Sunday, September 9, 2018

Hezbollah force that infiltrates Israel won't get ‎out alive, IDF warns - ‎Lilach Shoval, Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff

by ‎Lilach Shoval, Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff

Construction of 80-mile wall along Israel's northern border stokes tensions as Lebanon claims the project infringes on its sovereignty

An Israeli soldier near the wall being built on Israel's northern border
Photo: AP 

Israel is building a massive wall along its northern ‎border, saying the barrier is needed to protect nearby communities from Hezbollah attacks, ‎but the project has raised tensions with Lebanon, ‎which fears the wall will encroach on its ‎territory.‎

The Israeli military insists the entire barrier is ‎being constructed in Israeli territory, and UNIFIL – ‎the U.N. peacekeeping force in the area – agrees.

But Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah has never fully ‎accepted the border, and a senior Israeli military ‎official stressed the need for the wall, saying that ‎while Israeli intelligence closely monitors Hezbollah‎, "we are prepared for the possibility ‎that they will surprise us.‎"

‎"Borders, as the saying goes, will forever be ‎breached. They [Hezbollah] may mark certain ‎achievements but it won't be anything as big as they ‎are planning. Wherever it happens, a Hezbollah force ‎that infiltrates Israel won't get ‎out alive," he ‎said.‎

Hezbollah has been heavily involved ‎in the seven-year-long Syrian civil war, sending thousands of ‎operatives to fight alongside Syrian President ‎Bashar Assad's forces. With the conflict ‎in Syria waning, Israel is wary of renewed ‎hostilities with Hezbollah. ‎

Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon waged war in ‎‎2006, sparked by a deadly cross-border raid in which ‎Hezbollah killed ‎eight Israeli soldiers and abducted ‎two others, ‎whose remains were returned to Israel in ‎a prisoner ‎exchange two years later.‎

Twelve years on, Hezbollah is believed to have an ‎even larger and more sophisticated arsenal of ‎rockets that pose a threat to all of Israel's ‎territory. ‎

Brig. Gen. Eran Ofir, the commander in charge of ‎Israel's border wall projects, said around 7 miles ‎of the 80-mile barrier has been ‎built. Most of it comprises a ‎30-foot high ‎concrete wall‎ ‎topped by steel mesh and lined with a ‎grid of sophisticated ‎sensors and advanced ‎surveillance systems. Steel fencing ‎replaces the ‎concrete in especially rugged ‎areas.‎ ‎

The $450 million project is slated for completion in ‎‎‎two years. ‎

Lebanese soldiers routinely monitor the ‎construction's progress from a guard post on the ‎opposite side of the Blue Line, which was demarcated ‎by the U.N. after Israeli forces withdrew from south ‎Lebanon in 2000 following an 18-year military ‎campaign. ‎

An IDF official said Israel has noted a troubling ‎rise ‎in "very close cooperation between the Lebanese ‎army and Hezbollah" near the Israeli border in ‎the ‎past year. He said the IDF expects even ‎more ‎Hezbollah fighters to arrive in the area after ‎the ‎Syrian war ends.‎

Israel and Lebanon technically remain at war.‎

The U.N. Security Council warned last month that ‎violations of the cease-fire agreement between ‎Lebanon and Israel could lead to fresh conflict.‎

Lebanon's top security body earlier this year ‎described the planned border wall as an "aggression" ‎against it.‎

‎"This wall, if it is built, will be considered an ‎aggression against Lebanon," it said in a statement. ‎‎"The Higher Defense Council has given instructions ‎to confront this aggression to prevent Israel from ‎building this so-called wall barrier on Lebanese ‎territory."

Maj. Tomer Gilad, Israel's liaison officer with ‎UNIFIL, said monthly meetings are held with the ‎Lebanese military and U.N. officials to coordinate ‎the barrier's construction.‎

‎"Even for the past year before we started this ‎construction, we've coordinated this activity with ‎UNIFIL, and through UNIFIL with the Lebanese Armed ‎Forces. We've alerted them of our intention to construct this defensive mechanism," Gilad ‎told reporters.‎

Thus far, construction has proceeded "very calmly ‎with the participation on all sides to maintain ‎stability," he said. "We expect UNIFIL and the ‎Lebanese army to maintain stability over here ‎throughout this construction because this ‎project is a stabilizing measure."‎

UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said that since ‎construction began in February, all the building work has been south of the Blue Line and away from ‎sensitive areas.‎

‎Lilach Shoval, Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff


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