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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli military on high-alert for potential Hezbollah response after killing fighters in Syria

Israel is fortifying its border with Lebanon [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 July, 2020

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Israel is reinforcing its northern border after the Lebanese group Hezbollah threatened to retaliate for an airstrike near Damascus which killed one of its fighters.

The Israeli military said on Thursday it was reinforcing its northern border with Lebanon, after a deadly airstrike on Hezbollah positions in Syria increased tensions.

Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah threatened to retaliate for a suspected Israeli strike, close to Damascus International Airport, which killed one of its fighters and four foreign militants.

Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported that Israel had also cancelled a major military exercise on the northern border in preparation for a potential Hezbollah attack.

Hezbollah has vowed in the past to retaliate for any fighter that Israel kills in Syria.

The group fired a barrage of anti-tank missiles into Israel on 1 September last year after two of its fighters were killed in an Israeli airstrike near Damascus days earlier.

That prompted Israel to fire heavy artillery at Lebanon in a rare burst of fighting between the two sides. Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006 that ended inconclusively.

Read also: Lebanon – Adrift in Stormy Seas

Israel did not comment on this week's military action and generally refrains from discussing its activities in neighbouring Syria, but it is believed to have carried out hundreds of strikes against pro-Iranian forces during the nearly decade-long conflict.

Tehran has sent thousands of Iran-backed fighters in the past years to fight alongside Syrian regime forces.

Israel views Iran as an enemy and has vowed to prevent any permanent Iranian military buildup in Syria, particularly near its frontier.

Yediot Ahronot also reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had allocated a military budget of 3 billion shekels ($877 million) to "confront the current challenges" and continue building border fortifications around the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas and besieged by Israel.

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