Israel is on high alert for a cross-border attack after Hezbollah’s deputy leader said his forces would launch a “surprise” retaliatory strike against its long-time foe, alleging that Israel attempted to attack it with two drones on Sunday.
While Israel has not claimed the Beirut strikes, two western diplomats said the rare operation may have been an assassination attempt or an effort to destroy equipment for fitting advanced guidance systems to rudimentary rockets.
The drones fell in the Lebanese capital’s southern suburbs, a stronghold of the militant group. On Thursday, the IDF said Hezbollah had in recent months been aided by Iran to manufacture precision-guided missiles within Lebanon, warning it would not tolerate the move.
Neither side has expressed an interest in a return to war, having fought a deadly month-long conflict in 2006 that killed about 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and roughly 160 in Israel.
However, tensions between Israel and Iran, Hezbollah’s founder and patron, have increased recently. The Israeli air force has bombed Iranian military assets in Syria, saying its arch-enemy is using the war-torn country as a base to attack it.
The latest strike took place at the weekend. The air force said it had thwarted an attempt by Iran to launch “killer drones” from a base near the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Israel has also been accused of bombing Hezbollah forces operating in Syria, where the militant group has allied with President Bashar al-Assad.
Until now, Israel appears to have avoided striking Hezbollah on home soil in Lebanon, fearing it may lead to reprisal attacks.
Both sides remain on edge. On Wednesday evening the Lebanese army said it had opened fire on two Israeli drones near its southern border. The IDF said no damage was reported.
According to the UK’s Imperial War Museum, mannequins and decoys were used during the first world war. Soldiers made papier-mâché dummy heads and cardboard cutout men to draw enemy sniper fire in order to reveal their positions.
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