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Hezbollah refuses to vacate encampment on Israeli soil

Jerusalem is focusing on diplomatic activity to end the crisis.

IDF soldiers along the Lebanese border during Operation Northern Shield, Dec. 9, 2018. Credit: IDF Spokesperson via TPS.
IDF soldiers along the Lebanese border during Operation Northern Shield, Dec. 9, 2018. Credit: IDF Spokesperson via TPS.

Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah are rising as the Lebanese terrorist organization refuses to vacate two tents it erected a few weeks just inside the Israeli side of the border.

The tents were set up in April in an area south of the frontier but north of an Israeli security barrier near Mount Dov, where the border converges with Syria. The tents are also a few hundred meters away from a Hezbollah border outpost on the Lebanese side of the border. The encampment is in an isolated area and not near any Israeli communities.

Hezbollah lawmaker Muhammad Raad, who heads the Lebanese parliament’s “Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc,” told reporters on Saturday, “Israel is not able to force anything. Gone are the days when Israel freely attacked the nuclear sites, such as the nuclear site in Iraq, but today there is resistance and Israel is not able to evacuate even two tents.

“If Israel wants to avoid war, it must remain silent,” Raad said.

Israeli security sources said that Jerusalem has been actively pursuing diplomatic channels to resolve the issue, with requests sent to Lebanon through the United Nations, the United States and France. However, these sources say Hezbollah appears determined to prolong the situation, extracting media attention and exploiting the crisis for its benefit.

“At the same time as formulating military ways to resolve the matter, we continue to try and exhaust the political discourse with the U.N. and UNIFIL, but our assessment is that Hezbollah will try to drag the matter out and squeeze media profits until the last moment before the evacuation,” an Israeli source said, referring to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, which is supposed to monitor the border.

“We are not excited by Hezbollah’s marches. This is a cheap provocation, cheaper and less serious than the attack in Megiddo or the firing of dozens of rockets on Passover from Lebanese territory,” he said.

Hezbollah is believed to be responsible for a roadside bombing at the Megiddo Junction in northern Israel in March. And its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is believed to have given the green light to Palestinian terrorist groups in Lebanon to fire a barrage of rockets in April, during the beginning of Passover.

Sources in Israel say that for the time being Israel is focusing on diplomatic activity to end the crisis with Hezbollah.

U.N. cartographers demarcated the Blue Line in 2000 to verify Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, which the Security Council later certified as complete. The border runs from Rosh Hanikra on the Mediterranean coast to Mount Dov. Hezbollah does not recognize the Blue Line and disputes 13 points along the border.

Among those points is a strip of land on Mout Dov, which Israel captured from Syria. Hezbollah claims the area called Shebaa Farms belongs to Lebanon. Syria has not commented on the matter.

However, Israel and Lebanon reached a U.S.-brokered agreement delineating their maritime borders in October 2022. The agreement allows Lebanon to begin exploiting natural gas in its territorial waters.

Under the agreement, the Karish gas field will remain under Israeli sovereignty while a French company exploring the Qana gas field for Lebanon will pay some royalties to Israel.

Hezbollah has constructed no fewer than 27 military posts along the border over the past year.

The posts were built under the guise of Green Without Borders, a Hezbollah-affiliated organization that poses as an environmental NGO. Hezbollah launched the project in parallel to Israel’s construction of a fortified perimeter fence along the 87-mile border. Israel’s effort to fortify the border was prompted by the discovery of Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels in 2018.

According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the terrorist group is forbidden to operate near the border. Israeli officials have been critical of UNIFIL’s refusal to stop Hezbollah from doing so.

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