Israeli fire said to wound Hezbollah members on Lebanon border

Lebanese sources say three Hezbollah members injured; Israeli military says group approached border fence and was repelled.

Israeli soldiers stand near an army self-propelled artillery vehicle on the outskirts of Kiryat Shmona near Israel's border with Lebanon
Israeli soldiers stand near a self-propelled artillery vehicle on the outskirts of Kiryat Shmona near Israel's border with Lebanon on July 6, 2023 [Jalaa Marey/AFP]

Several members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group have been wounded in a flare-up on the southern border with Israel, a Lebanese security source and a source briefed on the developments say.

“Three Hezbollah members were wounded by Israeli fire near the border,” the security source told the Agence France-Presse news agency on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorised to speak to the media.

The wounded were taken to a hospital near the scene of Wednesday’s incident in the village of Bustan in southern Lebanon, the source added.

The incident took place on the 17th anniversary of the start of a month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006 that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and about 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers fighting Hezbollah inside Lebanon.

There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah’s media office on Wednesday.

The Israeli military said in a statement: “A number of suspects approached the northern security fence with Lebanon and attempted to sabotage the security fence in the area.”

“Soldiers immediately spotted the suspects and used means to distance them,” the army said, adding that “the identity of the suspects is unknown.”

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said the fact that the statement from Israel’s army did not say it was Hezbollah members who were wounded was intentional.

“The reason for that is that things are incredibly tense on that border with northern Israel and southern Lebanon in the last six months,” Khan said from occupied East Jerusalem.

“Israel doesn’t want escalation right now because Hamas, Hezbollah and the Syrian armed groups fighting near the Golan Heights are all unified,” he added. “They’ve all said that if there’s an attack on one, it’s an attack on them all.”

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the army “deterred activists with nonlethal means”.

“Anyone who tries us will get an answer,” Gallant said. “We have a lot to do, and we will know how to do what is needed at the right time.”

The Lebanese source briefed on developments described the incident as an attack and said several Hezbollah members had been wounded but could not immediately provide more details.

One Lebanese security source said a grenade fired by Israeli forces had wounded three people believed to be members of Hezbollah. Another said a group of Hezbollah members on the border was the target and three were wounded.

Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said a group of Hezbollah members had set a fire at the border, setting off landmines and Israeli troops had fired warning shots.

The United Nations peacekeeping force along the southern Lebanese border said it was investigating the situation. “In the meantime, the situation is extremely severe,” it said. “We urge everyone to cease any action that may lead to escalation of any kind.”

The incident comes less than a week after the Israeli army struck southern Lebanon after an anti-tank missile launched from its northern neighbour exploded in the border area.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah was due to make a televised address to commemorate the 2006 war.

Lebanese officials said Israel in recent weeks has built a wall around the Lebanese part of Ghajar, a town that straddles the border between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in Syria. Lebanon’s foreign minister asked the country’s permanent mission to the UN to file a complaint on the matter.

Israel filed a complaint with the UN in June saying Hezbollah had set up tents several dozen metres within Israeli territory. The tents were erected in Chebaa Farms and the Kfar Chouba hills, which Israeli captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981 although Lebanon claims the area belongs to it.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies