Lebanon’s army said it has fired tear gas at Israeli forces over the border in response to smoke bombs fired at its troops, though Israel has said Lebanon started the confrontation.
Tensions have flared along the frontier for the past several months, with rockets fired at Israel during flare-ups of Israeli-Palestinian violence and members of the heavily armed Lebanese group Hezbollah or its supporters facing off with Israeli forces.
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“Elements of the Israeli enemy violated the withdrawal line and fired smoke bombs at a Lebanese army patrol that was accompanying a bulldozer removing an earthen berm erected by the Israeli enemy north of the withdrawal line, the blue line, in the Bastra area,” the Lebanese army said in a statement on Saturday.
The area where the incident occurred is in Chebaa Farms and the Kfar Chouba hills, which were captured by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Middle East war and are part of Syria’s Golan Heights that Israel annexed in 1981.
That unilateral annexation was not recognised internationally, except by the administration of former US president Donald Trump, and Syria demands the return of the territory. The Lebanese government has said the area belongs to Lebanon.
The Israeli military said it was Lebanon that started the violence.
“A short while ago, [Israeli] soldiers spotted an engineering vehicle’s shovel crossing the Blue Line from Lebanon into Israeli territory in the area of Mount Dov,” a statement from the Israeli military said. “In response, [Israeli] soldiers used riot dispersal means.”
“The vehicle returned to Lebanese territory,” the military said.
The Lebanon-Israel border has been relatively calm since Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006. Despite that, there have been tensions.
In April, Israel launched rare air raids in southern Lebanon after fighters fired nearly three dozen rockets from Lebanon at Israel, wounding two people and causing property damage.
In July, Israeli forces shelled a southern Lebanese border village after several explosions were heard in a disputed area where the borders of Syria, Lebanon and Israel meet.