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Israel hits two 'Hezbollah fighters' on Syria frontier

Israeli soldiers of the Golani brigade adjust their weapons during training near the border with Syria in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

JERUSALEM: Israel's army said Wednesday it struck two Hezbollah fighters as they were planting a bomb near the Israeli-Syrian frontier, a week after an air raid against the group inside Lebanon.

Tensions have been mounting between Israel and Hezbollah since the outbreak of Syria's uprising, with Israel warning it will do "everything necessary" to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons from the Damascus regime to its Lebanese ally.

Israeli army sources said they expected further confrontation after Hezbollah threatened to retaliate for the Feb. 24 bombardment, which was the first reported Israeli air raid against the militant group inside Lebanon since the 2006 war.

"Earlier today, two Hezbollah-affiliated terrorists were identified attempting to plant an explosive device near the Israel-Syria border in the northern Golan Heights," Israel's army announced in a statement Wednesday morning.

Israeli troops "fired toward the suspects (and) hits were identified," it said.

The army did not specify what weapons were used to fire at the suspected Hezbollah members.

Military sources, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, confirmed the suspected Hezbollah fighters were wounded, without elaborating on the seriousness of the injuries.

Hezbollah was not immediately available for comment.

"This incident is no surprise, and we believe that clashes with Hezbollah could follow in the coming days," the military sources told AFP.

"After Hezbollah threatened last week to retaliate for the army raid, Israeli special forces were deployed at the border with Syria," they said.

The incident came just over a week after reports that Israeli warplanes bombarded a Hezbollah position on the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Hezbollah threatened to retaliate for what was the first reported Israeli air raid on a position of the group inside Lebanon since July-August 2006 war, which killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

"This new attack amounts to blatant aggression against Lebanon, its sovereignty and territory," the armed movement said at the time, adding that "it will not stand without a response from the resistance, which will choose the appropriate time, place and means."

Israel neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the two Feb. 24 strikes outside the Lebanon border town and Hezbollah bastion of Nabi Sheet, which were reported by Lebanese media and then acknowledged by the group.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Jewish state would do "everything that is necessary in order to defend the security of Israel," adding cryptically: "We will not say what we're doing or what we're not doing."

Israel is bent on halting any transfer of weapons to its arch-enemy Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters across the border to aid Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime as it battles rebel groups.

In May 2013, Israel launched two raids targeting what it said were arms convoys near Damascus destined for Hezbollah.

And in November, there were reports of an Israeli strike against a Syrian air base where missiles to be supplied to Hezbollah were located.

Syria has long provided arms and other aid to Hezbollah, and served as a conduit for Iranian military aid to the movement.

Hezbollah was formed in 1982 by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and was the principal actor in ending Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.

Hezbollah acknowledged last spring that it is sending fighters into neighboring Syria to support Assad's forces in the country's nearly three-year civil war.

The group has insisted its intervention in Syria is needed to protect the Lebanese from takfiri groups.

 

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Summary

Israel's army said Wednesday it struck two Hezbollah fighters as they were planting a bomb near the Israeli-Syrian frontier, a week after an air raid against the group inside Lebanon.

Tensions have been mounting between Israel and Hezbollah since the outbreak of Syria's uprising, with Israel warning it will do "everything necessary" to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons from the Damascus regime to its Lebanese ally.

Israel neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the two Feb. 24 strikes outside the Lebanon border town and Hezbollah bastion of Nabi Sheet, which were reported by Lebanese media and then acknowledged by the group.

Hezbollah was formed in 1982 by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and was the principal actor in ending Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000 .


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