “must read the message of our support for the resistance in Lebanon.”
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Gaza-based groups have condemned Israel’s recent airstrikes in Syrian and Lebanon and voiced support for Hezbollah.
“The situation in Gaza remains very fragile as violent incidents continue,” Mladenov told the Security Council in New York.
“Israel must calibrate its use of force and use lethal force only as a last resort, and only in response to imminent threats of death or serious injury,” he said. “Hamas must prevent the indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israel. It must ensure that protests at the fence remain peaceful and prevent provocations.”
During meetings in Cairo with representatives of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Egypt warned that it will stop sponsoring any ceasefire agreement between the terror groups and Israel if Hamas does not stop rocket fire against Israel, according to a report in the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, and simultaneously warned the Gazan terror group against taking part in a proxy war supporting Hezbollah and Iran against Israel.
Egypt also said that it is working on a long-term agreement between Israel and Gaza, and attempting to arrive at a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would allow the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip.
Hamas informed Egypt that there are parties trying to thwart the ceasefire agreement, according to Al Hadath.
During the meeting, Egypt also promised that they would sponsor new measures to ease pressure on Gaza, and called on both sides to abide by the current agreements.
Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.