Israel 'prepared for very intense operation' on Lebanon border : Netanyahu

AFP , Wednesday 5 Jun 2024

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel was "prepared for a very intense operation" along the border with Lebanon, where Israeli troops have exchanged near-daily fire with Hezbollah fighters.

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .AP


Exchanges between Israel and the Hezbollah movement have intensified over the past week, with repeated Israeli strikes deeper into Lebanese territory.

"We are prepared for a very intense operation in the north. One way or another, we will restore security to the north," Netanyahu said during a visit to the border area earlier on Wednesday.

The prime minister's far-right coalition partners National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have both called in recent days for urgent action to restore security to northern Israel.

"They burn us here, all Hezbollah strongholds should also burn and be destroyed. WAR!" Ben Gvir said on Tuesday in a Telegram post.

Smotrich said on Monday: "We must move the security strip from inside Israeli territory in the Galilee to southern Lebanon, including a ground invasion, occupation of the territory and distancing Hezbollah terrorists and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese among whom Hezbollah hides to the other side of the Litani river," nearly 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the border.

The violence since early October has killed at least 455 people in Lebanon, mostly fighters but including 88 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, at least 14 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed, according to the army.

Fires In North

Israeli authorities were on alert for new brush fires on Tuesday, after munitions fired from Lebanon by Hezbollah the previous evening ignited several blazes across northern Israel.

The Israel Fire and Rescue Service said dozens of firefighting teams worked through the night with teams from the Nature and Park Service, army, police and other agencies before the largest fires were brought under control in the morning, an AFP journalist reported.

"As of this time there are three active sites" near the border with Lebanon, the fire service posted on X earlier Tuesday. An AFP journalist said firefighters were still working to extinguish smaller fires.

The flames encroached on Kiryat Shmona, a town near the Lebanese border that has been largely evacuated in the face of near-daily exchanges of fire between the army and Hezbollah since the Israeli war on Gaza began.

On Sunday, a brush fire in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights burned around 10 square kilometres (nearly four square miles) of land after a rocket fired from Lebanon struck near the town of Katzrin.

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