Hezbollah fires into Israel, IDF responds, as tension keeps mounting

No casualties or injuries reported in attack against IDF position near Avivim

Smoke rises near Moshav Avivim near the border between Israel and Lebanon, in northern Israel, September 1, 2019. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90 (photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)
Smoke rises near Moshav Avivim near the border between Israel and Lebanon, in northern Israel, September 1, 2019. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90
(photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)
Several anti-tank missiles were fired by Hezbollah toward an IDF base and at military vehicles along the northern border on Sunday, and Israel’s military responded by firing over 100 artillery shells into southern Lebanon as well launching an airstrike against the cell responsible for the attack.
There were no injuries or casualties reported in the attack.
“A number of anti-aircraft missiles were fired from Lebanon at an IDF base and military vehicles in the area,” the IDF said. “There are a number of confirmed hits.”
According to IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, Hezbollah fired at least three Kornet anti-tank missiles at a military position and military ambulance at around 4 p.m.
Manelis stated that while Hezbollah was able to carry out their retaliation, the military had been prepared for the scenario of an anti-tank missile attack, and had taken the necessary precautions to ensure that there would be no casualties.
Hezbollah took responsibility for the attack near Avivim, and was quoted by the Al Manar television channel as saying that “at 16:15 Hasan Zbeeb and Yasser Daher’s brigade destroyed an Israeli military vehicle near the border, killing and wounding those inside.”
The IDF refuted those claims.
Lebanese media reported that in retaliation, the IDF shelled sites near the Lebanese border town of Maroun al-Ras, but by 6:30 p.m. a tense quiet had returned to the border.
The military warned nevertheless that it was not sure if the attack on Avivim was the full extent of Hezbollah’s retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on August 24 against an Iranian-led cell in Syria that killed two Hezbollah members planning a drone attack on Israel.
Lebanon’s LBCI’s news channel said Hezbollah warned that “retaliation over drones will be in kind, and will be at its own time and according to its own circumstances.”
Following the attack, the military ordered residents living within four kilometers of the border to remain in their homes and open their bomb shelters. Any activity along the border fence area, including agricultural work, is prohibited, and the IDF urged residents of the area not to travel on open roads near the border.
While the military later removed all restrictions, the IDF said that it “will continue to keep a high-threat level – both defensive and offensive – for a wide variety of scenarios.”
United Nations peacekeepers were reported to be in contact with officials from both sides, in an effort to contain the violence along the border.
UNIFIL Force Commander and Head of Mission Maj.-Gen. Stefano Del Col called the attack a “serious incident in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and clearly directed at undermining stability in the area.”
“We need to maintain security along the Blue Line and exercise utmost restraint,” he said. “General calm has been restored in the area and the parties have reassured me of their continued commitment to the cessation of hostilities in accordance with Resolution 1701.”
According to Manelis, Del Col was in Israel on Sunday morning and met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who told him Israel’s position on Hezbollah and their precision-missile project.
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri called for the intervention of the United States, France and the international community to stop the escalation along the border.
Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was meeting with the president of Honduras at the time of the attack, received constant updates on the situation along the northern border.
“We are consulting about the future, are prepared for any scenario, and will decide on future actions depending on the developments,” he said.
According to reports, Netanyahu had earlier told reporters that “Lebanon will pay the price.” Amid mounting tensions with Iran and its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, Netanyahu said that Israel’s enemies, especially Iran, should know that those who seek to destroy Israel risk destruction themselves.
Speaking to students on the first day of school in Elkana, Netanyahu said it is clear today that most of the terrorism Israel faces is organized, sponsored and funded from one place: Iran.
“A new empire has arisen with the goal of defeating us,” he said. “They build proxies in Lebanon in the form of Hezbollah, in Gaza in the form of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They are trying to entrench themselves in Iraq to turn it not only into a country through which it can transfer arms to Syria and Hezbollah, but also to turn it into a launching pad for rockets and infiltrations against us.”
Netanyahu said that Israel is fighting Iran on all these fronts, and is determined to prevent it from entrenching itself militarily in the region and from getting nuclear weapons, “which would unequivocally alter the balance.”
President Reuven Rivlin opened his meeting with the Ethiopian president, warning that “we are ready and prepared to protect the citizens of Israel wherever they may be. We are ready, and we do not want to show you just how much. Take heed that the quiet can prevail only if it is on both sides of the border.”
Earlier on Sunday, the Hezbollah affiliated al-Manar news channel reported that the IDF fired several shells, causing fires on the Lebanese side, but there were no injuries.
The Lebanese army reported that an Israeli drone dropped incendiary material on a forest along the border, sparking a fire. The statement by the Lebanese Armed Forces said that it was following up on the Israeli violation with UN peacekeepers.
“A short while ago, fires broke out in the Lebanese border area,” the IDF said in a statement. “The fires originate with operations by our forces in the area.”
Israel’s Northern Command has been on high alert since last week, expecting a limited strike against military targets over the August 24 strike in Syria and an alleged Israeli drone attack in Beirut’s Dahiyeh.
The military set up roadblocks on arteries leading north, and has blocked traffic from entering several towns along the border.
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported on Saturday that the IDF launched more than 30 flare bombs near the Lebanese border towns of Ghajar, Mount Dov and Kfarchouba, as well and engaged with heavy machine gun fire near the villages of al-Semmaqah, al-Alam and al-Marsad.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said on Saturday evening that the military had also begun preparing ground, air, naval and intelligence troops for the possibility of an outbreak of violence in northern Israel, specifically in the Galilee. A convoy of artillery was seen been moved north by local residents.
In addition to the reinforcement of artillery batteries, Iron Dome missile defense batteries have been deployed, and leave for combat soldiers in the area has been canceled. The IDF has also closed the airspace to civilian flights, closing the civilian airport in Kiryat Shmona, and has put the navy on high alert, expecting an attack by Hezbollah.
The moves are part of the military’s strengthening of power and readiness in anticipation of any retaliation by the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group, which it is expecting against IDF troops or a military installation along the border.
On Saturday night, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned that it was “inevitable” that the group will retaliate against Israel, which he said claimed responsibility for attacks on Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
“Normally, we respond from Shaba Farms, but this time I wanted to say it would be open-ended where we would retaliate from,” Nasrallah was quoted by the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Manar. “This time it won’t be restricted to coming from Shaba. The first retaliation on the Israeli aggression would be initiating our right to down Israeli drones. Israel should know that the Lebanese airspace is not open to its drones, and the resistance will choose the right time and place to target the Israeli drones in our airspace.”
Kochavi toured the area on Friday and Head of the Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram warned that Hezbollah and Lebanon would suffer a “harsh response” to any attack.
“You should be preparing not for Hezbollah’s response against the IDF, but for their response to our response” to such an attack, Baram said, vowing that “if an IDF soldier is so much as scratched, our response will be harsh.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.