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Hezbollah ‘Playing with Fire’ Netanyahu Warns

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, listens at the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel as Alternate PM and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, delivers a statement on July 27 2020.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is warning Hezbollah it is “playing with fire” along the Lebanese border with Israel.

Netanyahu spoke on Israeli television Monday shortly after Israeli forces said they thwarted an attempt by a Hezbollah cell to sneak across the border.

"Hezbollah and the state of Lebanon bear full responsibility for this incident and any attack that comes from Lebanese territory against the state of Israel. … Any attack against us will be answered with great force,” Netanyahu warned. “(Hezbollah chief, Hassan) Nasrallah already made a big mistake in estimating Israel's determination to protect itself, and the state of Lebanon paid a heavy price for it. I recommend it not repeat that mistake."

The Israeli army said a small squad of armed men tried to infiltrate Israeli territory from the Shebaa Farms region — an area Israel captured in the 1967 war and which Lebanon claims.

Forces on both sides exchanged fire for about an hour, but no casualties were reported.

Hezbollah denied that any of its fighters were involved in Monday’s incident and accused Israel of trying to “invent illusive victories.”

The Hezbollah statement warns that retaliation for last week’s Israeli airstrike in Syria that killed a Hezbollah fighter “is definitely coming and the Zionists should remain waiting for the punishment for their crimes.”

Israel considers Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Lebanon, to be its most immediate terrorist threat.

A United Nations truce ending a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah has generally held. But Middle East experts say because of the coronavirus pandemic and Lebanon’s economic crisis, neither side is willing to fight another all-out war.