Hezbollah planted and detonated two bombs in the Har Dov region along the Lebanese-Israeli border on Tuesday, with one device injuring two IDF soldiers, in a significant escalation in the tense north.
A second blast tore through the same area about 30 minutes later, but failed to cause injuries or damages.
The injured soldiers belonged to the Combat Engineering Corps bomb squad unit, which was accompanying Golani Brigade soldiers on patrol in the area.
Both bombs were planted on the Israeli side of the border.
The IDF responded by shelling two Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.
The IDF suspects that the incident is directly related to Sunday’s attempted infiltration from Lebanon, which occurred in the same region.
The dominant assessment in the defense establishment at this time is that this is a pinpoint incident which will not escalate into a wider conflict. At the same time, the IDF took a severe view of the attack by the Shi’ite terrorist organization.
“The IDF sees this incident as a gross and violent violation of Israeli sovereignty, and sees the Lebanese government and Hezbollah as responsible for any attempt to harm Israeli soldiers or civilians,” the military said in a statement. “The IDF reserves the right to act in any way, and at any time, to defend the citizens of the state of Israel.” Hours after the incident, Hezbollah took the unusual step of officially claiming responsibility for the border bombings.
In a statement read out on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station, and released on the internet, the Shi’ite organization said the bombs were planted by the Hassan Haider Brigade, apparently in reference to the name of a Hezbollah member who was reportedly killed in September, while seeking to dismantle an Israeli listening device in the Sidon region of southern Lebanon.
The injured soldiers received initial emergency medical treatment on the spot, before being evacuated by helicopter from the Lebanese border to hospital for further treatment. Magen David Adom officials said they suffered from light injuries to their limbs.
The incident came after IDF soldiers opened fire on a cell trying to infiltrate Israel from Lebanon on Sunday.
An IDF unit dealing with operational security identified the men crossing the border, heading into Israel, on Sunday.
The soldiers opened fire with small arms, apparently hitting one of the infiltrators.
“The cell fled back into Lebanese territory,” the army said.
According to Lebanese media reports, Israeli cross-border fire wounded a Lebanese soldier near Kafr Shuba.
Last month, senior IDF officials said they were preparing for future hostilities with Hezbollah, and that the Lebanese organization has developed new offensive cross-border capabilities alongside its massive arsenal of rockets and missiles.
Hezbollah is planning to send dozens or hundreds of terrorists over the border into Israel in any future war, while targeting the Israeli home front with large numbers of projectiles, in a conflict that could last as long as four months, according to the officer’s evaluations.
Hezbollah’s focus will be to rain down rockets and missiles on Israel, but it is also planning raids based on lessons it has learned from its intervention in Syria. Such raids could be prevented by a preemptive Israeli ground offensive.
“Hezbollah’s confidence is growing, along with its combat experience in Syria. The battlegrounds of Syria have enabled Hezbollah to upgrade its capabilities. Hezbollah plans to send many combatants into Israeli territory near the border and seize it,” an officer said in September.
This has prompted Israel to make “dramatic changes” to its border defense plans, he added.
The army has in recent months noted an increase in Hezbollah’s overt presence on the Israeli border, including the deployment of openly armed and uniformed operatives.