BEIRUT - Israel has continued its extraordinary security measures near the Shebaa Farms, shelling the demarcation zone with Lebanon hours after Hezbollah’s leader reiterated his party would retaliate for the assassination of Samir Kuntar.
“At around 10:00 p.m., Israeli artillery shelled the area around its positions on the border [between] the occupied Shebaa Farms [and] the adjacent liberated areas,” Lebanon’s state National News Agency reported late Sunday night.
The NNA added that 20 artillery rounds had been fired, all of which fell within Israeli-controlled territory.
On Monday morning, the online outlet El-Nashra provided a more detailed account of the continued military maneuvers in the Shebaa area.
El-Nashra’s correspondent in nearby Hasbaya reported that they had “heard, at a late hour last night, the reverberation of explosions accompanied by bursts of heavy machinegun fire [emanating] from the Israeli army’s positions inside Shebaa Farms.”
According to the correspondent, the sounds came from “the direction of the demarcation lines with the villages of Al-Arqoub in the hills [around] Shebaa Farms.”
“It transpired that they were sweep operations the Israeli army had been carrying out for over a week from time to time all along the Farms front,” the correspondent added.
For the past five days, Israel has been shelling open areas along its border with Lebanon in order to prevent any possible Hezbollah attack to avenge the December 19 killing of Samir Kuntar, which the Shiite party has blamed on Tel Aviv.
The English-language website for Israel’s leading Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Sunday evening that the Israeli artillery attacks “are meant to prevent Hezbollah from exploiting the stormy weather Israel has been experiencing lately in order to execute attacks.”
During a televised address Sunday afternoon, Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, for the third time, stressed that his party would strike back against Israel for the killing of Kuntar, a Druze figure who was coordinating Hezbollah-backed militia activities among locals in Syria’s Quneitra province.
“The response is coming,” Nasrallah said, in the latest barb in a growing war of words between Hezbollah and Israeli military and political figures who have threatened a “harsh response” against the Lebanese party, should it attempt a reprisal attack.
On Monday morning, a leading pro-Hezbollah daily in Lebanon further mocked Israel, saying the country’s soldiers were “hiding.”
“The wait for Hezbollah’s response and Tel Aviv’s growing [conviction] that the possibilities [for what form it will take] are open all along the border have prompted Israeli soldiers and settlers to continue distancing themselves [from the area] and hiding as part of a strategy to ‘reduce the targets’ available to the party,” the boastful Al-Akhbar article claimed.
“This has created a scenario that may well be unprecedented in the history of the occupation army: an anti-Israel actor is searching for [Tel Aviv’s] soldiers and officers to take reprisals against them and they are hiding to prevent themselves from being targeted.”
Israel and Hezbollah last clashed along the southern Lebanese border on January 28, 2015, when the Shiite party launched a deadly rocket attack on an IDF patrol ten days after an Israeli airstrike killed a number of top Hezbollah and Iranian officers in Quneitra.
NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Ullin Hope translated the Arabic-language source material.