The Israeli army has heavily deployed troops and equipment along the Lebanese border and stepped up military activities there, a report from Beirut says.
For the second day on Wednesday, Israeli troops fired tear gas canisters at Lebanese herders and farmers working near the border with the occupied Palestinian territories, The Daily Star reported.
“We were proceeding with our lives normally and everyone was working their land. Then we saw the Israeli patrol and its members begin shooting tear gas at us,” Mustafa Ahmad, one of the herders, said.
Residents said the Israeli army repeatedly shot tear gas canisters during the morning. Hours later, a large number of Israeli troops were stationed in an Israeli settlement across the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila.
According to witness accounts, Israeli troops used trees and shrubs for cover and monitored the movements within Lebanon as motorized patrols were conducted.
Local sources say Israeli patrols along the border have increased in the past week , with soldiers taking up ambush positions in the area.
The activities have sparked fears among local residents, who question the motives behind Israel’s latest transgression, The Daily Star said.
Israeli war plans
The new report comes after the Beirut-based al-Akhbar newspaper said on Saturday that Israel was seeking to launch a new war on Lebanon.
According to the paper, US officials have warned Beirut that Tel Aviv was looking for a pretext to attack Lebanon and told the Arab country’s leaders “not to give Israel an excuse to start a war.”
US officials had been informed by their Israeli counterparts that Tel Aviv is interested in a new war, particularly in light of Saudi Arabia’s strategic shift in policy, al-Akhbar said.
Last month, Riyadh said it had suspended USD 3 billion in military assistance to the Lebanese military and another USD 1 billion to the country’s internal security forces.
Saudi Arabia later forced Persian Gulf Arab states to issue a statement, labeling Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
According to al-Akhbar, the Saudi decision to suspend military assistance and the consequent move to declare Hezbollah a “terrorist organization” have “whetted Israel’s appetite” for conflict with the resistance movement.
Israel launched two wars on Lebanon in 2000 and 2006. About 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, lost their lives during the 33-day war in the summer of 2006.
Hezbollah is credited with driving Israeli troops out of southern Lebanon and defeating them in subsequent wars.
It is also helping the Syrian army fight Takfiri militants in a war which the resistance movement sees crucial to preventing the conflict from spilling over to Lebanon.
Lebanon to respond firmly
In reaction to reports of possible Israeli plans for a new war, Lebanon’s army chief Jean Kahwagi said on Monday that Beirut was fully prepared to repel all types of threats.
“The army is today stronger than at any time before. Security on the border and inside the country is under control,” he said.
The Lebanese army has been fighting militants near the border with Syria.
“The army will remain at the highest level of readiness on all fronts of responsibility and duty, from fighting terrorism on the border, to defending against Israel and its schemes, to spreading security and stability in the interior,” Kahwagi said.