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National security adviser: Hezbollah tent in Israeli territory is ‘childish’ move

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi on Monday described the tent that Hezbollah has set up in Israeli territory north of the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon as a “children’s game.”

Speaking to the public broadcaster Kan, Hanegbi said the tent is only 27 meters inside Israeli territory.

Nevertheless, he pointed out that the tent as well as a series of other Hezbollah activity in recent months — including a car bombing in Israel and a barrage of rockets — are a sign of a “weakening in the policy of self-restraint” that the Lebanese terror group adopted following the 2006 war with Israel.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah activity has repeatedly been spotted along the border with Israel, in incidents that Israel has referred to as deliberate provocations.

Israel has sought since early June to remove two tents placed by Hezbollah in the contested Mount Dov region, also known as the Shebaa Farms, but only one has so far been dismantled after Israel reportedly sent a message to Hezbollah threatening an armed confrontation if it did not remove the outpost. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to attack Israel if it tries to remove the other one.

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Nasrallah warned Saturday that it would respond to any “stupid act” by Israel amid spiking tensions along the border. At the cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Nasrallah, saying, “It’s better for him not to put us to the test.”

An aerial photo of Hezbollah tents in Israeli territory, June 2023. (Courtesy)

During a separate meeting on Sunday, defense officials presented Netanyahu with an intelligence overview and situation assessments, according to Channel 12, which said Nasrallah is likely to carry out provocations along the border, sensing that Israel, facing an ongoing internal crisis from the judicial overhaul, will not respond strongly.

Following the meeting, Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the prime minister accepted recommendations and courses of action proposed by the Israel Defense Forces and the defense establishment.

Tensions on Israel’s border with Lebanon have risen recently. Israel and Lebanon do not have a formal border due to territorial disputes; however, they largely abide by the United Nations-recognized Blue Line. The Blue Line is marked with blue barrels along the border and is several meters from the Israeli fence in some areas, which is built entirely within Israeli territory.

The area where the tents were erected was captured by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War and later effectively annexed along with the Golan Heights and the village of Ghajar. The Lebanese government says the area belongs to Lebanon.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link during activities marking the Shiite Muslim holy day of Ashura in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, July 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Last week, Nasrallah gloated that Israel was on the “path to disappearance” after the passage of the first judicial overhaul law led to chaotic protests.

The Israeli government enacted its “reasonableness” law, which bars the courts from reviewing politicians’ decisions based on their “reasonableness,” despite sustained mass protests, opposition by many top judicial, security, economic and public figures, and over 10,000 IDF reservists saying they will suspend their voluntary duty in protest.

The Military Intelligence Directorate reportedly sent four letters to Netanyahu warning of the security consequences of his coalition’s judicial overhaul plans, the latest arriving days before the Knesset approved the first piece of controversial legislation.

Israeli military reservists line up to sign a declaration of refusal to report for duty to protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 19, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Senior intelligence officials warned that Israel’s enemies, particularly Iran and its proxy terror group Hezbollah, sense a historic opportunity to shift the balance of power in the region in their favor, amid deep, unprecedented divisions in Israeli society due to the overhaul plans, which they interpret as weakness, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Friday, without citing sources or quoting from said letters.

According to the reported assessments, Israel’s enemies view the summer of 2023 as a low point in the country’s history, and officials are concerned that serious harm may be caused to its deterrence.

Although intelligence officials believe that Iran and Hezbollah prefer to stand back and allow the crisis to destroy Israel from within, the risk of escalation is believed to be the highest since the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Yedioth said.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.