Israel 'warned Hezbollah fighters before strikes to avoid war'
Israel is notifying Iran-backed Hezbollah fighters in Syria of impending strikes to avoid deaths and steer clear of "a devastating war in Lebanon", a Wednesday report by The New York Times said.
Last week, Israel struck a car in Syria belonging to Hezbollah operatives, without killing or wounding any of the group's fighters.
Citing unnamed current and former Israeli and Middle Eastern officials, the NYT said the latest incident was part of a wider-scale policy adopted by both sides to prevent further escalation.
Israel was targetting the convoys and equipment of Hezbollah fighters only after warning fighters to abandon them, the report said.
Footage of the Syria car-strike showed the three men exiting the vehicle, going back to pick up their belongings, and then leaving the scene once more – just moments before the Jeep is struck.
"Israel has adopted a policy of warning Hezbollah operatives in Syria before bombing their convoys to avoid killing them and risking a devastating war in Lebanon," the report said, claiming that Hezbollah fighters were receiving surprise phone calls from Israel warning them prior to the strikes.
The New Arab could not independently verify these claims.
Hezbollah retaliated to the strike in a non-lethal manner, cutting holes in the security fence installed along the Israel-Lebanon frontier – where UN peacekeeping forces are deployed – and leaving a poster of the killed pro-Hezbollah Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
Israel condemned the "provocative move" over the weekend, calling it a "severe event".
Read more: Tensions soar after Hezbollah 'attempts to breach Israel border'
Despite the war of words, Hezbollah has also avoided killing Israelis in recent years, the NYT report said.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate, with both sides of the conflict claiming victory.
Israel has been carrying out strikes targetting Hezbollah operatives in Syria, in what it says are efforts to bar the group from acquiring and developing precision-guided missiles that could target Israel.