Israel has said it is sending military reinforcements to its northern frontier after the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group threatened retaliation over the killing of one of its members in an attack in Syria earlier this week.
The Israeli army said on its Twitter account on Thursday that the move was “in accordance with a situational assessment”.
The Hezbollah-run broadcaster al-Manar identified the man killed in Monday’s air raid near Damascus International Airport as Ali Kamel Mohsen. The attack also killed four other foreign fighters and was widely attributed to Israel, which has carried out dozens of aerial assaults against what it says are Iranian-aligned fighters inside Syria.
Hezbollah legislator Sheikh Hassan Ezzedine said during Mohsen’s funeral that “the war between us and this enemy [Israel] will continue and this path that the martyrs have taken with their blood will continue”.
Israel did not comment on this week’s attacks as it generally refrains from discussing its activities in neighbouring Syria, but it has acknowledged conducting many raids inside Syria since the start of the war in 2011.
Formed in the early 1980s, Hezbollah fought off Israel in a 2006 war that highlighted the Shia group’s military capabilities.
It was able to overwhelm Israel’s ground invasion of southern Lebanon and attack military and civilian targets, undermining support for the war inside Israel.
After Syria’s war broke out almost 10 years ago, Hezbollah threw its weight behind President Bashar al-Assad, with thousands of its fighters travelling to Syria.
Israel has repeatedly bombed what it claims to be the sites belonging to Iranian-backed militias, including Hezbollah, inside Syria for years. It has accused Iran of supporting Hezbollah with money and arms.
Western intelligence sources reportedly say Israel’s attacks on Syria are part of a shadow war approved by the United States and part of its anti-Iran policy.
Hezbollah has pledged in the past to retaliate for any fighter that Israel kills in Syria. The group fired a barrage of anti-tank missiles into Israel on September 1 last year after two of its fighters were killed in an Israeli air raid near Damascus days earlier.
That prompted a reprisal of heavy Israeli artillery fire in a rare burst of fighting between the two sides.
Israeli defence officials have said in recent months that Israel would step up its campaign against Iran in Syria.