Cautious calm at Lebanon-Israel border after intense clashes

Cautious calm at Lebanon-Israel border after intense clashes
An escalation between Israel and Hezbollah has ended after a brief exchange of fire, but tensions remained high along the Lebanese border.
3 min read
02 September, 2019
No one was hurt by the Israeli artillery fire, which lasted about two hours. [Getty]

The Lebanon-Israel border was mostly calm with UN peacekeepers patrolling the border on Monday, a day after the Hezbollah fired a barrage of anti-tank missiles into Israel, triggering Israeli artillery fire.

The missile attack into Israel on Sunday did not inflict any casualties on the Israeli side. It came after Hezbollah vowed to retaliate for an Israeli airstrike that killed two Hezbollah operatives in Syria and an Israeli drone strike on the group's stronghold south of Beirut in late August.

No one was hurt by the Israeli artillery fire, which lasted about two hours and hit fields near the border village of Maroun el-Ras and the nearby village of Yaroun.

In Maroun el-Ras, residents inspected their tobacco and olive fields early Monday, some of which were burned by the Israeli fire.

Shortly before noon, a foot patrol of UN peacekeepers was seen near the border fence, searching the sides of a road with metal detectors apparently to make sure there are no unexploded shells.

A UN helicopter flew overhead while an armoured personnel carrier followed the peacekeepers.

Merchant Ahmad Alawiyeh, 45, was in the village with his son and daughter standing in an area overlooking his plot of land close to the fence. He didn't sustain much damage as he hadn't planted tobacco or olive trees like the two adjacent, burnt plots.

"This is a victory and pride for us," he said, referring to Hezbollah's attack on Israel. Alawiyeh has been living between his hometown and Beirut since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation.

On the Israeli side of the border, civilian cars were seen from a distance driving through a village.

On Sunday, Israel's military chief, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, met with the commander of the UN peacekeeping force, Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col.

"We will not accept neither attacks on our civilians or soldiers," Kohavi said, adding that the Lebanese government and the UN peacekeepers "must bring Iran and Hezbollah's precision guided missile manufacturing project to its end."

The Israeli army believes that Iran and Hezbollah are racing to establish missile-production factories in Lebanon - a claim that Hezbollah denies.

Maroun el-Ras witnessed some of the most intense battles between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters during the 34-day war they fought in 2006. Despite their deep hostility, Hezbollah and Israel have largely refrained from direct fighting for the past 13 years.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Sunday talked with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and also an adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, urging the international community to calm the situation.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, and Iran-backed Hezbollah to be its most immediate military threat. Hezbollah has a battle-tested army that has been fighting alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria's civil war, and it is believed to possess an arsenal of some 130,000 missiles and rockets.

Throughout the Syrian war, Israel has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria aimed at preventing alleged Iranian arms transfers to Hezbollah. But in recent weeks, Israel is believed to have widened its campaign and struck Iranian or Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Lebanon as well.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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