Israel Says It Thwarted Attack Along Its Border with Syria

par Featured articles licensed from The Wall Street Journal | le 3 August 2020





Israeli forces and Hezbollah have engaged in series of skirmishes over the past year, raising fears of another border war

By Dov Lieber – The Wall Street Journal

The Israeli military said it fired at four people planting improvised explosive devices on the Syria-Israel border, as tensions grow with the Lebanese-based group, Hezbollah.

An Israeli special-forces unit thwarted plans for the apparent attack near the security fence that separates the Israel-controlled and Syria-controlled Golan Heights, Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said early Monday. The Israeli unit opened fire on the men, backed up by artillery and air support, Mr. Conricus said. The Israeli military estimated that all four men had been killed.

In a short video released by the Israeli military, four men can be seen walking across empty terrain near the fence, and later ducking before vanishing in a large explosion that came from overhead. Mr. Conricus said Israel doesn’t yet know the identity of the cell, but said it holds the Syrian government responsible for the clash.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Monday said its sources told it that the four men likely belonged to the Syrian Resistance for the Liberation of the Golan—a group it says was founded by Samir Kuntar, a senior Hezbollah officer killed by Israel in 2016. However, the U.K.-based organization said it couldn’t independently verify the identity of the cell.

The former head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin, said Monday he believed Hezbollah planned the attack as a revenge strike. “It seems [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah tried his luck from the Syrian front,” Mr. Yadlin wrote on Twitter.

In March last year, the Israeli military said Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq had set up a fresh terror network in the Golan Heights to launch attacks on Israel. At that time, Israeli officials said the cell was different from other Hezbollah units that had been fighting in Syria to help the government defeat opposition forces in the civil war. They said it was created specifically to strike at Israel.

Neither Hezbollah, which has been operating in Syria for years, nor the Syrian government has commented on the latest incident. It follows a series of clashes between Hezbollah, one of Iran’s key allies in the region, and the Israeli military.

Since a Hezbollah member was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Syria in mid-July, the Israeli military has maintained an increased presence on its northern border as it braced for retaliation. Israel has waged a yearslong air campaign aimed at what it says is Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.

An Israeli military vehicle patrolling near the Syria border Monday.

Israel and Hezbollah—which have fought two full wars, most recently in 2006—have engaged in a series of skirmishes for more than a year as the Israeli military has widened its campaign to blunt the threat posed by the Lebanese group. Israel accuses Hezbollah of working to manufacture precision-guided missiles and build tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel.

On July 27, the Israeli military said it had exchanged fire with an armed Hezbollah cell that crossed into Israeli-controlled territory from Lebanon. Israel said that none of its soldiers were injured and that the Hezbollah fighters fled back into Lebanon. Hezbollah denied that any incident took place, but vowed revenge for Israeli shelling in southern Lebanon.

“Hezbollah needs to know that it’s playing with fire,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following last week’s incident. “Any attack against us will be answered with great force.”