Hezbollah ‘Playing With Fire,’ Israel’s Netanyahu Warns After Thwarted Northern Border Attack
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Hezbollah was “playing with fire” following an attempted terror attack on the Jewish state’s northern border on Monday.
“Israel will continue to take action against Iran’s efforts to entrench militarily in our region,” Netanyahu said in a statement made at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, where he was joined by Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “[Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah is embroiling Lebanon ‐‐ because of Iran.
“Today, a Hezbollah cell infiltrated into Israeli territory,” Netanyahu continued. “Thanks to the successful operational deployment of forces on the ground by its commanders, the IDF thwarted this attempt. We view the effort to infiltrate into our territory with utmost gravity. Hezbollah and Lebanon bear full responsibility for this incident and for any attack against the State of Israel emanating from Lebanese territory.”
“Hezbollah needs to understand that it is playing with fire. Any attack against us will be met with great strength. Nasrallah already made a major mistake in underestimating Israel’s determination to defend itself and Lebanon paid a heavy price for this. I suggest that he not repeat this mistake,” the Israeli leader concluded.
Gantz spoke after Netanyahu, and praised the IDF for acting “with great professionalism and precision.”
“Israel is more determined than ever to prevent harm to its sovereignty or its soldiers, and certainly to its citizens,” Gantz declared. “Any action against the State of Israel will lead to a powerful, sharp and painful response.”
“The IDF is ready to respond, the IDF is ready for a response,” Gantz added. “We will continue to operate in every place it’s required, near or far.”
Monday’s incident ‐‐ in which no casualties were reported by Israel or Hezbollah ‐‐ occurred in the disputed Shebaa Farms border area.
Israeli forces had been on alert on the northern front in anticipation of potential Hezbollah retaliation for the killing of one of its members a week ago in an alleged Israeli air strike on the edge of the Syrian capital of Damascus.
An Israeli military spokesman said between three and five Hezbollah militants had taken part in Monday’s operation and had crossed back into Lebanon.
Hezbollah, which last fought a war with Israel in 2006, denied that its forces had tried to cross the border and claimed in a statement that the Shebaa Farms incident was “one-sided.”
“There were no clashes or opening of fire from our side in today’s events,” Hezbollah said. “Our response to the martyrdom of Ali Kamel (Mohsen)… will surely come,” it said, referring to the fighter who died in Syria.
A Lebanese source said Hezbollah had fired a guided missile at an Israeli tank. Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, however, told reporters he was unaware of any such occurrence.
After the killing of two Hezbollah members in Damascus last August, Nasrallah vowed to respond if Israel killed any more of its fighters in Syria. However the group’s deputy leader on Sunday said an all-out war with Israel was unlikely.
Hezbollah fighters have deployed in Syria as part of Iran-backed efforts to support President Bashar al-Assad. Israel sees the presence of Hezbollah and Iran in Syria as a strategic threat, and has mounted hundreds of raids on Iran-linked targets there.