Recent flare-ups along the Lebanese border with Israel has stoked fears that a war might erupt between the two sides.
In 2006, the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day border war that left more than 1,200 people dead.
Though tensions along the volatile border have remained relatively calm, the recent uptick in attacks shed light on the strained relations between Israel and the Iran-backed Shia movement, which dominates Lebanese politics.
Formed in the early 1980s, Hezbollah fought off Israel in the 2006 war that highlighted the armed group’s military capabilities.
The Shia group was able to overwhelm Israel’s ground invasion of southern Lebanon and attack military and civilian targets, undermining internal Israeli support for the war and spurring regional support for Hezbollah’s military successes against a state army.
Israel has repeatedly bombed what it claims to be sites belonging to Iranian-backed militias, including Hezbollah, inside Syria for years. It has accused Iran of supporting Hezbollah with money and arms.
Since last month, a series of attacks have targeted Iranian-backed proxies in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, stoking fears of a regional escalation.
The militias have blamed the attacks on Israel, which has recently stepped up its efforts to curtail the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East.
Iraq’s powerful Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi force, or Popular Mobilisation Forces(PMF), blamed Israel for carrying out a deadly drone attack close to the border with Syria.
Here is a timeline of key events since the latest flare-up began:
Saturday, August 24: The Israeli military attacked targets near Syria’s capital of Damascus in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone attack on Israel.
Sunday, August 25: Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Afif says a small, unmanned reconnaissance drone fell on the roof of a building that was housing Hezbollah’s media office in the Moawwad neighbourhood in Beirut’s Dahyeh suburb.
He added that a second drone, which appeared to have been sent by Israel to search for the first drone less than 45 minutes later, exploded in the air and crashed nearby.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri said two Israeli drones that came down in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut, amounted to an open attack on the country’s sovereignty and an attempt to foment regional tensions.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the fall of the two Israeli drones marked a dangerous development.
“Hezbollah will not allow such an aggression,” he said. “The time when Israeli aircraft come and bombard parts of Lebanon is over.”
In a rare acknowledgement of deaths of its members in Syria in Israeli air raids, Nasrallah confirmed that two members of Hezbollah were killed in the attack in Syria’s Aqrabah area.
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said an alleged Israeli drone attack was a “declaration of war” that warranted a military response.
In a separate attack, Israeli drones attacked a Palestinian base in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, according to Lebanon’s state media.
The attacks struck a base for a Syrian-backed group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), an ally of Hezbollah.
The area is believed to be made up of tunnels, linking both countries together.
Later on Wednesday, the Israeli army said its drones “completed their mission and no [Israeli military] damage was reported”.
Thursday, August 29: Israel revealed what it said was declassified intelligence, outlining an Iranian programme to assemble precision-guided missiles inside Lebanon.
Saturday, August 31: Israel announced it ordered extra forces to deploy to the “northern command” along the border with Lebanon.
Hezbollah leader Nasrallah reiterated that Israel would face repercussions for the alleged drone attack.
“The need for a response is decided,” he said, adding that Israel “must pay a price”.
Nasrallah also said that the Israeli claim that Hezbollah was working with Iran to build a missile production programme was a “lie” and a “hanger” to justify Israeli aggression against Lebanon.
“We do not have factories to produce precision-guided missiles in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah was responding to an earlier drone attack by Israel.
The missiles hit several targets in Israel’s border town of Avivim, the Israeli army said, adding it responded by shelling 100 targets inside Lebanon.
Hariri called on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and France’s top diplomat to discuss the events.
In a statement accompanied by satellite images, the Israeli military said Hezbollah, with Iranian assistance, had brought specialised equipment to a weapons factory near the village of al-Nabi Shaith with the intention to set up a production line for precision-guided missiles.
The drone is now in the hands of Hezbollah’s fighters, the Iran-backed group said in a statement.
Shortly after, the Israeli army said one of its drones “fell inside southern Lebanon during routine operations”. It did not say what caused the crash and added, “there is no concern information could be taken from it.”