MARJAYOUN, Lebanon: Tensions soared on Lebanon's southern border Wednesday in the wake of the Israeli Army's announcement that it struck two Hezbollah fighters as they were planting a bomb near Israel's frontier with Syria.
Israeli jets began conducting aerial maneuvers over south Lebanon and the eastern region in the early morning as U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon dispatched patrols along the border.
Israel raised its alert level, deploying a tank behind a barrier of sand bags across from the border village of Maroun Ras, the National News Agency reported, adding that a tank tread was also seen near the village of Blida.
The Israeli Army said “two Hezbollah-affiliated terrorists were identified attempting to plant an explosive device near the Israel-Syria border in the northern Golan Heights.”
Soldiers "fired toward the suspects (and) hits were identified," it added.
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.
"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.
UNIFIL Spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said the situation along the peacekeeping operation's mandated area was calm.
"The situation is quiet with the parties from both sides. We haven't had any situation that could tell us otherwise," Tenenti told The Daily Star.
Syria's state news agency SANA reported that Israeli forces fired four shells toward the Golan village of Hamidiyeh, targeting a school and a mosque, adding that four other shells were fired toward Houriyeh, and then opened fire a third time, again toward Hamidiyeh.
Seven members of the security forces and four civilians were wounded in the attacks, SANA added.
Syria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Walid al-Moallem said the Israeli "aggression" in the Golan because the Jewish State "felt” the Syrian military had carried out a preemptive operation to secure its border with Israel.
The alleged shooting of two Hezbollah operatives comes only a week after Israeli airstrikes hit a Hezbollah target just inside Lebanon near the Syrian border, in a rare attack on Lebanese soil.
Hezbollah vowed to retaliate to the Feb. 24 Israeli’s air raid, saying: “The resistance will choose the right time and place as well as the appropriate response method.”
Although Israeli officials did not directly confirm the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government was doing “everything necessary” to protect the country.
A rocket attack on an Israeli post over the weekend was widely believed to be in response to the airstrikes near the Lebanese-Syrian border, security and military sources told The Daily Star Monday, adding that Hezbollah was the main suspect.