JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said it had stopped Hezbollah fighters from crossing from Lebanon into Israel on Monday, and ordered residents in the area to remain indoors.
“We thwarted an infiltration attempt of a terror squad crossing the Blue Line into Israel. No IDF casualties. The event is still ongoing,” tweeted Jonathan Conricus, international spokesperson for the Israeli military.
A short while later, the military said the group had been from Hezbollah. For decades the border region has been the front line of on-off conflicts with Hezbollah, Iran’s most powerful regional proxy.
However, Hezbollah later said in a statement that it was “absolutely not true” that Israel had thwarted an infiltration operation from Lebanese territory and denied having taken part in a clash or shooting on Monday.
Instead, it said only “one party” was involved — “the fearful, anxious and tense enemy” — implying the incident was one-sided and had happened because Israel was on edge.
Hezbollah said that the Lebanese village of Habbariyeh had been shelled and that it had damaged a civilian’s house. The incident “will not be tolerated,” the group said in the statement, but did not give further details as to what that meant.
The militants said its retaliation for the death of one of its fighters outside Damascus last week was “definitely coming” and that the Israelis would have to wait for the “punishment of their crimes.” Asked whether Israel conducted the airstrike that killed the Hezbollah fighter, the Israeli military said it would not comment on foreign reports.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military had told residents of communities near the border area to stay at home and that any activity in open areas, including farming and tourism, was forbidden.
“At this time, routes in the area are blocked, non-essential car traffic should be avoided,” read the instructions to civilians given by the Israeli military.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government was “constantly monitoring” what is happening on the northern border.
“Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear the responsibility for any attack against us emanating from Lebanese territory,” he said in a statement.
Tension has risen along Israel’s northern frontiers with Lebanon and Syria, including the occupied Golan Heights, after a fighter of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah was killed in an apparent Israeli strike on the edge of Damascus last Monday, according to Reuters.
Lawahez Jabari reported from Jerusalem. Saphora Smith from the United Kingdom.