Israeli aircraft carried out strikes against Hezbollah border positions after Israeli troops came under fire originating from Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Forces announced Tuesday.
“During operational activity in northern Israel last night, shots were fired from Lebanon toward IDF troops. We responded with fire, & our aircraft struck Hezbollah observation posts near the border,” read a statement posted to Twitter.
“This is a severe event & we remain ready to combat any threat to our borders.”
Photos and videos published on social media overnight from the inland Lebanese border village of Mais al-Jabal show Israeli flares illuminating the night’s sky.
The overnight confrontation marked the most serious escalation between Israel and Hezbollah since August 4, when a mammoth stock of ammonium nitrate blew up at Beirut port, resulting in an all-consuming humanitarian disaster for the Lebanese.
Hezbollah has not accused Israel of having any link to the explosion, whose causes remain under investigation. But tensions have been on the rise in Lebanon, with Hezbollah facing revived domestic scrutiny over its weapons stores.
On Saturday, Hezbollah said it had downed and seized an Israeli drone that flew over the UN-demarcated Blue Line on the southern border. Israel’s military said the drone “fell,” and there was “no risk of breach of information.”
The Lebanese government on Tuesday rejected an Israeli call to beef up the activities of a UN peacekeeping force, UNIFIL, patrolling the border between the two countries. Israel contends the force is unable to inspect Hezbollah sites and is thus not fulfilling part of its mandate to “restore international peace and security.”
UNIFIL is also mandated to “assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area,” a task burred by Hezbollah’s membership in the government.
Israel’s ally Washington has made similar calls for change at the Security Council. UN chief Antonio Guterres in June called for an improved surveillance capacity for UNIFIL, including thermal-imaging cameras, hi-tech binoculars and drones.
On August 30, the Security Council will vote on the force’s renewal.