Middle East Eye / July 10, 2023
Israeli forces fired shots in the air to drive armed Lebanese soldiers away from Manara kibbutz near border fence.
Dozens of Lebanese soldiers and plainclothes individuals last week entered a territory north of Israel, crossing the UN Blue Line border fence that separates the two countries, Israeli media reported.
Israel’s Army Radio said on Sunday that they had crossed Lebanon’s southeastern border into an area near Manara, an Israeli kibbutz in the northwestern part of the Upper Galilee, which overlooks the Hula Valley.
Army Radio said that on 5 July, while Israel conducted engineering work near the fence, 30 people crossed the Israeli boundary, approached a bulldozer working on the land and stayed in the area for 20 minutes.
The radio claimed that the unarmed individuals accompanying the army were Hezbollah members, without providing evidence.
The report added that Israeli soldiers had fired shots in the air and notified the UN peacekeeping mission about the incident. The issue was resolved after a mediated “conversation” with the Lebanese side.
Hezbollah and the Lebanese army did not comment on the reports.
The situation has been tense along the border fence between Israel and Lebanon since April, with several protests and exchanges of fires taking place. On 4 July, an anti-tank missile was fired from Lebanon and landed near Kibbutz Manara, The Times of Israel reported.
Two days later, the Israeli army shelled south Lebanon after two rockets were launched from the area.
One of the rockets fell near Wazzani village in southern Lebanon, while the second rocket landed near the disputed village of Ghajar, located on the borders of Lebanon, Israel, and the occupied Golan Heights, whose residents call themselves Syrians.
The UN drew the Blue Line in 2000 after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon following 20 years of occupation, and is made of blue barrels. Israel built a fence along parts of it on its northern territory.
In the past few weeks, the Lebanese have protested over Israel’s attempts to build fences on their land along the Blue Line.
Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant warned of Hezbollah activity along the fence after the armed group put up two tents in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms before removing one in July.
“Don’t underestimate our strength and determination,” Gallant said.
“What you saw two months ago in Gaza and yesterday in Jenin, we’ll be able to do in Lebanon as well. Don’t trigger us because the outcome will be destructive.”
On 3 July, Israeli forces launched a massive two-day raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, killing 12 Palestinians and leaving wide-scale destruction.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which patrols the border fence between the two countries, has called all parties to “exercise restraint and refrain from taking actions that might exacerbate the situation”.
In April, the Israeli army shelled southern Lebanon and accused a Palestinian armed group of firing a barrage of rockets toward northern Israel.