Tel Aviv / Beirut (dpa) - The tense situation on the Israeli-Lebanese border has escalated dangerously. Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said there was a shootout in the Har Dov region in the north of the country.
A group of Hezbollah fighters had been prevented from entering Israel. Israeli soldiers used firearms, tanks and artillery to create a smoke wall. Circles close to the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah confirmed that there had been an attack.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz went to the Ministry of Defense for advice after a TV report.
The conflict between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah had escalated in the past few days. The Israeli army announced at the end of last week that its troops would be strengthened in the north of the country. Israeli media reports responded to a report by Manar, a Hezbollah TV station, that a senior Hezbollah member was killed in an Israeli missile attack in Syria. Retaliation was feared.
Israeli military spokesman Conricus said that members of a cell crossed the so-called blue line for several meters, after which Israeli soldiers shot at them. The members of the cell, three to five men armed with rifles, had fled back to Lebanon. It is unclear whether they were injured or killed. There are no victims on the Israeli side. The blue line is the international border. The army had instructed the region's Israeli residents to stay in their homes.
According to the UN force, the commander of the UN peace mission in Lebanon, Unifil Stefano Del Col, contacted the parties to the conflict and tried to de-escalate them. He called on both sides to be cautious.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said immediately before the Jerusalem incident: "Lebanon and Hezbollah will be responsible for all attacks on us from Lebanese territory." The Israeli military is prepared for any scenario.
Hezbollah has a political wing in Lebanon that participates in the government there. Its military arm is directed against the neighbor Israel and is on the side of the government forces in the Syrian civil war.
Two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped in the region - also known as Sheba farms - in 2006, which triggered the second Lebanon war. The 30 square kilometer area on the border of Syria, Lebanon and Israel has long been controversial. The United Nations and the United States believe that the territory is part of Syria as part of the Golan Heights. Lebanon and Syria have so far not clearly formulated their claims and want to clarify the border dispute following an Israeli withdrawal.
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