06:14 GMT26 January 2020
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    Tensions between Israel and Lebanon escalated this week following an alleged Israeli attack on Hezbollah’s media HQ in Beirut early Sunday morning. At a press event Thursday, the Israeli military accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of being directly involved in Hezbollah’s alleged efforts to build precision-guided missile factories.

    Israeli Air Force fighters illegally crossed into Lebanese airspace on Friday and conducted low altitude reconnaissance flights in the country’s south, Lebanon’s National News Agency has reported, citing a correspondent.

    According to the outlet, flights were carried out in areas on the Israeli-Lebanese border in the Dyre district, and ‘mock raids’ were carried out in the airspace over Naqoura, a small city containing the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

    The Lebanese and Israeli militaries have yet to comment on the reported flights.

    A Lebanon 24 report on the alleged flights said Israeli aircraft had also been spotted over Marjayoun, a southern Lebanese town less than ten kilometres from the Israeli border.

    Airspace Tensions

    The Israeli military stepped up its activity in and around Lebanon in recent days, with two suspected Israeli drones launching an attack in the country’s capital on Sunday morning. Media later reported that Israeli fighter jets had also been engaged in a flyover over Lebanese airspace at the time of the attack, making a series of manoeuvres before leaving. Also on Sunday, Lebanon’s An-Nahar TV reported that suspected Israeli airstrikes had hit the Lebanese border with Syria east of the city of Zahle in central Iran. Israel did not comment on the alleged strikes.

    On Monday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed Israel’s actions, and asked the international community to reject Israel’s “flagrant violation” of his country’s sovereignty, and of the UN Security Council resolution enacted after the 2006 war between the two countries. President Michel Aoun called the strikes a “declaration of war”. Hezbollah warned this week that it would prepare a “calculated strike” in response the air raids.

    On Wednesday, the Lebanese army opened fire on an Israeli drone in the country’s south. Israel confirmed that the drone operations had taken place, but said the drones had managed to complete their mission without any damage.

    Damage and glass from broken windows is seen inside Hezbollah media center after an Israeli drone fell in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs and a second one exploded near the ground in Dahiyeh suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon August 25, 2019.
    © REUTERS / MOHAMED AZAKIR
    Damage and glass from broken windows is seen inside Hezbollah media center after an Israeli drone fell in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs and a second one exploded near the ground in Dahiyeh suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon August 25, 2019.

    Lebanese Army Israel's "Potential Enemy"

    On Thursday, the Israel Defence Forces presented evidence to reporters alleging that senior officials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were assisting Hezbollah with the aim of providing it with the capability to manufacture precision-guided missiles. Israel wouldn’t “let Hezbollah get their hands on these weapons” under any circumstances, the IDF warned.

    During Thursday’s event, the IDF called Hezbollah its “main enemy,” but said the Lebanese military would be its “potential enemy” in the event of a conflict. IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus accused the Lebanese government of being “completely responsible” for Hezbollah’s missile project, and accused Tehran of “endangering Lebanese [security]” by providing militants with support.

    The last war between Israel and Lebanon occurred in 2006. Israel invaded the Mediterranean country after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. The conflict left over 1,300 people dead, and destroyed billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure in Lebanon while robbing it of anywhere between $2.5 and $3 billion in tourist revenues.

    Building bombed by Israeli forces in Ghaziyeh on the road out of Sidon, south Lebanon during 2006 war.
    Building bombed by Israeli forces in Ghaziyeh on the road out of Sidon, south Lebanon during 2006 war.

    In addition to operations inside Lebanon itself, Israel has repeatedly used the country’s airspace in the past to carry out airstrikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian-backed forces. Damascus has denounced the attacks and called them a violation of its sovereignty. Last year, an Israeli military official admitted that the IAF had carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria over the past several years.

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