Lebanon News

Israel keeps an eye on south Lebanon after Syria strike

Isreali construction equipment prepares an area near the Lebanese border to erect a new stretch of security walling. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: The area south of the Blue Line saw increased Israel military units patrols Wednesday, in what appeared to be a state of heightened alert in the wake of raids carried out by Israeli warplanes on Iranian military facilities in Syria’s Damascus the night before. Israeli soldiers periodically inspected the fence along the frontier, keeping the Lebanese side under close surveillance. Israeli construction crews were also seen doing groundwork in close proximity to the fence off Adaisseh in Marjayoun, The Daily Star observed.

Israel has been constructing earthworks and a controversial security barrier in recent months. In south Lebanon, many expressed concerns and fear further regional escalation, the day after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Mohammad Ramadan, a Marjayoun resident, told The Daily Star he feared Lebanon – and especially its South – could face a direct attack from Israel. “I fear it [Trump’s move] may have a snowball effect,” Ramadan said. Abdallah Nabhan, living in nearby Nabatieh, said he saw armed Israeli forces near the border, adding they were “hiding behind cement walls” like “cowards.”

Nabhan also said he could see the potential of a direct confrontation, but expressed confidence in the “Lebanese Army and resistance [Hezbollah fighters].”

After the U.S. canceled its Iran deal, a strike carried out by Israel late Tuesday killed at least 15 people south of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The National News Agency reported Israeli flights above Lebanon with aircraft at low altitudes in Sidon, although the exact time was not specified.

At the opening of an exhibition held in Nabatieh Wednesday, hundreds protested the latest developments by stepping on Israeli flags laid out on the floor at a cultural exhibition organized by Hezbollah. The event was attended by Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Fatah Ali.

Speaking at the event, Head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Hashem Safieddine said Iran was “being targeted by the United States and Israel,” and called for solidarity.

In April, President Michel Aoun condemned a separate Israeli airstrike in Syria, calling the country’s use of Lebanese airspace an “attack on our sovereignty.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 10, 2018, on page 2.

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