Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman said this afternoon that Israeli troops thwarted a Hezbollah attack near the border with Lebanon. According to reports, a Hezbollah cell of three to five operatives crossed the Blue Line border a few meters into sovereign Israeli territory. The troops then opened fire at the group with machine guns and tank shells.
It was reported earlier in the day that IDF and Hezbollah exchanged heavy fire today in that area. According to reports, Hezbollah launched an attack on Israeli troops on the frontier, apparently in retaliation for the death of Hezbollah operative Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad, who was killed in a July 20 airstrike south of Damascus. Israel did not take responsibility for that strike, but Hezbollah was quick to blame Israel and promised to react. The IDF has in recent days increased deployment of forces in the north and has also increased the deployment of Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in the region. It was published this morning that the IDF now estimates Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah won’t settle for anything less than hurting Israeli soldiers as retaliation for the killing of Jawad.
Today’s exchange of fire took place in the contested Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms — an area Israel, Lebanon and Syria each claim as its own. Residents in the region reported sounds of gunfire and explosion and huge clouds of smoke rising in the air. According to Hezbollah-affiliated media outlet al-Mayadeen, Hezbollah militants fired a Kornet anti-tank guided missile at an IDF tank. Hezbollah-affiliated TV station Al-Manar reported on Israeli artillery fire in the region.
Following reports on the escalation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short the weekly Likud faction meeting and is set to meet now with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and senior security officials for an emergency meeting.
This afternoon, IDF instructed residents in localities near the border, including the towns of Kiryat Shmona and Metula, to stay home, and blocked the access to some of the main transportation axes in the north. Already this weekend, the army has blocked some of the roads near the border for passage of civilian vehicles, and farmers were prevented from reaching fields close to the border fence. On July 24, shrapnel hit a building and a vehicle in the Druze village of Majd al-Shams, but no injuries were reported. IDF fired at some Syrian military targets in the southern Quneitra region after the shrapnel incident.
Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting July 26, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that Israel “won’t allow Iran to entrench militarily on our northern border. Lebanon and Syria are responsible for any attack from its territory against Israel. We will not allow anyone to upend our security or threaten our citizens. We won’t tolerate any attack on our forces.”
Visiting the north of Israel on Sunday, Defense Minister Gantz issued a clear threat to Hezbollah, saying Israel was prepared to take harsh action against “anyone who tests us.” Gantz added, "We acted against the entrenchment of Iran in Syria. If someone involved in Iran’s activities in Syria — which we will continue to act against — this is liable to happen. We take that into account."
Also on Sunday, IDF said one of its drones had crashed in southern Lebanon. The army said the drone went down over Lebanese territory during operational activities along the border, stating there was no concern that any information was leaked.