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Hezbollah holds war games near Lebanon’s border with Israel

Some 200 Hezbollah fighters are taking part in military exercises ahead of the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement has carried out military exercises near the country’s southern border with Israel in a show of its military might.

Some 200 Hezbollah fighters used live ammunition and an attack drone to take part in exercises on Sunday in Aaramta, 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the border with Israel.

The drills were held before the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon on May 25, 2000. It was Hezbollah’s biggest display of military might in years.

Hezbollah fighters carried out mock sniper and drone raids on Israeli targets as part of the exercise. In another case, they participated in attacks across a simulated border. The group displayed heavy and light weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons, rocket launchers and rocket-propelled grenades.

“If some people in the Zionist entity (Israel) dream of doing something stupid… we will rain down our precision missiles and all the weapons at our disposal,” senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. news agency.

The Israeli army, which occasionally holds exercises simulating a war with Hezbollah, had no comment on the event.

Elias Farhat, a retired Lebanese army general who is a military affairs researcher, told The Associated Press that Hezbollah’s “symbolic show of force” appeared to be a response to the recent escalation in Gazain which Israel killed 30 Palestinians and wounded more than 90 in airstrikes.

He said it could also be a response to the Israeli nationalist “Flag March” on Thursday in occupied East Jerusalem.

Hezbollah fighters parade during a press tour in the southern Lebanese village of Aaramta on May 21, 2023 (Anwar Amro/AFP)

Hezbollah–Israel relations

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 to fight against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. It is the only Lebanese faction to retain its weapons after the end of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.

The Shiite armed group justifies keeping its arsenal by saying it needs it to resist Israel.

Since a devastating 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has acted as a buffer between Beirut and Tel Aviv.

The peacekeeping mission was established in 1978 near Lebanon’s southern border and oversaw the withdrawal of Israeli forces in 2000. Although Lebanon and Israel have maintained a cautious calm ever since, the border still suffers from sporadic skirmishes.

In the latest burst, Israel launched rare strikes in southern Lebanon last month after rebels fired rockets into Israel, injuring two people.

Israel also regularly attacks Hezbollah and the Iranian position in Syria, a key ally of both the Shiite group and Tehran.

Hezbollah fighters display a banner depicting Hezbollah’s late military commander Imad Mughniyeh during a parade in southern Lebanon on May 21, 2023 (Anwar Amro/AFP)

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