SIDON, Lebanon: The Israeli army launched an observation balloon Thursday morning to survey the area over the town of Metula, a week after Hezbollah vowed to retaliate for an Israeli air raid. The observation balloon was seen equipped with sophisticated spying gear enabling it to survey the border areas and the orchards adjacent to Metula, as well as the area between the Lebanese border towns of Kfar Kila and Adaisseh and the main road that connects them. A drone was also seen flying over the area.
Consequently, the Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel witnessed cautious calm as the Israeli army maintained its readiness after going on high alert for a week in anticipation of a retaliatory response from Hezbollah, after the Israeli air raid on Feb. 24.
Israeli airstrikes hit a Hezbollah target inside Lebanon near the Syrian border last week, a rare attack on Lebanese soil.
Hezbollah vowed to retaliate, 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.
Israel’s army also said it struck two Hezbollah fighters Wednesday as they were planting a bomb near the Israeli-Syrian frontier.
In anticipation of the attack, Thursday saw a lack of Israeli border patrols across the barbed-wire fence, and the orchards adjacent to the technical fence were also free of agricultural workers who typically come out to prune the fruit trees this time of year.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL peacekeepers in the south observed the balloon and held joint patrols on the Blue Line stretching from Adaisseh to the Marjayoun plains. They also witnessed an Israeli patrol that was stationed by cold storage apple trucks in Metula while waiting for buses carrying Israelis who were visiting parks located in Wadi Nabeh al-Kharar, east of the Israeli town.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 07, 2014, on page 4.