Ya'alon Warns Hezbollah: We Won't Tolerate Attacks

Hezbollah, Syria will be held responsible for attacks, Defense Minister warns, amid 'largest buildup since Second Lebanon War.'

Ido Ben-Porat and Tova Dvorin ,

Moshe Ya'alon
Moshe Ya'alon
Flash 90

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) assessed the Northern Command headquarters in Tzfat (Safed) on Friday, in a special meeting attended by the GOC Aviv Kochavi, Chief of Operations Gen. Yoav Har-Even and other senior IDF officials. 

During the assessment, Ya'alon examined whether the Northern Command is sufficiently prepared for the possibility of an attack from Israel's northern neighbors, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and any number of groups from Syria. 

"We must be prepared and ready for any attempt to challenge us, in view of the calls heard on the other side [for war]," Ya'alon stated. "It is important to continue to remain calm and patient, and know the most appropriate means to respond." 

"Israel sees governments, regimes and organizations across the northern border as responsible for what is happening in their territory, and they should know that [attacks would] take a toll in any case of violation of Israeli sovereignty, civilians and soldiers," he warned. "We will not tolerate attempts to harm us and we will respond forcefully to any such attempts." 

The Defense Minister called on northern residents and travelers in the area to keep their daily routines, and follow the instructions of the IDF if necessary. "We will continue to act with determination, responsibility and discretion to ensure the safety of the citizens of Israel," he clarified.

Earlier Friday, Army Radio interviewed Merom-Galilee Regional Council head Amit Sapir, who said residents find it difficult to maintain a routine.

"We definitely feel the tension here," he said. "We felt here the movement of military vehicles [to the region] not seen since the Second Lebanon War - however, we will continue our daily lives." 

Meir Levy, former chairman of tour operators in the north, called on the citizens of Israel to go north and take advantage of the weather regardless of the situation.

"The tension creates concerns for travelers and tourists," he said. "Towns close to the [Lebanon] border have seen cancellations [. . .] people overall are a little scared." 

"But we are calm - we have nice weather right now, snow on Mount Hermon, all green [elsewhere], running water [in seasonal streams - ed.]," he added. 

Northern residents and the IDF have been on high alert throughout the week, after an IAF airstrike in the Syrian Golan Heights killed a senior Hezbollah commander and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general on Sunday, along with several other Hezbollah and Iranian fighters.

Hezbollah responded by vowing an attack on Israel, but made clear it does not want another full-scale war. But the IDF has nonetheless remained on high alert, and covertly moved Iron Dome batteries close to its northern borders late Monday night. 

Ahead of possible retaliatory strikes, the IDF also closed several roads in the north Tuesday night, including the old road between the towns of Avivim and Dovev, the road between the moshav Zar'it and the Lebanese border.

Hours earlier, a convoy of civilian vehicles with Hezbollah flags fired shots in the air close to the border with Israel, raising concerns further. 

Likewise a recent video has apparently captured the sounds of underground digging, raising serious doubts about Ya'alon's claims that northern residents were not hearing Hezbollah digging terror tunnels but rather "horse hooves."