The Hezbollah terrorist group extended a rare invitation to the media to observe military exercises at a training site in southern Lebanon on Sunday.
Hezbollah fighters jumped through flaming hoops, shot from the backs of dirt bikes, and blew up Israeli flags and a wall meant to represent the Israel-Lebanese border, AP reported.
Senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine said in a speech that the exercise was meant to “confirm our complete readiness” to confront Israeli aggression. He also referred to the terrorist group’s possession of precision-guided missiles, which he said Israel would see “later.”
The exercise may have been connected to “Liberation Day,” an annual celebration of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon on May 25, 2000.
Israeli forces have occasionally invited journalists to watch military exercises simulating a confrontation with Hezbollah.
The IDF declined to comment on the Hezbollah exercise.
Mohanad Hage Ali, a senior fellow and Hezbollah researcher at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said the exercise on Sunday was a lower-risk way to show force than firing rockets at Israel.
While Hezbollah is “sending a message to the Israelis, it also demonstrates that this time around, they don’t want to escalate,” he said.
Israel, which carries out strikes on Hezbollah and Iranian targets in neighboring Syria with regularity, conducted a rarer strike on southern Lebanon last month after terrorists fired nearly three dozen rockets from there, wounding two and causing property damage.
Elias Farhat, a retired Lebanese army general, told AP that Hezbollah’s “symbolic show of strength” on Sunday may have also been in response to the recent escalation in the Gaza Strip. Israel targeted several high-level members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another Iranian proxy, in the Strip in early May.